Last August, when the Summit Environmental Commission and The Summit Conservancy won a $10,000 grant from Overlook Medical Center’s Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative to improve the Passaic River trails, we knew that we had our work cut out for us. For one thing, these trails are owned by Union County, so they would have to be a key player in the project. In addition, the scope of the proposal, including creating a plan for the trailhead, building and installing a kiosk and bench, planting native species, grading and blazing the trail, required expertise and manpower beyond our capabilities. Therefore, we recognized that our first step to realizing our ambitious proposal was crucial: we needed a meeting of key stakeholders, including experts who could help accomplish the plans.
Our meeting on August 6, 2014, included representatives from Union County, Betty Ann Kelly, Dept. of Parks and Recreation Environmental Specialist, and Daniel Bernier, Director of Division of Park Planning and Environmental Services, who would
have ultimate decision making authority on our plans. Also in attendance were representatives from the City of Summit, Paul Cascais, Superintendent of Public Works, Aaron Schrager, City Engineer and Rick Matias, Assistant Engineer, who were crucial to facilitating our plans. Finally, volunteers Katrina VanDeusen, Senior Project Manager for environmental consulting and remediation firm EWMA, and Judy Mandelbaum, representing the Environmental Commission http://cityofsummit.org/Environmental-Commission and The Summit Conservancy http://summitconservancy.org/ , rounded out the group.
At our first meeting, Betty Ann Kelly quickly provided leadership and direction. Our project was burdened by the presence of Japanese knotweed over much of the area. Betty Ann explained the County’s experience with the invasive nuisance and best practices for combatting it. She also agreed to supply plans for building the kiosk and bench as well as suggestions for appropriate native plantings. City staff offered their support for the project, agreeing to revisit the proposed trailhead and contribute expert advice in engineering and construction. The meeting generated consensus and excitement for the project, with Betty Ann declaring, “Our partnership with Summit will continue to be an exceptional one.”
After our initial meeting, we proceeded on three main paths. First, Beth Lovejoy, Environmental Commission chair, took on the role of publicizing the project and enlisting volunteers. Then knotweed removal began. Betty Ann arranged a demonstration of the knotweed injection technique by local expert and retired chemist Larry Murrell, and work ensued to eradicate this destructive weed. Next, we reached out to professionals for advice on planning the trailhead installation.
When we explained our project to esteemed landscape architects Meredith Carman and Brian Bosenberg of Bosenberg & Co., whose landscape architecture clients include Summit’s Reeves-Reed Arboretum, they quickly offered to help. With input from Betty Ann Kelly, Bosenberg & Co, developed and donated a wonderful plan. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be hard at work carrying out this ambitious plan and refocusing our efforts on the final stage of our project: raising awareness and usage of our lovely trails.