HACKENSACK, N.J. — While city officials earmark a portion of its $840,000 award in Green Acres funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for much-needed renovations to Staib Park, the mayor and council are considering proposals from members of the Hackensack Environmental Commission for snow disposal and reforestation projects to further the park’s beautification efforts.
This past spring, the city announced it was awarded a $100,000 grant from Bergen County’s Open Space fund, which will be used towards the purchase of a new pavilion and playground and renovating the basketball courts. While there were ideas for a dog park, plans were scrapped following pushback from city residents who voiced their displeasure at a council meeting in the summer.
During the city council’s Dec. 3 meeting, Gary Pisano, chairman of the Hackensack Environmental Commission, and Pedra Del Vechio, who chairs its subcommittee, presented ideas for snow disposal to correct drainage issues within Staib Park and the creation of a serenity garden. The western end of Staib Park where the dog park was proposed was previously an ice skating rink and has been used to store snow from the business district over the past decade.
“There’s a problem with the storing of the snow on this area,” said Del Vechio. “Salt and debris washes right into the brook as the snow melts.”
Del Vechio added that the area, which contains Coles Brook -- a tributary to the Hackensack River -- is prone to flooding, creating large pockets of water after heavy rainstorms and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“It’s not a great use of the land,” she said, adding that the area has been inundated with water following the wrath of Hurricane Irene as well as post April rainstorms, specifically, in the area between Coles Avenue and South Lake Drive.
According to the Snow Removal and Disposal Policy from the Department of Environmental Protection, "as snow melts, road salt, sand, litter, and other pollutants are transported into surface water or through the soil where they may eventually reach the groundwater. Road salt and other pollutants can contaminate water supplies and are toxic to aquatic life at certain levels. Sand washed into waterbodies can create sand bars or fill in wetlands and ponds, impacting aquatic life, causing flooding, and affecting our use of these resources."
As a probable solution to the flooding issues, Del Vechio is proposing the recruitment of volunteers who will plant additional trees that will absorb the water that floats downstream. Another idea she proposed is removing the pavement upon which the snow sits and melts and storing the snow in a permeable surface away from water resources and wells, per guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Quality.
“We’re in an impervious surface next to a tributary of the Hackensack River,” explained Del Vechio. “[In a pervious surface] the snow melt can filter into the soil, leaving behind sand and debris which can be removed in the springtime.”
Coles Brook Serenity Garden
As another project, Del Vechio is proposing the creation of a Coles Brook Serenity Garden within the woodsy, northwest corner of Staib Park. She envisions expanding this significantly wooded area of the park to include an oasis with a woodland garden and walking path.
The Hackensack Riverkeeper, she added, is onboard with the project and is open to offering grant writing opportunities to get the project underway.
“We envision this being a real community project,” said Del Vechio.
Sources of funding for the project, she said, include Sustainable Jersey, who is reportedly offering a $20,000 grant for the purchase of trees and shrubs to reforest floodplains, and the New Jersey Urban and Community Forestry Program, which can offer a grant up to $30,000 for small-scale reforestation on publicly-owned land. Del Vechio also proposed using a portion of the grant money that was originally allocated for the dog park to help offset the costs of the garden.
The environmental commission, she added, plans to raise funds by having trees and benches available for people who can make a donation in exchange for a plaque that would bear the name of a loved one, which would be placed throughout the garden.
Members of the public and the city council expressed their appreciation for the ideas.
“There is a lot of construction going on in Hackensack, and I think that’s great because there’s growth,” said one resident. “But I think we also have to keep our eye on parks and nature trails where people can go and relax their way through stress, which we have a lot of.”
“I’d like to thank the environmental commission for putting their noses to the ground in coming up with a really lovely plan,” said Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino. “I like the fact that we’re getting good positive feedback from the community of what they would like to see there. The most important issue here is snow management, and it’s not just a problem in Staib Park, it’s a problem throughout the city and it’s something that we have to address. I think these are things we can look into.”
Mayor John Labrosse said the city would reach out to the Department of Environmental Protection to garner their ideas and recommendations.