For the first time in 100 years, Newark, New Jersey residents have access to their Passaic River waterfront. This is in large part due to a construction project carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the New York borough – an initiative that is restoring the riverfront with a new bulkhead to prevent the coastline from eroding.
The Passaic River in northern New Jersey is approximately 80 miles long and flows on a very awkward route through the marshland lowlands between the ridge hills of rural and suburban northern New Jersey. The so-called Great Marsh drains much of the northern part of the state through its tributaries. In its lower part, the river flows through the most urbanized and industrialized areas of the state, including along downtown Newark.
“It’s interesting that something as simple as a bulkhead can kick off a riverside redevelopment project in Newark City that will be a key element in the revitalization of downtown Newark,” said Jason Shea, project manager, New York District, US Army Corps of Engineers.
For more than a century, the banks of the Passaic have been abandoned as the coastline eroded and the river was filled with trash and contaminated from one of the largest toxic waste dumps in the state.
The community wanted a riverside park to revitalize the waterfront area and the work of the Army Corps lays the groundwork for their plans.
The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Newark, is running the Joseph G. Minish Passaic River Waterfront Park and Historic Area Project.
The project comprises nearly two miles and more than 30 acres of land on the west bank of the Passaic River between Bridge Street and Brill Street in Newark, New Jersey, the largest city in the state.
The Army Corps is overseeing the construction of 6,000 feet of new bulkheads along the river, which will include restoring 3,200 feet of riverbank, building a 9,200 foot walkway by the water, and creating landscaped gardens with native plants. In addition, parks, squares, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds as well as baseball and soccer fields are being set up.
Shea says such revitalization work has proven successful in other cities like San Antonio, Chicago and Portland, Oregon, to name a few. “The Newark boardwalk is already showing redevelopments in progress and across the river in Harrison, New Jersey. These developments offer a view of Waterfront Park rather than a rundown streambank with a rundown bulkhead trapped in trash and debris. It’s a great example of the benefits of this project extending regionally beyond the Newark City boundaries. “
The park is a welcome return for residents. “The park gives the area a welcoming feel and encourages investment in commercial and residential real estate,” says Shea. “It’s been great to see this in Newark over the past two decades.”
The project is expected to be completed in autumn 2023.
Dr. JoAnne Castagna is a public affairs specialist and writer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the New York borough. She can be reached at [email protected]