On January 11th at 11:00 a.m., a rally will be held at Liberty State Park to demonstrate support for the Liberty State Park Protection Act, the aim of which is to, “preserve Liberty State Park as a public urban green open space free of inappropriate privatization by establishing certain requirements concerning actions by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) related to Liberty State Park.” The catalyst for this rally is a proposed amendment to that act, which would allow for the privatization of the park’s Caven Point Natural Area by Liberty National Golf Course.
Conservation groups, including Friends of Liberty State Park and NY/NJ Baykeeper, fear the move by Liberty National Golf Course will, “destroy a critical, priceless and irreplaceable urban natural area habitat to relocate 3 golf holes for multi-millionaires.” At 21 acres, the Caven Point Natural Area is a the largest stretch of natural beach in the Upper New York and Hudson Bay, consisting of a sandy beach, saltwater marshland, tidal pools, mud flats, and maritime forest. Opponents to the Liberty National’s expansion argue that the area, “serves as critical and priceless urban natural area habitat for migratory and nesting birds, an urban environmental education resource, and peaceful sanctuary for nature explorers.”
The golf course maintains that the expansion is necessary for the course to continue to secure PGA events—and the economic windfall that those events bring to the Hudson County economy. “If we are not able to accommodate what these tournaments need, then they will simply go somewhere else that can,” Chris Donnelly, a spokesman for Liberty National, told The New York Times. In that same article, PGA spokesman Joel Schuchmann indicated that the size of Liberty National was in fact an issue for the tour events. “It’s true that as the PGA Tour, and the FedEx Cup playoffs specifically, continue to grow in stature and interest among our fans, media and partners, so does the need to make certain the proper footprint is in place,” he told the Times‘ Tracey Tull in a statement.
The course also argues that they’re making the game of golf more accessible to the youth of urban neighborhoods, through programs like First Tee.
Nevertheless, the importance of this area to an impressive variety of species is quite evident. Photographer/Filmmaker John Dunstan, who runs Wild Jersey City, has spent years documenting the stunning fauna who take refuge in this urban oasis.
Dunstan calls it, “a slap in the face to take over the Caven Point natural habitat so they can have their fairways closer to the bay with better views, offering a bone that they will then be able to use some of there other land to teach young people how to play golf, their currently unused land is earmarked for luxury development.”
In a statement by NY/NJ Baykeeper last November, they concurred, stating, “It’s been non-stop commercial development proposals, and political sweetheart leases have been aimed at commercializing parkland. Park founder Morris Pesin, and champions like Audrey Zapp and Morris’ son Sam, the president of the mighty Friends of Liberty State Park, have had to wage campaigns time and again to keep this urban green oasis from becoming one big American Dream Mall.”
Saturday’s rally will take place at Liberty State Park’s iconic Flag Plaza, 200 Morris Pesin Dr. Jersey City at the eastern end of Pesin Dr. An optional guided walk to Caven Point will be offered immediately after the demonstration.