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Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy

Walk the Walkway

April 8, 2018

Bayonne Golf Course

On a cold, windy day with cloudy skies and temperature in the 40’s, 14 hearty walkers including 3 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 Golf Club between 9:00 and 9:30 am.  Walkers came from as far away as Trenton and Colonia as well as communities along the Hudson River.  The group was pleased for the fourth year to welcome leaders and members of the Bayonne Nature Club who joined us for the walk and provided wonderful insight into the birds and wildlife along the Walkway. The group included many long time Walkers as well as some first time Walkers.

Prior to starting the walk, the group talked about the many new developments planned or under construction in Bayonne. These include a Costco to be built on the adjacent MOTBY pier and a hotel to be constructed directly on the Walkway at the entrance to the Bayonne Golf Club.  It seems Bayonne is the hot market for development.

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, and the New York Harbor, most of the Walkway borders wetlands where migratory birds and other wildlife are plentiful.  As we began the walk, an osprey flew over the bay to welcome us.  The Nature Group indicated that snowy owls had recently been seen in the area.

The Bayonne Golf Club is an environmental success as it was built on top of the old Bayonne landfill and converted an eyesore to an attractive scene. As noted by a walker, there are no trees allowed on the golf course to prevent the roots from penetrating the cap that seals the landfill.

The Golf Club is also controversial as they have refused to complete the Walkway as required by the NJ statutes.  While the NJ DEP previously filed a law suit requiring the Golf Club to complete the Walkway, unfortunately, the NJDEP settled the suit several years ago allowing the final section of the Walkway to remain unbuilt until the adjacent property, which contains working oil tanks, is eventually developed. Instead this area of the shoreline is used for helicopter landings and a driving range instead of being available to the public as required by the Public Trust Doctrine. 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 group started onto 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 allowed this closing as part of the Settlement Agreement.  There is a Twitter site listed on the sign 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 plaques also indicate that the cove next to Golf Club was where Henry Hudson moored the Half Moon as he discovered and explored the Hudson River.  This is only one of 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.  There are beautiful views here of the Golf Clubhouse which was shipped in pieces from Scotland and rebuilt at the very top of the landfill. The Walkers passed over a large bridge which was constructed to provide visible access to the fish spawning grounds and nesting birds below. Walkway damage was seen along the next stretch as the riprap and blacktop are giving way to wave action from tides and storms. This section of the Walkway was partially destroyed after Sandy and had been rebuilt. This is another example where, if the preferred sheet piling and paver construction had been used for a bulkhead instead of riprap, storm damage to the Walkway can be reduced or eliminated.

The walkers stopped to view a sign that purports to be a fishing pier and kayak launch.  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 a pile of rocks on the shore.  The area is totally impractical for use for either fishing of kayaks.  It is clear this area was chosen to discourage fishermen or kayaks.  It is an example of a developer meeting the regulations to the letter but not in the spirit of what was intended.

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 as it was built without a DEP permit 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”.  However the gate was open and some of the walkers proceeded onto 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 waterfront that is contained in the Public Trust Doctrine, a legal principle that dates back to the Magna Carta and has been upheld by the NJ courts for several hundred years.

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, no Golf Club security staff was seen as had been the case in previous years where the group was asked to leave the pathway.  It was noted that maybe it was too cold or the Golf Club doesn’t care about the Walkers any more. One walker in her teens decided to look for errant golf balls along the way.  By the time we reached the end she had found over a dozen high quality balls.

The guided walk ended at the adjacent oil tanks with a brief discussion among the group of what was seen during the walk and the issues raised by the actions of the Golf Club. The walkers then returned to the parking lot at their own pace and regrouped for a short tour of MOTBY.  However after some discussion, the group opted for coffee at Dunkin Donuts to get warm and the trip to MOTBY was cancelled.

Overall, the Walkway at the Bayonne Golf Club is in good condition.  There is some evidence of erosion where the Walkway is supported by riprap and continued patching and replacement of the blacktop will be required.  The lights, benches and trash cans were in good shape and being properly serviced by the Golf Club and there was a minimal amount of graffiti visible.

The walk ended at 11:30 AM

The next Walk the Walkway will be on May 6th when we will walk along the Hudson River in Liberty State Park. We hope to see you on May 6.


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