As some areas in our country begin to re-open after several months under lock down, people are looking for outdoor activities close to home, as many summer plans have been upended. As a life-long New Jersey resident, I know how many great parks and wild areas there are in my wonderful state. Sadly, some who visit these special open spaces do not treat them with care.
This week Hedden Park, which is right near us in North Jersey, is now closed for two weeks due to visitors’ poor behavior. Damage includes starting a dumpster fire, leaving garbage, damaging the public restrooms, and starting illegal campfires. The most egregious, however, is the damming of Jackson Brook in multiple locations to create holes for swimming.
The damage to the brook will take time to resolve. By creating dams, the creek’s ecology has been changed. They can trap sediment, burying rock riverbeds where fish spawn. They can prevent fish migration, and as the water heats up and oxygenation drops, trapped fish will surely perish. The water can develop unnatural algae blooms and increase mosquito activity.
As a result of this damage, the park is closed for two weeks as workers repair and clean the park. When it re-opens, I hope those who use this 420-acre park will remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints. If you are heading out to your local park, protect and preserve your local open space.