A Healthy and Safe Forest in New Waterlands is Key to Success.
Some regular visitors to the south end of New Waterlands field in South Orange have been surprised to see many fallen trees removed and invasive knotweed being cleared. But what looks like deforestation now is actually the first step of a much larger project, many years in the making, which will lead to an improved park and a healthier forest. The long awaited installation of a new bridge and pedestrian/bike pathway linking together both sides of the Rahway River (Chyzowych Field to the south and New Waterlands Field to the north) will begin sometime this summer.
This is the vision of the River Greenway project, to link together the north and south ends of South Orange along the river creating a parkland spine, commuter corridor, and passive recreation asset for the entire community. Right now the South Orange Department of Public Works is trying to take advantage of the winter weather to prepare the southern-most area for the heavy construction to come and set the stage for a much healthier forest as part of the final park by removing the storm damaged and fallen trees as well as the invasive vines and knotweed. “We’ve been working together with members of the Environmental Commission and the River Greenway Committee to identify which trees are healthy enough to stay and which need to go.” said Mike Candarella, the Acting Director of the Department of Public Works. “This area wasn’t a part of the original engineering plan which was done before the hurricanes hit these trees so hard, so this is our chance to remove all that damage before a new pathway is installed and we won’t be able to get heavy equipment in here.”
Barbara Bour of the Environmental Commission explained “once the canopy of mature trees were damaged by storms, invasive species like Porcelain Berry and Asian Bittersweet invaded, literally choking off the remaining established trees and paving the way for Japanese Knotweed to flourish. Years without management have resulted in an unhealthy forest where the native species cannot replace themselves due to over competition from invasive species”. Environmental Commission Chairman, Bill Haskins, pointed to some positives. “The first forester’s recommendation was to clear the entire area and start from scratch but by working directly with the DPW we have been able to save many more trees than originally thought. Keeping these mature trees combined with species we plant in coming years will allow the area to bounce back more quickly and out compete all of the invasives.” Frank Rodino, longtime resident and member of the original River Greenway Committee shared his excitement. “With the extreme overgrowth of the invasive knotweed and poison ivy, some residents have expressed concern about the security of the area, especially since it’s adjacent to our playing fields. But this area is key to the overall success of the River Greenway. We are working together with several groups and the Village to help shape the specifics, but what we are sure of, is that everyone wants a healthier forest here for everyone to enjoy as a part of the larger Greenway!”