Protecting and restoring the Rahway River and its ecosystem

Brightwood Park - Westfield NJ

A 41 acre municipal nature preserve in an older suburb of Union County is a rare find in the Rahway River watershed. The seldom used park possesses a variety of wildlife habitats including upland forest, a man-made lake, spring fed pond and marsh, streams and meadow. Containing trails for passive uses, the park is mostly visited by dog walkers and joggers. At one time, Brightwood Park was the subject of serious nature study with a publication by Joel Taylor in 1981 that described the natural history, geology and ecology of the site. The booklet described all the species of fauna and flora that lived at Brightwood Park at the time.    

In one of the most ambitious restoration effort thus far, the RRA has retained the services of Ecological Solutions, LLC to develop a habitat restoration plan for Brightwood Park. Thanks to a generous grant by Conservation Resources, Inc., the RRA is planning to remove invasive plants, re-introduce native vegetation en masse, reconnect water bodies to reduce eutrophication and launch a public education initiative on site with local volunteers.

Brightwood Park Restoration Documentation

Hanson Park - Cranford NJ

Hanson Park, a 4 acre oasis near downtown Cranford, is the success story of the Hanson Park Conservancy (HPC). Restored, rehabilitated and now renowned, Hanson Park is an exhilarating series of lush green gardens splashed with color from spring to fall. With picnic tables, park benches and curving paths filled with surprises at every turn, Hanson Park provides intimate contact with a tranquil stretch of the Rahway River.  

The Rahway River Association has a strong relationship with the Hanson Park Conservancy since 2005 when they jointly developed one of the first rain gardens in the region. The man made depressions are designed to capture runoff and rain water from rooftops and driveways and have the water pool and percolate back into the ground water aquifer. Native plants’ trees, shrubs and wildflowers provide a lush dense screen that mimics wild gardens in the Peidmont region.    

For 2008, the Hanson Park Conservancy and the Rahway River Association expanded the wild gardens with hundreds of wildflowers and blooming shrubs thanks to a generous grant by Merck and Company. Hanson Park is an important model for urban parks where private/public partnerships can provide the resources, voluntarism, and leadership to transform small public places to vibrant, dynamic parks where people go to observe nature, find solace or find access to a river.

Old Short Hills Park

Old Short Hills Park is a 41 acre passive oasis on the Watchung Ridge located in Millburn Township at the headwater area of the western branch of the Rahway River.

Donated by the Hartshorne Family who founded a planned Short Hills community that was sensitive to nature in the 18th century, Old Short Hills Park is adjacent to the Greenwood Gardens, a 28 acre formal garden reminiscent of the gilded era.

For decades, a mountain stream that had been piped beneath the calm of acres of mowed fields will soon see the light day. With assistance from a bevy of public agencies and private organizations such as the Conservation Resources and the Township of Millburn, the stream will resurrected replete with native trees, shrubs and flowers.

The Rahway River Association envisions additional plantings to surround a vernal pond that is the source of the mountain stream and a bluebird trail to be erected along the hedgerow.

Ground breaking for the project is expected for the summer of 2009.    Funds raised: $95,000 Funds need to complete project: $12,000