Passaic River Cleanup Team Clears Path in Chatham

Debris in the river near the dam. Credits: Cara Townsend
Student volunteers from the Montessori Children's Academy and Girl Scout Troop 4518 are learning about the environment and clean water. Credits: Cara Townsend
Council Member Len Resto, Chair of the Chatham Borough Democrats and volunteer Mira Selzer clear the trail north of the dam. Credits: Cara Townsend
Mayor Elect Bruce Harris (center) with father-son duo Darren and Ryan Lowe. Credits: Cara Townsend
Mira Selzer works north of the dam. Credits: Cara Townsend
Ed DiFiglia and Len Resto work north of the dam. Credits: Cara Townsend

CHATHAM, NJ -- Volunteers led by the Green Initiatives Committee and the Environmental Commission made their way through tangled brush and downed trees on Saturday in an effort to clear the walking path along the Passaic River from Tallmadge Ave through Shepard Kollock Park.

Debris from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, along with the tree devastation caused by the Oct. 29 snowstorm, made the trail nearly impassible.

“It’s a really nice place to walk along the river when it’s clear,” Mayor Elect Bruce Harris said. “It has been badly flooded two years in a row so there is a lot of work to be done.”

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Harris, along with volunteers from Girls Scout Troop 4518, the Montessori Children's Academy, the Kiwanis Club and others, worked to reclaim the trail to make it passable for walkers.

Lynn Toomey of New Providence supervised the Girl Scout troop who cleared debris on the upper part of the trail. “The troop is studying the environment and clean water. So this is perfectly incorporated into their program,” she said.

Father-son duo Darren and Ryan Lowe of Chatham picked up garbage along the river. “I’ve never seen damage like this to the river area before,” Lowe said.

Despite the workload, volunteers smiled and chatted. “I love this kind of work and being outside,” Mira Selzer, whose husband is a member of the Environmental Commission, said.

Chair of the Chatham Borough Democrats Ed DiFiglia cleared brush upstream from the dam. “I just like to volunteer around town,” he said.

15-20 volunteers worked from 9am to noon. “It is going to take several weekends to get it totally cleaned up and get all of the big trees out of the way,” Len Resto, Council Liason to the Green Initiatives Committee and the Environmental Commission, said. “We’ll be back in the spring to tackle it before the heavy growth sets in. There is a lot more damage than we expected.”

Once cleared, the committees plan to woodchip the path for passive recreation. Resto and Harris also mentioned working with Mayor Elect Ellen Dickson in Summit to extend the trail between Morris and Union Counties.

Environmental Commission member Ruth Dekker said the day was a big success. “There was a great turnout this time around,” she said. “We usually only hold the event in the spring but it was very difficult this year with the flooding.”

Harris reported that by noon the volunteers made headway. “The trail is passable all the way,” he said. “We had a lot of great volunteers who made it possible.”

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