What happens in North Jersey towns like Oradell and Ridgefield Park doesn’t stay there – at least as far as water is concerned. These and dozens of other municipalities lie in Bergen, Hudson and Rockland Counties in the Hackensack River Watershed. The stormwater flowing there and all the pollutants they carry, go into the Hackensack River, a major waterway for the area. Furthermore, as the volume of stormwater continues to grow with climate change, flooding results in communities on and near the river.
Hackensack River Nation
To address these and other environmental problems, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation is building a regional alliance of municipalities, nonprofits, environmentally-oriented businesses and other organizations called Hackensack River Nation. Through this initiative, representatives of these organizations and agencies work together. They also plan strategies for better land use regulations and environmental policies and promote economic development supporting the natural environment. Ultimately, this inspires more people in the area to want to help protect the river and its watershed.
“We are bringing together decision-makers, thought leaders and the people, who make things happen in communities, and inspiring them to think more creatively about how we can protect the places we care about and share,” said Northern New Jersey Community Foundation Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez. “If we are successful, this also helps to reduce flooding. This makes the Hackensack River cleaner, encourages more people to enjoy and love the river, and enhances our local economies.”
The Hackensack River Nation constitutes a multi-year effort led by the Foundation. Furthermore, this initiative promotes efforts to protect the local environment in and around the river’s corridor. To learn more about our previous work in this area, visit the Foundation’s Climate Action Mobilization Project webpage.
The Lower Hackensack River lies in Bergen and Hudson Counties. Over the last 200 years, this became a center of industrial activity polluting the waterway. In September 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency named the river a Superfund Site. “The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation wants the Hackensack River Nation’s alliance to influence the EPA’s clean-up and revitalization efforts,” Vazquez said.
The Foundation plans to hold a start-up meeting in the fall with key partners. Furthermore, they will develop a strategy to engage and partner with communities around the watershed. “We anticipate educational programs, policy hack-a-thons, conferences and more taking place,” Vazquez said. “The Foundation also wants to follow in the footsteps of other successful alliances like Jersey Water Works.” Jersey Water Works represents a statewide alliance focused on improving aging water infrastructure.
The alliance welcomes anyone interested to participate in Hackensack River Nation. The Foundation wants to connect with elected and appointed public officials. In addition, representatives of environmental organizations and businesses supporting the natural environment in the watershed are invited.
To find out how you can get involved, contact Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-568-5608, x2.