Spanning over a 70-mile corridor, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park (D&R Canal Park) provides millions of New Jersey residents with invaluable access to a tract of pristine natural landscapes and a rich history directly from their (often literal) back door. The canal offers not only an aesthetic and recreational benefit to multiple New Jersey communities, but also a steady and reliable supply of drinking water for over one million people per day. Apart from its’ benefits to people, the D&R Canal Parkfunctions as the home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, including 160 species of birds alone. The region represents a respite from the larger suburban and urbanized state of New Jersey and offers a connection to the state’s past. Protection of this jewel of Central New Jersey is not only for the sake of safeguarding our past or prolonging our enjoyment of the park at the present, but for the sake of preserving a natural treasure for future generations.
Presently, stewardship of the D&R Canal Park is mainly accomplished through the provisions of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission’s (the Commission) Master Plan, enacted in 1989. While the document can be considered an overwhelming success, the challenges we face today – on environmental, historic, recreational and land use terms – only partially resemble those considered three decades ago. The D&R Canal Park faces new threats and new circumstances that require renewed planning efforts. This fact is only exacerbated by the uncertainty for the future that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced.
As the 50th year of the D&R Canal Park in 2024 approaches, it is necessary to look to the future and contemplate the kind of Delaware and Raritan Canal resource that New Jersey residents need for the 21st century. The following report was written with the intent of informing the basis for potential future master planning efforts for the Commission.
Instructor: Jeanne Herb