Yell It from the Waterfront – A Project by Wetlands Incorporated

The Newark Waterfront was not the type of thing that childhood memories were made of.  There were no stories of happy families soaking up the sun on fishing trips or exuberant screams of children floating down the Passaic River on inner tubes.  Instead, the murmurs you did hear were whispered in dark alleyways.  Tales of industrial piers, sewer overflow events, erosion, flooding, and pollution that would scare the likes of the Toxic Avenger to greener pastures.  In fact, fishing advisories have been in place since 1984.  As things got worse, even the businesses had to move away. In the end, there was nothing more than weed-filled vacant lots where squatters in the shape of automobiles found permanent homes.  It was the end of a dark era, and just like after many endings – a rebirth begins. 

In 1999, The City of Newark announced plans that would make this 3-mile stretch of waterfront the largest Superfund cleanup of its time.  Occurring in stages, the new municipal park would boast 6,000 linear feet of reconstructed bulkhead.  Highlights of the park would also include athletic fields, an amphitheater, walking trails and overlooks. The new design would even bring back access to the water.  Most impressive though was the decision to manage this urban oasis with an environmental hand and adorn it with native plantings.  

When thinking of urban plantings, the mind immediately focuses on the many obstacles at hand.  One such issue is abutment plantings with high water energy and strong winds.  There is also exhaust, road salt and mechanical interference that work against the overall goal.  The cherry on top is the one interaction that gets overlooked most often - human interaction.  It would be easy to say that the solution should be urban hardy plant selections.  These are trees from all walks of life that have been bred and cloned to take the advantage away from mother nature, and stand the test of time, much like the chemicals that once made the waterfront their home.  Instead, native plants were chosen to provide resilience.  Native plants can be found performing their natural functions along many of the waterways in New Jersey.  When utilized properly, they help improve the quality of these bodies of water creating gathering places for families to fish and swim.  These indigenous plants will help to forge a strong connection with the humans that inhabit the park which had been void for decades.

James Corner Field Operations envisioned a staggered triangular planting pattern when they designed the project and only the right contractor could bring this idea to life.   Enter Wetlands Incorporated.  This Woman-Owned-Business, who calls the northern part of New Jersey home, would accept the task of planting over 14,000 native perennials into flush curb planters along the water and in the area where the amphitheater will be built.  There was no doubt in their minds who they would turn to for the NJDEP approved native plant list.  “Pinelands Nursery is the go to nursery for native plants,” says Angelo LoCascio, Operations Manager with Wetlands Incorporated.  “They do a fantastic job.  We always trust them with projects of this magnitude and their prices are very competitive.”  With the help of drip irrigation and quality material the plantings are performing superbly – and just in time.  In this era of social distancing, you can never get too close to nature. Just make sure to share those picture perfect memories to your social media timelines.  These success stories need to be screamed, not whispered.

Written by Fran Chismar
Sultan of Sales
Pinelands Nursery

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