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Hudson River Waterfront Conservancy

Walk the Walkway

June 2, 2019

Southern Liberty State Park/Liberty National Golf Club/Port Liberté

On a breezy, partly cloudy day, 11 walkers including 4 HRWC Board members and several first-time walkers gathered at the Liberty State Park picnic grove to Walk the Walkway at the southern end of Liberty State Park (LSP) including Liberty National Golf Club, the LSP bird sanctuary and the Port Liberté Condominiums.

After brief introductions and an outline of today’s walk, the group headed out at 9:30 beginning on one of the oldest sections of the Walkway. This area was constructed before 1985 when the Walkway legislation was passed in Trenton and, in some ways, was the genesis of the modern Walkway. While old and in disrepair, this Walkway section had trash containers, benches and was originally lit at night although the lighting here seemed no longer operational. The Walkway surface was blacktop paving and the waterline is supported by a rip-rap bulkhead.  The modern Walkway guidelines have replaced these conditions with sheet pile bulkheads, pavers instead of blacktop and modern trash receptacles, benches and lighting. The Conservancy is working with the DEP and other organizations along the Hudson to replace old rip-rap bulkheads with sheet piling bulkheads to avoid the washouts and Walkway collapses that occur frequently.

The group stopped to look at the waterfront view where, in addition to Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Bridge, the cranes for the Global Marine shipping port, the new US Coast Guard buildings with modern windmills on the roof, and the Chinese scrap metal export port in southern Jersey City can all be seen. As we walked we stopped at a historical marker of the infamous Black Tom explosion where an ammunition dump exploded in the early 1900’s.

The walkers also discussed the massive development proposed recently adjacent to the Liberty National Golf Club by the owners of the Golf Club. If built, the development would have included a 90-story condominium/hotel and a casino.  There also was a more recent proposal to construct a large commercial marina along the entire southern waterfront of LSP.  Fortunately, both of these proposals have been formally rejected by Trenton.

The blacktop Walkway passes several abandoned jetties that are now used by fisherman and sun bathers. .  One of these jetties has a crude natural ramp into the water that is used by kayakers who bring their kayaks on their car rooftops.  There are several parking spots reserved for rooftop boat transporters.

(FAST FORWARD: Three of the walkers met a fisherman here on the return trip of the Walk who had caught a large flounder which apparently just arrived in a school in the harbor recently. He said he has been catching and eating Hudson River fish all his life and has no concern about toxicity in the fish!)

The next section of Walkway in LSP is one of the newest sections of the Walkway.  It was built several years ago by the State of NJ after the old Walkway collapsed into the harbor.  This new section is fully compliant with Walkway guidelines and, as a result, did not suffer any damage from Super Storm Sandy. It is expected that someday the old section will be replaced by a modern new Walkway. This section of the Walkway adjoins a bay at the south end of LSP.  There were several large sailboats moored in the bay and one sunken boat hull sticking out of the water.  One of the walkers said that anyone can moor a boat in the bays along the Hudson River for free.  Unfortunately, some people abandon boats in the bays as evidenced by the sunken hull.

At the south end of the LSP Walkway is a wooden seating and fishing structure and an overlook that had been destroyed by Sandy.  It had been rebuilt and again offers a quiet place to sit, fish, and enjoy the harbor.

The LSP boat ramp launch was the next Walkway section.  This area has reserved parking for vehicles with boat trailers and a ramp to enable boats to enter the harbor.  The Liberty National Golf Club wanted to build a private yacht marina next to the boat ramp but there is inadequate space for a marina unless the boat ramp was moved to another place in LSP. This proposal has never been implemented.

After the boat ramp, the Walkway leaves LSP and enters the Liberty National Golf Club.  The group stopped to watch some Canadian geese parents trying to manage their recent young family.  They are a joy if they weren’t so “dirty”. The Walkway in front of the golf club is an excellent example of a private developer (Paul and Dan Fireman) working with the Conservancy and the DEP to integrate the public Walkway into the private golfing facilities in a manner that provides protection and full access to the waterfront for walkers without interfering or compromising the functions of the golf club. Even the signage shows the Walkway logo integrated with the Golf Club logo. (Unfortunately, this kind of cooperation was not the case at the Bayonne Golf Club when it was constructed).  A super modern glass club house and several apartments adjoin the Walkway for use by Golf Club members. The Golf Club was in the process of constructing grandstands for the Northern Trust golf tournament to be held in August. The Walkway along the Golf Club was in good shape. As we walked, we passed many bird watchers with their huge lenses and tripods.  It seems this time of year is important for migrating birds that use the adjacent bird sanctuary as a stopover in their migration.

The Golf Club adjoins a section of LSP that is reserved as a bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is closed to the public from March to the end of September but there were many species of birds and ducks visible to the group. Passing the sanctuary, the group took a small detour to view the harbor from one of the golf tees.  It must be the most spectacular golf tee in America with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline in the background.

The group continued into the Port Liberté condominiums which were designed to replicate a town in Holland with canals built within the condos.  A major portion of the Walkway in Port Liberté was totally destroyed by Sandy.  Port Liberté has completely rebuilt the Walkway using sheet pilings for bulkheads, rather than rip-rap, and should withstand another storm like Sandy in the future. The Walkers noticed a “Private Property No Trespassing” sign posted by Port Liberté in a location that is confusing to the public who want to proceed on the Walkway.  The Conservancy will ask that the sign be relocated to avoid this confusion. The Port Liberté Walkway goes past the condominium swimming pool which is on the edge of the waterfront and has a magnificent view of New York Harbor. It has to be the nicest pool in NJ. The Walkway continues through Port Liberté and exits Port Liberté at the southernmost side of the condominium on to Chapel Avenue.  This is effectively the southern end of the Walkway for now.  Several important sections of the Walkway are under construction to the south in Bayonne but the Walkway is not contiguous at this time.

The group then proceeded down Chapel Avenue and past the US Coast Guard station.  The station has been reconstructed since Sandy.  The group got a close-up look at the modern windmill system on the roof of the building.  It sure doesn’t look like the windmills you see in travel brochures.  At the end of the road is Caven Point, an overlook for viewing New York Harbor that is part of the Walkway system.  The view of the harbor is so splendid that the NJDEP required the developer of Port Liberté to save Caven Point for the public by building the overlook.

Next to Caven Point, the old restaurant destroyed by Sandy was being rebuilt and expanded.  When finished, it should be an amazing restaurant facility overlooking New York Harbor. The walk ended at Caven Point and the group dispersed to find their way back to the starting point at their own pace.

The next scheduled Walk the Walkway will be on Sunday Sept 8 in Weehawken.  A rescheduled Walk in North Bergen/West New York may be planned for later in June.  Watch for an e-mail announcement.

Album by Dan Chall.


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