Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Will Conservation Survive in Suburbia?


Losen Slote Creek Park in suburban Little Ferry

When most people are asked about important conservation issues, the topic of the discussion usually goes directly to subjects like saving the rain forest, maybe stopping pollution, or perhaps even turning back climate change.

For sure all are very serious conservation issues that we all should be working together every day to solve. But rarely at the forefront of concerns are the conservation issues taking place right here in the places many of us live: suburbia. Issues that are very serious, many that will decide the future of the wildlife and communities that they and their children will live in for years to come.

We are living in a special time in the history of suburban conservation. Although we live in the most densely populated state and in the most populated part of the state, we now are blessed to have Bald Eagles, Peregrine falcons and Osprey living among the traffic and the concrete around our home.

Never in my wildest dreams growing up in the Meadowlands did I think I could or would ever say those words, and yet the jury may still be out on whether we in suburbia will be sure that we have a place for them to live and thrive in the future.

At times we fail to see the connection, saving the rainforest is great idea but if we don’t preserve places that millions of migratory birds can use to rest and refuel and continue on their long journey then the rainforest will become void of many of those birds we enjoy so much.

Save the rainforest? ABSOLUTLEY! But that is only one piece of the intricate conservation puzzle. If we fail to understand why we need to save the field down the street or the woodlot up the road then all our attempts to accomplish any good from public environmental education will ultimately be lost .

Many times it seems that well-meaning people and our elected officials believe that nature is only important in some other part of the county or state. Suburbia is for buildings and ballfields and not for nature. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, if people always thought along those lines we would not have the Hackensack Meadowlands as we know it today.

The belief that nature is only worth saving in certain places and not others is saying that because of where you and your children live you cannot enjoy and grow up learning about nature. As I see it this is a form of environmental discrimination.

Everyone, especially our children, need to have a natural place close to home where they can enjoy the wonders of the natural world without getting in a car (if you are lucky enough have one) and having to drive miles away to find a place to see a Woodthrush or a Hummingbird.

The comeback of birds like the Eagle and Osprey are proof that given half a chance endangered species can come back, even in our cities and suburbia. It is with that knowledge and understanding that our local elected officials need to work with the idea in mind that wildlife is here and needs to be nurtured and protected even in the most built up and congested towns.

New Jersey will be the first state to reach build-out, which means that one day everything will be either built on or preserved . and that will be it. Nature needs to be protected wherever it exists today before it is gone for good.

Our mayors, council people, freeholders and all our representatives need to find a way to have a basic understanding of nature so they can wisely plan for the future. Tennis courts and playgrounds are nice but they in no way are a replacement for trees and wildflowers that our birds, butterflies and all of us desperately need.

We all need to work together with the understanding that nature is where you find it and needs to be protected and preserved no differently whether it is found in a rural community or urban setting.

Wildlife habitat exists from the backyard to the schoolyard, from the vacant corner lot to a corporate headquarters. As we speak millions of birds and even the Monarch Butterfly are on their long and arduous fall migration. They will need us all to join together and makes sure there is a future for them in suburbia.

2 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Will Conservation Survive in Suburbia?

  1. Herbert Flavell

    I walked every inch of the meadows as a kid trapping Mink and Muskrats in my hip boots. There was a time that you could drive from Little Ferry to S3 on I think it was named Moonachie Road. There were meadows on both sides of the road. The meadows on the east stretched to the Hackensack River from the road. On the west of the road was the remains of a Cedar swamp that had burned. Great area for Pheasant hunting. But to the state the tax generated by all the new business meant more than the nature did. Then enter the NY Giants Gone are more acres of the Meadows for the stadium and blacktop. I get sick when I think of what they did to the meadows that I once walked every inch of from the brick yard in Moonachie to Route 3. There was a boat rental on Paterson Plank Road that we rented boats from to go duck hunting every fall. There was an old barge by the Route 3 bridge I wonder if its still there or did they destroy that to. When I got married in 954 I took my new wife duck hunting in the meadows. It was her first time to shoot a 12 gauge shotgun. It knocked her on her rear. Unlike the meadows or my deceased wife I still have that shotgun. I almost lost my life in the meadows but thats another story for another time.

  2. Herbert Flavell

    Did you ever see the movie God is my co- pilot? This is a story of
    one day that God was my Co-pilot. Its 1949 and I am 16 years old. We are
    hunting ducks in the Hackensack River meadows of N.J. We have a blind on a
    tidal creek that runs into the Hackie. The creek is about 15 feet deep and
    fills as the tide in the Hackie comes in. I have an 8 foot long plywood pram
    about 3 ft wide and flat bottom. A flock of ducks come in and I shoot
    downing a drake Bluewing Teal. He falls into the middle of the creek and the
    tide is rushing out to the Hackie. I hop in my boat taking my shotgun incase
    more ducks come in. As I get near the duck the boat turns sideways by the
    current. I reach for the duck and as I do the boat slips out from under me
    and into the water I go. I’m wearing hip boots snap fastened to my belt. My
    boots are filling with water and dragging me down. I can still see today
    those bubbles as I sunk. Then something tells me to bend my legs. As I do
    the air that’s left goes into the feet of my boots and starts to bring me
    back to the surface. When I get to the surface I swim to shore. My friend
    chases the boat and catches it my shotgun is not in it. So back into the
    water I go but minus my boots and hunting jacket. I retrieved the shotgun
    and still have it today. But my ordeal is not over. It’s a 4 mile or more
    walk home. Its about 15 degrees and I’m soaked and wearing wet boots. Who
    comes along but a N.J. game warden. The first game warden I have ever met.
    He turns up his heat full blast and rides us home. Why am I telling you
    this. So next summer you can test this and see if it will save others from
    drowning because of hip boots or was I just lucky that God was my Co-pilot
    that day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *