Long-awaited Park Opens on Carlstadt Riverfront

SOURCE: NorthJersey.com · PUBLISHED: September 29, 2011 · AUTHOR: John A. Gavin

CARLSTADT — River Barge Park, a public riverfront park and marina that has been in the works for years, was dedicated Wednesday by state and local officials who lauded it as a serene jewel within an urban region.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony highlighted two of the park's facilities – a paddle center, which will be used to launch boats and canoes, and the Robert Ceberio Environmental Education Pavilion. They sit on 5.5 acres owned by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

The open-air pavilion is named after the commission's former executive director, who worked to convert the rundown marshland into a public park.

"The Meadowlands Commission is not about one person," Ceberio told about 85 people. "It is about a team. It is about a family. … While my name may be on there, it's not about me."

On the banks of the Hackensack River, overlooking the New York skyline, speakers talked about the hard work and foresight it took to purchase a rundown restaurant in a blighted area and transform it into such a natural setting.

"This facility is an example of the power of vision and perseverance," said Lori Grifa, commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.

"People are going to get married in the Robert Ceberio Educational Pavilion," she added.

Both structures are built with recycled material and special care was taken to preserve the region's past.

Many of the relics from the former Barge Club restaurant, purchased in 2005 for $3.1 million, remain, including original timber that had once been used to build barges. The thick wood, made from yellow-leaf pine trees, anchors the 650-square-foot pavilion.

The 2,400-square-foot paddle center also uses the salvaged wood. And the iconic, two-story "BARGE" sign — a cornerstone of the restaurant — is still there.

"Every way our team could think of, we used material off that [restaurant,]" said Marcia Karrow, the commission's current director.

After purchasing the site, work was delayed for 16 months while the commission waited for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection to dredge the riverbed — the first dredging in the Hackensack River in more than 25 years.

The first phase of construction, which began in late 2009, included installing a new bulkhead, a boat ramp and 10-foot-wide docks. The second stage, undertaken last year, included landscaping, construction of a winter boat storage facility, a promenade above the riverbank and a parking area.

The park, which is on Outwater Lane, also has a boathouse and central office. It will be open to the public in four to six weeks, officials said, after completion of final electrical and structural work that was delayed by rain.

Park Perks

  • Boat ramp, 30 feet by 120 feet with washout area
  • Rowing dock
  • Canoe launch
  • 30-slip marina
  • Riverfront promenade
  • Park trail
  • NJMC boat and canoe storage buildings
  • Fishing dock for catch-and-release fishing
  • Wetland enchancement and native plantings
  • Restored nautical artifacts
  • Interpretive signage
  • Handicapped accessible docks
  • Car and trailer parking