Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy
Walk the Walkway
April 24, 2016
Bayonne Golf Course (BGC)
On a crisp breezy day with bright sunshine, clear skies and temperature in the low 60’s, 20 walkers, including some longtime friends and some new faces, and 4 Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy (HRWC) Board members walked the Walkway along the Bayonne Golf Club. The group gathered at the South Cove Shopping Center parking lot adjacent to the BGC between 9:00 and 9:30 am. Walkers came from Woodland Park, Bayonne and the communities along the Hudson River. The group was pleased to again this year welcome members of the Bayonne Nature Club who joined us for the walk and provided wonderful insight into the birds and wildlife along the Walkway.
Prior to the start of the walk, we were visited by the owners of the South Cove Shopping Center. They praised the Conservancy for getting the public out to use the Walkway and even bought 10 of our tee shirts for the Shopping Center staff. They described their plans to build a small hotel near the entrance to the BGC Walkway and we talked about the conflicts that can arise when hotels and restaurants are built adjacent to the Walkway.
The walkers also spent time discussing the booming residential construction planned in Bayonne, especially the old US Military Bayonne Ocean Terminal (MOTBY) that is under redevelopment by the City of Bayonne. When completed, significant new areas of Walkway will be available to the public.
The Walkway at the Bayonne Golf Club is one of the most beautiful sections of the entire Walkway. In addition to spectacular views of Manhattan and nearby skylines and ports, most of the Walkway borders wetlands where migratory birds and other wildlife are plentiful.
The Walkway at the BGC is also controversial as the Golf Club has refused to complete the Walkway as required by the NJ statutes. Unfortunately, the DEP has settled the suit brought by the DEP to force completion of the Walkway. The settlement allows the Walkway to remain unbuilt until the adjacent property, which contains working oil tanks, is eventually developed. The Conservancy disagrees with the settlement.
At 9:30, after a brief description of the work of the Conservancy to support the construction and maintenance of the Walkway, the walkers, started into the Golf Club Walkway.
At the entrance gate, the group paused to note the sign that indicates the Walkway is open from Sunrise to Sunset. This is in violation of the regulation that requires the Walkway to be open 24/7. However, the DEP also allowed this closing as part of the Settlement Agreement to prevent vandalism. There is also a Twitter link listed that people can use to find out the exact hours when the Walkway is open.
Moving through the gate, the Walkers passed plaques indicating that the Golf Club and Walkway were built in 2005 on a closed landfill. The landfill was permanently capped and restored to a beautiful golf course. The plaques also indicated that the cove next to Golf Club was where Henry Hudson moored the Half Moon as he discovered and explored the Hudson River. One of the group noted that there are many claims along the Hudson River to moorings of the Half Moon.
The group continued along the Walkway stopping frequently to observe views, take photos and talk with the Bayonne Nature Club about the nesting and migratory habits of birds seen in the area.
The Walkway was in good shape and well maintained throughout the length of the walk. Garbage cans had been serviced and only a few instances of graffiti were observed. There was some evidence of undermining along the shore side of the Walkway which will need to be addressed in the future as storms erode the riprap and blacktop Walkway surface. As the Conservancy has learned, Mother Nature always wins and riprap bulkheads are prone to rapid deterioration.
Next the walkers stopped to examine the so called fishing pier and kayak launch built by the Golf Club. The Walkway regulations require construction of fishing piers and kayak launches where feasible and safe along the Walkway. However, this area of the Walkway is over ¾ of a mile from any parking and is simply a cut in the fence leading to pile of rocks on the shore. The area is totally impractical for use for either fishing or kayaks. It is clear this area was chosen to discourage fishermen or kayaks. It is an example of meeting the regulations to the letter but not in the spirit of what was intended. We did pass several fishermen who use the far end of the Walkway for fishing not the specified fishing area.
Moving on, the group came to the end of the paved Walkway. There is a floating dock for the Golf Club yacht that is closed to the public. This also is in violation of the DEP regulations but was allowed in the settlement agreement. The end of the paved walkway has a sign indicating that the area beyond the gate is “Private Property”. The Conservancy disagrees with this “Private Property” designation as the public’s rights to access to the shoreline under the Public Trust Doctrine cannot be removed by private parties or government agencies. Since the gate was open, the walkers proceeded onto the illegal helicopter pad and the stone and dirt paths where the Walkway should have been built.
This unpaved path is about a half mile long and includes a helipad, a golf driving range and a garbage dump for the Golf Club. All of these are in violation of the public’s right to have access to the shoreline.
It was obvious to the walkers that the Golf Club is using the waterfront in this area for their own financial gain while violating the public’s right to have unlimited access to the waterfront.
As the group proceeded along the paths, the Golf Club security personnel again arrived in golf carts, as they have every year, to inform the group that they were not allowed on the paths. After a short, calm debate about private versus public rights to the waterfront, the security personnel allowed the group to complete the walk with no incident.
The guided walk ended at the adjacent oil tanks with a brief discussion among the group of what was seen and the issues raised by the actions of the Golf Club. The walkers then returned to the parking lot at their own pace by noon.
The next Walk the Walkway will be on May 15th when we will explore the various isolated segments of the Walkway that are built in various places along the Bayonne waterfront. Watch your e-mail for details or go to Events for directions.