Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Inspiration and Frustration


Dressed in Colonial garb, Lawrence Walker, local historian, surveys the VanDyke farm from the woods. It's almost as if he has traveled back in time as rows of tall corn serve as backdrop, obscuring the signs of development threatening the rural landscape.

A descendent of slaves, Mr. Walker is a wealth of knowledge and stories about the contributions of African-Americans to the founding of our Nation. As well, he is involved in filming a documentary on the Underground Railroad which had many "stops" in New Jersey.

The Van Dyke farm was a prosperous farm well into the 1940's and continues to be farmed today producing some of the best yielding crops in the area in its fertile soil. In centuries past, it contributed as part of the "breadbasket" of the East Coast supplying food crops to all the major markets.

Family records list a number of slaves who worked on the farm before the Civil War. This is the land where they lived in quarters still preserved in the house, and where they were buried in a lost cemetery somewhere near the NJ Turnpike. Their lives will be part of the symposium at the Fresh Ponds Chapel at 8 PM on October 20.


After a dry summer, a week of rain brought inches of water to the parched land.

But blessing and bounty also brought with it a new bout of flooding to Green Acres. The trouble is that now, it seems, even a comparatively small rainfall--the amount we had on the first Saturday--is more than enough to cause flooding.

The detention basins at the Davidson Mill Road warehouses never did dry up this summer, probably becuase they are dug into the natural groundwater reserves. So, even a little rain fills them quickly. From the Turnpike bridge, it's easy to see that the detention basin designed to take the overflow fills to its brim just as quickly. Then it spills into the ditch to carry the water under the Turnpike into the Green Acres land beyond.

There the water sits in a depression behind a chain link fence, until that too fills up to send a stream coursing across the farm field into the trees of the Parkland.

As you can see from the picture on the right, the two 54" are just barely visible at the top. The gray water is filled with all kinds of debris, some of which catches in the fence. However, the fence cannot clean the waters of road pollutants, and many trash items managed to flow through either gaps or underneath.

Here, if you look closely, you can see some of the trash, including empty plastic bottles along with paper and styrofoam.

We've even found parts of tires and one whole tire further along in the flood plain. Since the areas is far from any roadway, we can only guess that the tire floated there at some point.

This same water then flows across the field and eventually finds the trees.

The sad thing is, these pictures were all taken in October, 2005. This time we didn't even have to wait for the spring thaw. We can only imagine what the area will look like if we have a wet winter.


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