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Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park!

Tokaloka Park Entrance at Maitland Avenue and Jefferson Street

Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park is a remnant 10.58 acre deciduous woodland. The preserve is completely surrounded  by dense housing development making the park a true forest island.

Tokaloka Park

Tokaloka Park was once part of 50 acres of land owned by Christian Cole who was one of the township’s first council members. The land that ultimately became Tokaloka Park consists of over 70% of forested wetlands and was considered unsuitable for development when suburban sprawl began in the 1930s. The name of the park was derived from a large pond that once existed in the park called Tokaloka. Tokaloka pond may be gone, but a vernal pond still exists near the western border.

Vernal Pond in Winter

Below is a picture of the same vernal pond taken in the summer months.

Dried Vernal Pond in summer

Many signs exist in this nature preserve indicating that the land is a remnant forested wetland. For example, skunk cabbage is abundant throughout most of the woodland. Skunk cabbage is an obligate plant-meaning that it is found growing in wetlands 99% of the time.

Skunk Cabbage

Another indicator that wetlands abound is the presence of  several buttressed tree trunks. Trees may develop enlarged trunks  in response to frequent inundation.

Buttressed tree trunk

Finally, there were several smaller vernal ponds present in the forest.

Small Vernal Pond

Trail

As of this writing the only official trail is a gently sloping path which leads from the entrance to the park at Maitland Avenue and Jefferson Street to its terminus at Dearborn Street. However, future plans, as indicated in the picture listed below, show a possible trail traversing the northern portion of the preserve including a loop around the vernal pond. This trail is recommended to have interpretive signage which would be a real plus in educating the public the value of this remnant natural area.

Tokoloka Park Trail Map

These changes were proposed in the 2008 Township of Teaneck comprehensive plan for recreation (this plan is no longer available online). The short (estimated .15 of a mile) existing trail only encourages you to really take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of this unique woodland. The forest is always changing as indicated in the pictures below of the same scene taken at summer and winter.

Tokaloka Park Summer View

Tokaloka Park Winter View

Flora

In addition to skunk cabbage, the forest features a nice diversity of plants. They include:

Solomon Seal

Fauna

The most amazing and unexpected event occurred last time I visited. Several White-tail deer were present near the main vernal pond and took off with their white tail in the air as I arrived near them. What a surprise to find in a forest island completely surrounded by development!

Directions:

Click here

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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About NJUrbanForest

Love to explore, photograph and learn about NJ (and NY) urban forests

8 responses to “Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park!”

  1. John Siegel says :

    My buddies and I used to use Toke as our private fantasyland 50 years ago. We would bike in there and it would become a battleground, fortress, alien world or anything else we imagined. Nice to see it’s still the same 50 years later.

  2. Dan sanftleben says :

    My friend, Alfred mascara, and i lived on the 500 block of west englewood rd back in the 1940s and often would walk and explore all the woods in the area–almost no houses in our area. Tokaloka was a special place, some places damp underfoot with skunk cabbage around. Never saw deer. Would like to go back, curious to see how far we walked from west englewood ave near Hudson road to it. Of course, in those days kids could play outside for hours unsupervised with no parental worries. Dan Sanftleben, Vero beach, fla.

  3. NJUrbanForest says :

    It’s still a great slice of nature! I’ll be curious to know what you think if you visit!

  4. Paul Shambroom says :

    Thanks so much for this report. I grew up a half block away from 1956-1974 and spent countless hours in Tokaloka learning about the natural world. I collected butterflies and wild strawberries. When I was very young (1958-60?) the pond was large enough for ice skating. Over the years it became quite polluted from rusting barrels (originally containing who-knows-what?) that had been tossed in. I visited in spring of 2009 and saw deer tracks (I’ll send photos if you want.) All the trails that were so well-trod when I was a kid are now overgrown, it seems as if the families that live nearby don’t allow or encourage their kids to explore. I have mixed feelings about the proposed interpretive trails (even though I have a recurring dream that the park has been turned into manicured natural wonderland.) Increased human presence seems likely to scare away the deer population and lead to littering, partying, etc. I look forward to updates on the town’s plans.
    -Paul

  5. Pam Stuckey says :

    I loved seeing the pictures here of the flora in Tokaloka Park. I am immediately brought right back to my childhood and my frequent forays into Tokaloka. From the early 60’s to 1972, my family lived on the border of Tokaloka, more specifically right at what I take is considered the entrance – we lived at the corner of Jefferson and Maitland. Tokaloka was an intrinsic part of my life – I still have a very warm spot in my heart for the ever-present skunk cabbage. I thought everyone had skunk cabbage in their backyard! My sisters and I traversed the park frequently. I literally would not be the same person without Tokaloka Park – it was a place of adventure and freedom and the peace and beauty of nature – I am forever grateful for its presence in my neighborhood and the fact that it will remain a forest. I don’t know the status of the plans to create a more formal interpretive path but I have to say my hope would be that Tokaloka would remain untouched by educational signs. The benefit and beauty of Tokaloka was the result of untouched quality of Tokaloka.

    • pshambroom says :

      Thanks Pam. I knew your sister Debbie, she was in my class at Whittier School. I walked through Tokaloka again this past April and saw two deer very close to where your house was! I agree that it would be best left in a natural state, although I do think it’s a shame for the kids in the neighborhood that they don’t seem to experience the park in any way at all. Maybe if some trails were cleared over-protective parents might let their kids go there. As with you, this bit of wilderness helped shape who I am today and how I experience the world.

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