JERSEY CITY, NJ - With threats still overshadowing the historic Liberty State Park, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented its vision of a restored park interior on October 20.
The plan would open 234 acres of the interior, 75 of them becoming saltwater and freshwater wildlife habitats, all also providing the park some protection from stormwater surges such as those that accompanied Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Another 133 acres would have trails and lawns, as well as recreation and picnic areas. The plan calls for five new entrances, and two new parking areas. Active recreation areas, as were originally envisioned when the park was first built, would be developed as well.
Officials said they would like to begin construction, which would also include the cleanup of contamination left over from the industrial uses that had occupied the park and surrounding Caven Point prior to the park’s development in the 1970s, by the end of 2021 with a completion timeline of about two years.
Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park who successfully warded off previous attempts to exploit the park, was positive about the plan, saying that he did not oppose adding recreation elements, but was in opposition to commercial development such as the expanded golf course.
“The Friends of Liberty State Park fully support the visionary interior 234-acre natural restoration plan with trails, the protective and legally required remediation plan and the DEP's active recreation commitment," Pesin said in a statement.
Potential encroachment on the park by development and other commercial enterprises has been a constant threat – the most recent of which was the proposal to lease 22 acres of nature preserve by Paul Fireman to expand Liberty National Golf Course. Fireman had offered to contribute to remediation of some contaminated areas of the park as part of the deal.
While there have been other attempts to upgrade the park, most notably a plan proposed under Gov. Christopher Christie which called for the construction of a hotel, amusement park and the restoration of the historic train station, most recently local community groups have pressed to have more features installed in the park that would better serve the local community, especially people of color. Some of these groups, whom the NJDEP has also continued to communicate with, seemed receptive to Fireman’s offer.
“LSP’s future is very bright with this visionary plan 25 years in-the-making, interior nature plan with trails, with the DEP’s commitment to active recreation and other improvements, and with the essential LSP Protection Act needing to become law to end privatization battles,” Pesin concluded.