Visitors to Laurel Hill Park this summer may notice something new: a 20-foot canoe and kayak dock on the Hackensack River. It’s open to the public who want to bring their own canoe or kayak.
“Paddling the Hackensack River just got a lot easier.” – Bill Sheehan
“Paddling the Hackensack River just got a lot easier,” Sheehan said at the event. “Laurel Hill Park has welcomed paddlers since June 1999 when we opened our Paddling Center in partnership with the Hudson County Division of Parks. And each year, more and more people take advantage of it. As paddling grows in popularity and the Hackensack River continues to improve, I’m sure this new dock will get plenty of use.”
An estimated 1,300 to 1,400 boaters are expected to use the new dock each year, according to the staff of Hackensack Riverkeeper, a local branch of a national non-profit environmental organization.
Other piers planned
The U.S. National Park Service is working in concert with the Hackensack Riverkeeper staff to create a public water trail that can be used by North Jersey’s growing community of paddlers. Five years ago, the two organizations drafted a plan to install 13 docks that can be easily and safely accessed by the paddling public from Jersey City to Oradell.
The plan calls for the creation of two more piers in Secaucus, one of which will be located at Mill Creek Point Park and a second that may be built near the Red Roof Inn.
Riverkeeper Project Director Nick Vos-Wein has described the Hackensack Water Trail as “low-impact,” meaning it won’t have a major detrimental impact on the environment, and “an idea waiting to happen” ever since river clean-up began in earnest in the late 1990s.
Vos-Wein worked with Jerry Willis, program director of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance division, to develop the Water Trail Draft Plan. It was completed in 2004 and since then Sheehan has met with local officials, including DeGise, to get support for the plan.
“We’re pleased to take this next step in extending access to the Hackensack riverfront,” DeGise said. “Every time another person experiences the river up close in a boat or kayak or simply by enjoying our riverside walking paths, we add another supporter to the cause of restoring this wonderful natural resource.”
Laurel Hill is a county park, and the Hudson County Division of Parks has recently made several improvements to the area. Last year, for instance, the agency built a cricket pitch and soccer field near an existing baseball diamond.
The dock resembles a collection of large black Lego blocks. Actually comprised of air-filled plastic cubes, the dock – manufactured by Jet Dock Systems in Cleveland, Ohio – is expandable and modular in design. Each cube offers more than 200 pounds of buoyancy.
The dock was funded through a grant that was given to the Riverkeeper by the Hudson County Open Space Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The next two docks in the 13-dock project will be installed at River Barge Park in Carlstadt or Hackensack River County Park in Hackensack.
Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus is open to the public, free of charge, from dusk until dawn. Access to the Hackensack River is also free and available to boaters with crafts up to 17 feet long.
The new pier has freed up an existing dock at Laurel Hill that will now be used exclusively for motorized vessels.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.