Running parallel along the eastern side of the New Jersey Turnpike, right where Route 80 begins is an outdoor lover’s oasis in-the-making. Here you will find Overpeck County Park, which encompasses 600 acres of land shared by Teaneck, Leonia, Ridgefield Park, and Palisades Park. Overpeck Park runs along the shores of the Overpeck Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River.
Overpeck is currently divided into four regions: Henry Hoebel Area, South Area, Palisades Park Area, and Ridgefield Park Area. The Henry Hoebel Area is located at the northern end of the park in Leonia, off Fort Lee Road. This section is home to a fitness field, a jogging path, four lighted tennis courts, and another path for cyclists and pedestrians. The South Area, also located off of Fort Lee Road, contains several picnic areas, a playground, a baseball field, a bike path, a running track, and volleyball and basketball courts. This area is also home to the Bergen Equestrian Center, which contains a riding arena and paddocks.
The Palisades Park Area is located on the eastern shore of the creek, at the end of Roosevelt Street directly off of Grand Avenue. This area contains several tennis courts and horseshoe pits. You will also notice the high school football stadium, several ball fields, and the town pool, all of which may be used through membership fees and permits. The Ridgefield Park Area, situated on the creek’s western shore, is located at the end of Challenger Road. It is home to two ball fields and two soccer fields. This area is also where the outdoor oasis that I first mentioned is being developed.
During the 1950s, the four towns donated land to the county in exchange for a promise that the county would convert the land into a glorious park…one that was to rival New York’s Central Park. However, only a small amount of acreage was converted into usable park land while most of the land was turned into a garbage dump. The landfill, located on the western shore in Ridgefield Park and Teaneck, was actively used for two decades until 1974 when the two towns sued the county. The county ordered that the landfill be capped, but instead the land sat deserted for three more decades. It wasn’t until March of this year that the plan became active again, thanks to the Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA). The county now has until September 30, 2009 to complete the project.
Once the landfill is capped with two to four feet of sediment and sand and the shorelines are cleaned up and stabilized, the county can finally start to develop the park…more than half a century after it was originally promised. But better late than never (I guess). Once completed, Bergen County residents will be able to enjoy an impressive park filled with basketball courts, ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts. There will be plenty of paths for bikers, joggers, and walkers as well as a playground, an amphitheater, and a wildlife refuge. There will even be a boat launch so visitors can enjoy the benefits that the creek has to offer.
But until then, we can witness a dump being converted from trash to treasure. I work on Challenger Road, and there’s a constant barrage of trucks coming in and out of the landfill, so it appears that the county is actually working hard to get this project completed before the court-ordered deadline in 2009. It’s astonishing that we humans produce so much trash…but our wasteful ways will hopefully be rectified with the completion of Overpeck County Park.