Stakeholders are excited about the state Department of Environmental Protection’s plan for the ecological restoration of the Liberty State Park interior.

During a virtual public meeting Thursday, the DEP unveiled a proposal to restore the vegetation and bring back multiple species native to the tidal wetlands, non-tidal wetlands, and uplands that are being added to the 234-acre interior.

DEP Deputy Commissioner Olivia Glenn said she wants “more than anything for every New Jersey resident to have many places and opportunities to enjoy green spaces and quality active recreation.”

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, commended the DEP for its work and for including the community in the planning process for the interior portion of the park.

“I saw myself there and I saw my community there,” McKnight said. “I look forward to actually being able to tour this space, to run in this space, to walk in this space, to look in the space, to bring my grandson to that space, to come with community members in this space because I see it.”

Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson expressed a similar sentiment, saying he also envisioned himself spending more time in the park.

The DEP delivered a 15-minute presentation that showed the numerous species that could return to the park when the interior — which is currently contaminated — is restored, including crabs and other invertebrates such as mussels. The area will also be home to several colonial birds species like the red-winged blackbird and the marsh wren.

Thursday’s meeting was the third in a series of public meetings the DEP has held to share its plans to restore the Liberty State Park interior, which has been long closed to the public. The first meeting focused on remediation plans and the second offered a glimpse at possible active recreation amenities.

During the second meeting, the DEP officials said as much as 50 acres of the park could be transformed into soccer fields and other active recreation amenities — a sticking point for many in communities that surround the park.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the ecological restoration plan is a “step in the right direction” when it comes to overall protection and preservation of the park. However, he said he remains concerned with the effects of possibly adding 50 acres of active recreation.

“It is critical that natural systems in these wild areas like wetlands and salt marshes are enhanced and that sensitive ecosystems are restored,” Tittel said. “Restoring wetlands in Liberty State Park will also help filter water and deal with flooding and storm surges. In order for the interior to remain intact, passive recreation should only be developed in this area.”

Friends Of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin said the restoration plan will benefit urban students’ science education and also protect scarce wildlife.

“The Friends of LSP strongly praise this exciting plan of diverse nature habitats and open space with its scenic beauty and great spiritual power,” Pesin said. “The plan will make (the park) even more of an urban quality of life and a public health resource for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being”

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