Exploring the Urban Nature of North Jersey

Think of the biggest stereotypes of New Jersey – overcrowding, factories spewing out pollution, a mess of traffic-choked highways, garbage dumps, etc. While this is what most of the world thinks about the Armpit of America, it is totally wrong – except when it comes to the northeastern corner of the state. I’m exaggerating of course, but the area of New Jersey across from New York City isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you want to spend the day in nature. But you’d be totally wrong for thinking that.

I recently explored Richard W. DeKorte Park, right in the middle of the New Jersey’s Meadowlands – an area now more famous for its sports and entertainment venues rather than the wetlands for which it was named. Now I would say that the park provides a nice escape from all of the New Jerseyishness of being in New Jersey, but it’s all still there, just pushed into the background. And somehow, despite having all the highways, factories, powerlines, and buildings in view and all the associated noise within earshot, it just adds to the experience rather than detracting from it.

 

meadowlands 1

The park consists of multiple walking bridges built right over the wetlands, allowing you to see fish swimming around the water and birds flying all around. But it’s not just the birds flying overhead – you’ll see countless planes making their way to or from Newark Airport. And amid the rustling of the tall grasses, you’ll hear the whistle of the train coming by.  Moreover, the whole scene is framed by New Jersey’s endless network of highways. Not sure why, but it all makes sense.

meadowlands 2

 

Maybe that’s because the area has always been impacted by humans, and nature has always had to adapt. Wikipedia tells me that before the Meadowlands were actually made up of their namesake meadowlands, it was full of cedar forests, which the early Dutch settlers cleared away to grow salt hay. And since then, the area has been treated as a garbage dump by every group of people who passed through.

Still, Mother Nature persisted. The result is an urban yet natural landscape that can only be found in New Jersey.

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