On Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, I went on an unexpectedly pleasant voyage up the Passaic River in Newark. The tour was organized by city planner Damon Rich under the auspices of the City's Urban Planning Division and with assistance from Margaret Roberts. The afternoon sun gave way to an overcast sky as we waited in front of City Hall for the van that would take us to our launching point which was behind the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission facility, the only place along the river where passengers can be loaded on the boat which holds about 20 people.
Our adept captain is a member of the Hackensack Riverkeepers. Their mission is to protect the public's right to clean drinking water, access to local waters, open space, wildlife and habitat conservation and safe boating, swimming, paddling and fishing. These are things that we probably never think about and take for granted, but it is important to know that individiuals are out there ensuring these inalienable rights.
The sun re-emerged as we journeyed up the river, and later we enjoyed beautiful vistas as it prepared to set. The purpose of the boat tours, which have been going on since 2008, is "...to bring Newarkers back to their river," as the literature states. There are plans to develop the riverfront and the planners want regular folks to spread the word and have some input into the process. We heard stories about past and existing industrial facilities, discussed the history of the bridges and even enjoyed a little gossip about ethnic turf wars. The tickets were a meager $5 because the City received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts under their design program.
For additional information, send an email to NewarkRiverfront@gmail.com or visit their website at Newarksriver.wordpress.com. There is one more tour planned for October, but I believe it's already sold out.
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