Protecting and restoring the Rahway River and its ecosystem

State of the Rahway River Conference

On January 12, 2008 over ninety stakeholders attended the Rahway River Association's State of the Rahway River Watershed to hear a panoply of speakers assess the status of water quality, open space and biodiversity. Whether you absorbed the uphill challenge we face to improving water quality of the river as Kirk Barrett stressed or heard of the arduous steps outlined by Cindy Roberts that are needed to preserve open space in urban areas or listened intently of the hope found by Emile DeVito in discovering natural treasures found hidden within the region's last natural areas, the Rahway River watershed is a model urban watershed. Here, the Rahway River Association is working with countless stakeholders; community organizations, elected leaders, public officials and private individuals to address these issues throughout the watershed. We honored heroes and heroines of the Rahway River Watershed where we recognized Union County Board of Chosen Freeholder B.J. Kowalski for her commitment and leadership on environmental issues by giving her the first annual Martine Donofrio Champion of the Rahway River Watershed Award. Jimmy Lynch, founder and former President of the RRA was feted by the City of Rahway Mayor James Kennedy for Lifetime Achievement Award.  

On behalf of the RRA Board of Trustees, we wish to thank everyone who assisted in the development and successful implementation of the State of the Rahway River Watershed Conference. Special thanks to the speakers Wolfgang Skacel, Deputy Commissioner of the NJDEP, Adam Zellner, Public Policy Advisor to Governor Corzine, Dr. Kirk Barrett, PhD., Director of the Passaic River Institute located at Montclair University, Cindy Gilbert, Senior Project Manager of the Trust for Public Land and Dr. Emile DeVito, PhD., Director of Conservation Biology for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.   For more details or to view the presentations please click on a title to the right.

Got Biodiversity?

With the Union County Parks Department and scores of volunteers, the Rahway River Association conducted the first ever bioblitz of an urban park in New Jersey. We counted over 500 species of plants and animals at Lenape Park in 2005 and in Ashbrook Reservation in 2006.

The public participated enthusiastically in the education programs and interpretive walks by volunteer scientists who revealed the rich diversity of wildlife that can still found in our parks today!

If you or your organization would like to conduct your own bioblitz, the Rahway River Association has established Procedures to guide through the process.  For more information click here.

Seeley's Pond

In a mountain pass between the First and Second Watchung Mountains, Seeley's Pond is a bucolic refuge in the wilds of Union County.  A thousand feet above the rushing rumble of Route 22, the southern edge of Union County's Watchung Reservation is a cathedral of towering oak and tulip trees.  Here, rivers of Yellow Iris frame the water's edge.  Here, the approach of human steps sends every wary Green Frogs leaping into their concealed hideaways among the sedges.  The air resounds with the melodious vocalizations of Scarlet Tanager, Yellow Throated Vireo and Carolina Wren in timeless repetition, another nesting season has begun.  

Regarded as the "Jewel of the Union County park system," the Watchung Reservation is a protected nature preserve of diverse habitats along the ridge of the Watchung Mountains with an extensive climax forest, mountain glades, stream corridors, ponds and conifer plantations.

Restoring the Riparian Corridor

Robinson’s Branch of the Rahway River in Cranford

Perhaps, one of the longest continuously urbanized waterway in New Jersey, the Rahway River has been reduced to a concrete culvert along many stretches of the various branches of the river in the watershed.  A culverted river is typically a slow, meandering waterway devoid of aquatic life, riparian corridor and filled with man made floatable detritus.
Removing fill and man-made construction material from the riverbed and restoring the vegetated river corridor are among the goals of a unique partnership between the City of Rahway and the Rahway River Association.  Thanks to a federal grant, thousands of native plants will bloom in a kaleidoscope of colors while helping to protect the Plainfield Avenue from chronic flooding, eroding stream banks, and stormwater runoff.  Plus, the native plants will provide shelter and a food source for migratory songbirds as well.
Equally as important, residents that live in an urban landscape should enjoy the aesthetic benefits of a gurgling waterway replete with beautiful native trees, shrubs and blooming flowers. Meanwhile the increase in trees and shrubs will absorb carbon dioxide and release greater amounts of oxygen.

Nature's Wonders

Fostering a New Ethic of Nature’s Wonders Amid the Urban Landscape

In 2004 the Rutgers Cooperative Extension enlisted the Rahway River Association to conduct an outreach initiative to educate the stakeholders in the communities of the Rahway River’s Robinson branch sub watershed of the impacts of pollution caused by storm water runoff. 

One of the main tasks of the outreach program was to design and develop a series of rain gardens in public places. Rain gardens are areas of limited sizes that are designed to absorb rain water and runoff from a home’s gutters, liters, driveways and sidewalks. Planted with native flowers, shrubs and trees, the rain garden is a low maintenance landscaped area that needs no mowing, fertilization or pesticide use. The guided runoff would enter the rain garden to provide sustenance to the small garden while replenishing the local aquifer.

Five rain gardens were constructed in the watershed; the Rahway River Office in the City of Rahway, the Walnut Avenue School in Cranford, Hanson Park in Cranford, the Woodbridge Health Department and the Fanwood Library. The demonstration rain gardens are intended to allow homeowners and businesses can create relatively inexpensive new gardens that serves to restore the local aquifer, reduce mowed areas, promote native plantings that provide food and shelter to native birds and other wildlife.

For additional information on how to construct a rain garden please call the Rahway River Association at (732) 535-7864 or by Email.