HISTORY OF THE MEADOWLANDS:
Pre-Historic ConditionsEuropean SettlementSeventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries |
Nineteenth Century | Twentieth Century | The Advent of Comprehensive Planning
Twenty First Century

Twenty First Century

Turnaround

The Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission changed its name to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in August, 2001. This change better represented the agency’s  role to serve as trustee of the natural resources of the Meadowlands District and to foster a sustainable regional economy.

Once written off as a wasteland, the Meadowlands is now experiencing a renaissance thanks to the conservation efforts of the NJMC. As a result, more than 260 species of birds are attracted to these diverse habitats. In January 2004, the NJMC committed to preserving 8,400 acres of wetlands and open space through a new Master Plan. Later that year, a conservation plan covering the entire Meadowlands District was launched to cement the progress in the ecological recovery of the Meadowlands and chart a course for further rehabilitation.

Renewable energy and green building

Not only has the NJMC’s name and path changed in recent years, but the world at large is also looking towards becoming a revitalized and sustainable community. Rising fuel costs, turmoil in regions where the U.S. looks for its oil, and a need to address factors contributing to global warming have led the NJMC to investigate renewable energy technologies, measures in energy efficiency and Green Building initiatives for the Meadowlands District.

In early 2007, the NJMC announced plans to establish a 700 kilowatt startup solar array on its DeKorte Park campus in Lyndhurst, part of a larger plan to bring 20 Megawatts of solar and other renewable energy technologies to the Meadowlands District by the year 2020.

The Meadowlands Center for Environmental and Scientific Education, a 10,000 square foot, state-of-the-art expansion of the NJMC’s educational and public outreach facilities, will draw its energy from roof-mounted photovoltaic panels. The benefits of the system will be displayed at a kiosk in the lobby of the new center, and Ramapo College of New Jersey will develop a curriculum based around the center’s operations.

Going forward, the agency will offer technical expertise to help towns, schools and private property owners establish solar arrays to realize significant savings on their own energy bills. Additional renewable energy projects are being planned for once-neglected landfills throughout the Meadowlands, 700 acres of which have been successfully converting methane gas to energy since 1987.

The NJMC has also created a series of financial incentives to encourage environmentally-responsible construction and management practices throughout the Meadowlands District. NJMC staff reviews applications from developers for new or existing buildings seeking the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification. Based on the LEED rating the projects achieve, they become eligible for priority review, refunds on required zoning review fees, and density bonuses.

All of the NJMC’s facilities, which marked their 25th Anniversaries in 2007, have been registered with the USGBC. The NJMC’s Center for Environmental and Scientific Education is the first LEED-Gold building in the Meadowlands District, and has become the subject of Rutgers University studies on the environmental and economic benefits of green buildings.

Preservation

Between 2003 and 2005, the NJMC purchased a number of key pieces of open space. Major rehabilitation projects underway on at the Secaucus High School Marsh and the Kearny Marsh, a freshwater marsh once deemed the best in the state by the New Jersey Audubon Society. Studies are examining the water quality, air quality, bird populations and the biodiversity of the Meadowlands’ ecosystem.

Each May the NJMC has served as a location for the World Series of Birding. It hosts the annual Meadowlands Festival of Birding at the NJMC headquarters in DeKorte Park in September. The NJMC also sponsors Meadowfest, a day-long educational celebration of the Hackensack River held each June at Hudson County Park at Laurel Hill in Secaucus.

The NJMC also has committed to making eco-tourism a reason to visit the Meadowlands. Pontoon boat tours of the Hackensack and guided canoe tours are open to the public. Funding was provided to the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce to establish the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau, which in turn furthers the greater endeavors of tourism in the district. In conjunction with the New Jersey Audubon Society, in 2006 the NJMC released “New Jersey Birding and Wildlife Trails: Meadowlands and More,” a free, 72-page color guide available in English and Spanish. The guide outlines various places of interest along the entire Hackensack River Watershed. The NJMC is currently developing paper and on-line trail guides to serve as a companion to the guide.


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