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Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy

Walk the Walkway

April 7, 2019

Bayonne Golf Course

On a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the 60s, 22 walkers including 6 Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy (HRWC) Board members and one special white lab named “the Chief” 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 Fort Lee as well as communities adjacent to the Walkway along the Hudson River.  The group was pleased for the fifth year to welcome Pat, Mike and Jen, 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 walking the Walkway for the first time. The group also included walkers who have previously worked with the NJDEP and IMTT, the company who owns the tank farm adjacent to the Golf Club.

Prior to starting the walk, the group talked about the many new developments planned or under construction in Bayonne. These include the recently completed Costco on the adjacent MOTBY pier and a hotel and apartments to be constructed directly on the Walkway at the entrance to the Bayonne Golf Club.  Bayonne continues as the hottest development market on the Hudson.

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.   The Nature Group told the group to look for loons who are currently in their migratory season.

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 Tony, who lives in Bayonne, there are no trees allowed on the golf course to prevent the roots from penetrating the cap that seals the landfill. Electric golf carts are also prohibited so golfers must carry their clubs or use a caddy or a hand cart.

The Golf Club is controversial for the Conservancy, as they have refused to complete the Walkway on the southern end 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 owner by IMTT, is eventually developed. Consequently, this area beautiful area of the shoreline is used by the Golf Club 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 NJDEP regulations 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.  As predicted by Mike, the loons appeared swimming and diving in the bay.

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 beginning to give 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 i and paver construction had been used for a bulkhead and walkway instead of riprap and macadam, storm damage to the Walkway would be reduced or eliminated.

Proceeding on, the walkers stopped to view a sign that purports to be the location of 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 1/2 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. However, for the first time in 8 years the group met a single fisherman using the rockpile to cast for fish.  He told us it was not a good day for fishing and he was leaving shortly after he arrived. This is an example of a developer meeting the letter of the regulations 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 area contains an illegal helicopter landing site which looked like it has been abandoned.

This unpaved path is about a half mile long and includes the 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, three Golf Club security carts arrived and asked us to turn around and leave the pathway. After some mild disagreement, the security staff allowed the group to proceed to the end of the path.  The security staff also provided transportation for a walker who had become ill. We thanked the security staff for their help and proceeded to the end of the path.

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 drive of the adjacent MOTBY pier, the old military base that was given to Bayonne many years ago.

After a short drive, the group stopped to observe the rapidly expanding Walkway on the MOTBY pier.  The Walkway is now completed at the entrance to MOTBY from Rt 440 and when construction is completed will extend for over ¼ mile into MOTBY.  Future construction plans call for extending the Walkway to connect with the recently approved Ferry stop that has yet to be constructed.

After brief stops to observe fisherman on the Walkway and visit the “Teardrop” 9/11 Memorial, the Walkers said good-by and dispersed for lunch around 12 noon.

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 benches and trash cans were in good shape however a number of lighting bollards had been removed.  The Conservancy will follow-up on this with the NJDEP.

The next Walk the Walkway will be on Sunday May 4th h when we will walk along the Hudson River in North Bergen, Guttenburg and West New York. Watch your e-mail for details or go to Events menu for the entire summer schedule and driving directions.

We hope to see you on May 4.



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