For those who grew up in north Jersey in the 1950s, the Meadowlands was neither a sports mecca, nor beautiful park, instead it was a series of landfills, some of which burned continuously. To keep the dust down, used motor oil was spread on the landfills contributing to the pollution of the Hackensack River, especially when it mixed with the tons of pig manure dumped into the river. At that point, the river was so dead even barnacles could not live there!
Driving through Secaucus, where the 6,000 people were outnumbered by 100, 000 pigs, it was obligatory to keep the windows rolled up even on the hottest days (which made the stench worse) without air conditioning. Of course there was some entertainment value in trying to decipher Krajewski, the pig farmer’s, hand painted boards of political commentary. And those are the pleasant memories of my childhood!
Fortunately, pigs, oil lakes and burning garbage were phased out of the area and a new movement of conservancy made the area a habitat for fish, mammals, butterflies and birds. In fact, there are now two nesting pair of bald eagles on site, and there are 500 inhabited tree swallow boxes. The history of this transformation of the Meadowlands was the focus of author Jim Wright’s lunch-time presentation at the NJ State Library on May 3. It included many of his own amazing images of the beautiful area.
Jim Wright is a communications officer for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He has produced the Meadowlands Nature Blog since 2008 and he leads twice-monthly nature walks in the Meadowlands. He has authored four coffee table books, Jungle of the Maya, Hawk Mountain, In the Presence of Nature, and The Nature of the Meadowlands. Jim writes for The Bergen Record as the birding columnist and for The South Bergenite as a nature columnist. In his spare time, he also serves as deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area and maintains a nature blog for that area. His photography appears regularly in publications including nature calendars and on nature blogs. Additionally, he serves on the board of the New Jersey chapter of the Nature Conservancy.