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Archive for March, 2016

Spring (Rising)

March 27th, 2016 No comments

spring

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No Solitude

March 26th, 2016 No comments

Engineered Ugliness, Abandonment and Decay

History on the Low Road in High Bridge

Solitude House (all photos March 19, 2016)

Solitude House (all photos March 19, 2016)

Sadly, it looks like what a 2012 NJ Spotlight story called THE BATTLE FOR SOLITUDE HOUSE has been lost.

I first learned of Solitude back in 2008, after reading a story about whether the town of High Bridge should breach what was called an unsafe dam or maintain it as an historic structure. Some were suggesting there was hydropower potential as well.

At the time, going against the grain of strong environmental opposition to dams, I thought it might be a good idea to retain the dam and generate zero carbon local energy, so I took a ride up to High Bridge to check it out.

I found not only a lovely trail to the dam, but a charming historic house serving as a museum (see the 2008 photos).

Out of the blue, last weekend, I thought I’d visit Solitude to see what transpired over the last 8 years.

I have no idea what went on, but from a quick Google it seems like the DEP dam safety engineers ordered the Town to breach or upgrade the dam. So the town spent a whopping $3.5 million to upgrade the dam.

When I arrived last Saturday, I was appalled by what I saw.

The lovely stream side trail was gone, the dam rehabilitation was an over-engineered nightmare, and the charming Solitude House -museum was abandoned and crumbling.

Had I known it was going to turn out like this, I would have supported breaching the dam – as it now stands, the result is the worst of all possible worlds: water resources impaired by a dam, historic resources abandoned and neglected, and visual & aesthetic appeal destroyed [and no hydropower]. Take a look:

 Here’s what that lovely stream side wooded trail leading to the dam looks like now:

(March 19, 2016)

Here’s what the old dam looks like now:

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Here is the visitor’s vehicular and visual entrance to Solitude House – doesn’t it just conjure up the 18th century?

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Here’s the visitor’s first views of Solitude – that engineered drainage and trickling stream in the foreground are just visually stunning,  eh?

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Saving the best for last, observe the closed and crumbling historic buildings and grounds – with the stunning visual backdrop of the new dam – could use a coat of paint and some masonry, no?

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love the traffic cone!

love the traffic cone!

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Coming Soon: New Gazebo In Bordentown, NJ – Bring Your Waders

March 25th, 2016 No comments

This is not a flood – it’s a high tide

This is NOT a full moon high tide - this is not even a normal high tide.

This is NOT a full moon high tide . The new Gazebo will be built just to the left of the first bench. The full moon high tide brings water about 300 feet inland, behind the benches, inundating the new gazebo site.

Sometimes politicians do stuff that is so incredibly stupid, that I can’t let it passed un-noticed. This is one of those times.

Just for fun, let’s call it “Gazebo-scam”. Check it out.

I walk my dog along “Bordentown Beach” every day, where I pick up all sorts of plastic crap that the tide washed in.

But on Wednesday morning, I was confronted with something different – I noticed survey stakes and marked trees very close to the water.

Uh oh, were these idiots planning on removing even more riparian vegetation than the last fiasco?

Previously, they removed about an acre of natural vegetation along Blacks Creek and planted grass. The land is under water during high tide, often has standing water, is so muddy that it is unusable, and now must be maintained/mowed. Take a look at the before and after conditions:

riparian vegetation along Blacks Creek was destroyed and grass planed. This land is under water on full moon high tide.

riparian vegetation along Blacks Creek was destroyed and grass planted. This land is under water on full moon high tide.

Here’s what that riparian vegetation in the park along Blacks Creek looked like before they cleared it out and made lawn:

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Yesterday morning, at 8 am there was a tree crew there and trees already were cut down (did the DEP permit allow this??).

Members of the forestry crew were taking a break, so I had an opportunity to ask a few questions.

I was told that they had to do this for free in exchange for parking their trucks at the Bordentown City’s water tower site. How’s that for a quid pro quo?

They also told me that DEP  had been to the site and forced the City to back the Gazebo away from where it was originally planned, to at least 50 feet from high tide (assume this was stream encroachment permit staff).

So the initial location was even worse – on a tiny point of land at the confluence of Blacks Creek and the Delaware River.

I told the crew that I didn’t know how DEP measured the high tide, but that the picnic table they were sitting at – which was a good 150 feet further inland away from the water than the gazebo site – was under water on a full moon high tide.

Take a look at the site of Bordentown’s new Gazebo – I have no idea who is responsible for this and frankly, I may not even waste the time to find out:

Location of new Gazebo - at full moon high tide, this spot is under 4 inches of water. I 295 one rDelaware river in background

Location of new Gazebo – at full moon high tide, this spot is under water. I 295 one rDelaware river in background

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All of the land you see here is underwater during routine full moon high tides – maybe 6 or more tides over 3 days per month.

If we can’t educate about the value of riparian vegetation, the risks of sea level rise and end the practice of DEP and local governments approving stupid development in public parks, where can we?

See more of this park:

SAMSUNG CSC

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Historic Bordentown Home Facing Sheriff’s Sale

March 24th, 2016 No comments

Home of Civil War Era Poet & Artist Thomas Buchanan Read

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This is one of my favorite historic buildings in Bordentown’s historic district – at the end of Farnsworth Ave.

I walk by virtually every day, either coming home from the D&R Canal path in the morning or in the evening from a shorter walk in town.

Last week I noticed a Burlington County’s Sheriff’s Sale sign posted on the door – so I presume that a Sheriff’s sale is imminent.

For shame:

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I really hope that the building is preserved and not carved up into apartments (or worse).

Ii would be great if some rich history buff could ride to the rescue and cure whatever financial problem led to this tragedy, resolve the owner’s distress, and restore the structure to its historic glory!

I have no idea what the financial situation is and no knowledge of the historic preservation issues, but this seems like just another reason why Wall Street must be regulated and example of why there needs to be a moratorium on foreclosures.

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Green Mafia Strikes Again – Chapters 27 & 28

March 22nd, 2016 No comments

$2 Billion Endowed Duke Foundation Gets Million$ in EDA & Federal Subsidies

Christie DEP Quietly Gives NJ Audubon $500,000 In Green Acres Money at a Premium Price for Already Preserved Land

There was not much more for us to talk about
Whatever we had once was gone
So I turned my cab into the driveway
Past the gates and the fine trimmed lawns

And she said, “We must get together”
But I knew it’d never be arranged
Then she handed me twenty dollars for a two-fifty fare
She said, “Harry, keep the change” ~~~ “Taxi” (Harry Chapin, 1972)

Dukes of Hazard?

Duke Mansion - spent millions to restore a barn

Duke Mansion – spent millions to restore a barn

Next time you’re stuck in traffic, or demolish your front end in a pothole the size of a garbage can, or the water main breaks and floods your town again, or the sewer line backs up into your basement, or the there’s standing room only on the NJ Transit train, or there’s no money for flood control, or you kid is diagnosed with lead poisoning from drinking water at school, consider this outrage: (Star Ledger)

There are more ironies. The Duke Foundation got a $58 million low-interest loan from the New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority to repair infrastructure in 2009, but didn’t spend a nickel on the mansion. It also took $2,309,800, from the federal government in 2010 to protect 528 acres along the Raritan River from development, and another such deal is in the works. Curious isn’t it, that tax dollars should go to preserve land already preserved and paid for by the Dukes?

Gee, we thought the EDA only took care of Christie’s corporate friends.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

Sparta Mountain logging

Sparta Mountain logging

You may have read or heard that NJ Audubon is proposing a controversial logging project in the highly protected forests of the NJ Highlands on lands purchased for preservation by the Green Acres program.

But you probably have not been told that the NJ Audubon logging plan, written by a private forestry consultant paid by NJ Audubon and with no public input, was put on the Christie DEP’s letterhead and that NJ Audubon’s logging plan was announced by DEP as a DEP plan.

Pretty clever, eh? But it gets much worse. Follow.

We’re sure that you are not aware that a billionaire’s private hunting club gave NJ Audubon $140,000 to write that plan.

And we’re fairly certain that you don’t know that, after hundreds of people expressed outrage and opposition to “DEP’s” logging plan, that Christie DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources Rich Boornazian – a former real estate man with no environmental training or experience – wrote an email to NJ Audubon thanking them for defending the DEP and providing cover:

audubon boor

But … drumroll … now for the pièces de ré·sis·dance:

Last April 15, 2015, the DEP quietly paid NJ Audubon $500,000 in Green Acres money for conservation easements on two tiny already preserved parcels of land on Sparta Mountain (about 70 acres, a price of over $7,000 per acre). (if that link does not work I will provide the PDF upon request).
audubon deed

Maintaining the land “forever predominantly in natural, scenic, and open conditions” of course does not include logging.

And of course, the Christie DEP’s press office, the most prolific ever, was quiet about this “open space” funding – no press release touting the Christie Administration’s commitment to open space preservation – despite the fact that the deal happened in the heat of the highly charged debate about the Open Space ballot question implementation legislation last year, when various folks were outraged by how little funds were available and how the Keep It Green Coalition (led by NJ Audubon) had duped voters about the diversion of existing funds.

So, next time your local historic preservation group loses a lovely building for lack of preservation money or the Environmental Commission recommends land acquisition and is told there is No Green Acres money, or your CITY council says there’s no money for urban parks, call DEP’s Boornazaian at DEP – or Eric Stiles at NJ Audubon or Mike Catania at Duke.

They may have some spare change you can keep, Harry.

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