LINDEN — The City of Linden has received its second statewide environmental award for the Hawk Rise Ecological Sanctuary, winning this year’s Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Land Conservation. The honor, awarded this January by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, recognizes one exceptional New Jersey organization for demonstrating remarkable commitment and experience in the preservation of open space and the protection of land from future development.
“The City of Linden was honored to receive the 2012 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in the Land Conservation Category,” said Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka. “This proves that our great city is more than just Exit 13 on the NJ Turnpike. We are an ecologically conscious municipality that works closely with the DEP and our corporate neighbors to improve the environment and preserve our limited open space in an urban industrial environment.”
The Sanctuary, located on the bank of the Rahway River in Linden’s Tremley section, is a 95-acre ecological preserve that includes open land, revitalized wetlands and a mile and half of elevated trails that offers viewings of over 123 species birds as well as a panoramic view of the Rahway River. Since the Sanctuary’s conception in 2006, which devised the task of converting the city’s capped landfill into a natural ecosystem, the Hawk Rise Sanctuary has been recognized by numerous federal, state and private environmental agencies as a model for the environmental recovery of the Rahway River and the Arthur Kill watershed.
The NJDEP explained, “Over time, [Linden’s] waterfront areas were filled, turned into landfills or cut off from the public because of industrial uses. The Hawk Rise Sanctuary is a blueprint for turning a former landfill into open space and habitat while providing multiple public uses. Linden and its partners invested over $13.5 million dollars to close and cap their landfill and help restore the Rahway River watershed.”
Hawk Rise’s location and preserved ecosystem now offers a unique combination in New Jersey as Linden’s urban community now has access to a functioning ecological preserve offering the benefits of natural flood mitigation, community river access and a growing wildlife habitat. Taking advantage of this great natural resource, the City of Linden has worked alongside its public schools to incorporate Hawk Rise into the town’s scientific curriculum, enriching youth environmental education and infusing an appreciation and commitment to ecological restoration and preservation in Linden.
“Hawk Rise not only provides public access to local natural resources within an industrialized area, but it provides an opportunity to reach tomorrow’s society leaders to infuse an appreciation and commitment to ecological restoration, enhancement and preservation” said former director of science for Linden public schools, Dolores Maslo.
The first two phases of the Hawk Rise Sanctuary were constructed with Green Acres Grant funding and assistance from local corporations such as Philips66 and Infineum. The city is currently in the process of instituting phase three, which will target expansion of Hawk Rise’s trails, river access and environmental stewardship.
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