Some years back an old family friend who had moved away long ago came back home for a visit. He had been raised in Lyndhurst at a time when our Meadowlands was a much different place. Back then it was a place left for dead, the butt of jokes and a prime example of the worse things that could possibly be done to nature.
So when my family friend returned the first place I brought him to was DeKorte Park, the ultimate example of the good things that could be done when people care about the Environment. Needless to say his reaction was a sense of disbelief.
“If I lived here I would be in this park everyday” he said. “You are so lucky to be so close to such an incredible place.” As much as I knew that what he said was true I was a bit surprised to actually hear it. Even after all these years I still find myself on the defensive with some folks when the subject of the Meadowlands comes up. Jimmy Hoffa jokes just don’t fly with me. But he was absolutely right, we are all very lucky and should be proud on how far we have come in protecting and preserving the Meadowlands .
Growing up a child of the Meadowlands, places like DeKorte, Mill Creek Marsh or Losen Slote Creek could not have been imagined. Yes, we grew up exploring and discovering wonderful places in the Meadowlands, some of those places now gone forever, some still here.
But all of them once suffered from unchecked pollution, development and abuses of the worse kind. What we have today is a Meadowlands cleaner and healthier than it has been in any of our lifetimes. Wildlife has made a remarkable comeback including the Eagle and the Osprey. Not many things in nature get better but our Meadowlands has been a rare exception to that rule.
Most people don’t know that the Meadowlands Environment Center was built on its current site as a line in the sand to stop further dumping and development to the displeasure of some and the delight of many.
Today that line saved some of the most important natural habitat in the state and created one of the best urban nature centers in the country: Richard DeKorte Park. That story has been repeated over time with places like Mill Creek and many others throughout the Meadowlands District.
Make no mistake there are still battles being fought, with many yet to come in the endless efforts to keep our environment and the Meadowlands a vital place for both wildlife and people. But we need to remember how far we have come and what can be accomplished when society decides to do the right thing and protect and preserve places for future generations.
If I sound like a cheerleader for the Meadowlands I am. It is a testament to what we can do when enough people truly care, a place that should never be taken for granted.
Let me know why you love the meadowlands and what park is your favorite so we can do a future column. you can e-mail me Greatauk4@gmail.com