Our South Bergenite Column: DeKorte in Autumn

Jim Wright, who maintains this blog for the Meadowlands Commission, also writes a twice-monthly column for the South Bergenite. His latest is on DeKorte Park:

More than 10 months ago, Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Meadowlands, leaving a wide swatch of destruction.

One of the region’s hardest-hit natural areas was the N.J. Meadowlands Commission’s DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, which suffered roughly $2 million in damage.

Most of the square-mile park has made a remarkable rebound since then. Early fall — with its cooler temperatures, changing foliage and migrating birds — is a perfect time to see for yourself.

“I love the awesome fall colors in the park,” says Katy Weidel, one of the commission’s landscape architects for DeKorte Park. “Our native plants get all dressed up and put on a great foliage show…..red maples, sumacs, amelanchier, sweet gums, black gums, scarlet oaks and more. The colors are wonderful — brilliant reds, deep purples, and glowing yellow/oranges.”

As for bird-watching in the coming weeks, NJMC Naturalist Mike Newhouse says to be on the lookout for long-billed dowitcher, palm warbler, and indigo bunting, followed by returning waterfowl such as green-winged teal and American widgeon.

“This could also be a good time to see Connecticut Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat,” says Newhouse, who will give a bird-banding demonstration as part of a free guided walk of nearby Harrier Meadow on Tuesday, Sept. 17.  “This is the best time of year at the banding station because the diversity of species coming through is very high. The chances of seeing some rare species are very good.”

DeKorte Park has come a long way from dark days of last fall, when a tidal storm surge put the site under more than 10 feet of water. One bird blind in DeKorte Park was dashed to pieces and deposited in Harrier Meadow.

Before the repairs could even begin, the commission had to remove hundreds of thousands of pounds of storm-tossed debris from the park and Harrier Meadow.

Since then, more than two miles of man-made trails — including the Transco Trail the Saw Mill Creek Spur Trail and a half-mile stretch of the Saw Mill Creek Trail — not only have been rebuilt, but they have been upgraded as well.

The Meadowlands Commission has also rebuilt the World Trade Center Memorial Cove and refurbished the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve.

Next up, says Katy Weidel, is “continuing the Kingsland Overlook face lift – we’ll be planting grassland meadow to make our winged & four-legged critters happy.”

To the casual visitor and to NJMC staffers, two powerful reminders of the storm remain.
A huge chunk of the elevated boardwalk leading to Meadowlands Environment Center still sits in the Shorebird Pool, awaiting funding.

The Marsh Discovery Trail — the half-mile-long boardwalk that extends into the marsh at DeKorte — also remains closed as it faces a long and complicated rebuilding process.

The commission appreciates your patience in the meantime.

But even with some major repairs still down the road, DeKorte is an amazing place to experience nature in your own back yard.


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