Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin yesterday announced a project that will ultimately transform 240 acres of Liberty State Park into a mosaic of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes.
“This project, funded in large part by settlements with past polluters, will restore a large interior portion of Liberty to provide additional places for people to connect with nature in New Jersey’s most-visited state park,” Commissioner Martin said. “This project advances the Christie Administration’s goal of continuing to enhance the public’s enjoyment of this flagship of New Jersey’s state park system, as well as parks across the state.”
The project area, which is nearly 20 percent of the park’s total acreage, has been closed off to the public for decades by a chain-link fence because it is contaminated with low levels of metals and hydrocarbons from past placement of dirt to fill in low-lying areas.
The overall cost of all phases of the project is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars, and will be funded primarily through Natural Resource Damages (NRD) settlements secured by the state from polluters.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District will put the project out to bid and manage construction. DEP will oversee the project through its Office of Natural Resource Restoration (ONRR).
“We are looking forward to working together to restore Liberty State Park since it was one of the first restoration projects recommended as part of the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study that will significantly advance the overall restoration goals of the New York/New Jersey Harbor,” said Col. Thomas Asbery, the Army Corps’ New York District Commander.
The project, building upon design work already completed by DEP, will initially focus on restoring wetlands to a 23-acre portion of the park. Trails with interpretive signs will be established to connect this area to the park’s existing trail system and to the adjacent Liberty Science Center interactive science museum. In addition, the area will be graded to capture and collect stormwater runoff.
The project’s subsequent phases will restore another 217 acres by creating new salt marsh, capping contaminated soil, and planting trees and grasses to create forested and grassland areas. Trails will also be established throughout this portion of the project.