CLARK, NJ — The Union County Board of County Commissioners has announced that work is moving forward on the restoration of the Clark Reservoir. Located along Robinsons Branch of the Rahway River in Clark, the reservoir was built in 1907. It was part of the municipal water supply system until it fell out of use in the 1990s. It was purchased by Union County in 2008 for preservation as public open space.
“The Clark Reservoir represents one of the last opportunities to preserve a large parcel of land in Union County for nature conservation and public recreation, and we are approaching the restoration project with great care,” said commissioner board Chairperson Alexander Mirabella. “Creating a plan for the Clark Reservoir is one of the priorities I announced as chairman this year. By putting in the time and effort now, we can ensure that Union County residents and visitors can enjoy this unique natural resource for generations to come.”
“As part of the planning process for the restoration project, we listened carefully to input from local residents and other stakeholders. There are many different opportunities to provide for recreational activities as well as nature conservation at the Clark Reservoir,” said Commissioner Christopher Hudak, who serves on the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund board and is a resident of Clark.
“Preserving open space in our densely populated area has been a priority for Union County residents for generations. Those who preceded us left a legacy of beautiful parks that are used by residents of all ages, and provided for conservation areas that promote healthful biodiversity. The restoration of the Clark Reservoir will serve as our generation’s legacy for the future,” said Commissioner Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, who is chairperson of Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund board.
Members of the public had the opportunity to submit suggestions for restoration and improvement of the park. Walking trails, a fishing pier, a boat launch, gardens and playgrounds are among the many options proposed. Opportunities for environmental education and activities have also been proposed.
An environmental assessment of the site is currently underway, including testing of the water and sediment.
Union County has received two grants from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs totaling $500,000 toward the cost of assessment and remediation. In addition, $4 million in funding is included in the New Jersey state budget approved last June.
Members of the public can take an aerial video tour by visiting the county website at ucnj.org/videos/clark.mp4. The video illustrates some of the challenges involved in restoring the site, which is surrounded by residential and commercial development.
Union County was among the first counties in the U.S. to establish a county-based park system. The first parks were established in the 1920s, as conservationists became alarmed over rapid development and pollution in the area. Despite the challenges of acquiring open space for preservation in a densely populated region, the county has continued to add land to the park system. The original total of five parks and 2,000 acres has grown into an interconnected network of 36 parks totaling more than 6,000 acres.
Union County purchased the Clark Reservoir from the township of Clark for $1 in 2008. Consistent with the original vision of an open space network linked by waterways and greenways, the county also acquired adjacent and nearby properties, including the former St. Agnes property on Madison Hill Road, the former Schwarz and Esposito farms, and a portion of Hazelwood Cemetery.
For more information about the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.
Photo Courtesy of Tina Casey