Welcome to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve!
Teaneck Creek Conservancy (TCC) is a 46 acre urban forested wetland located in Teaneck, NJ. The park is bordered to the north by Fycke Lane, DeGraw Avenue to the south, Teaneck Road to the west and Teaneck Creek to the east. The park is owned by Bergen County and managed by the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
TCC was founded in 2001 by the Puffin Foundation after red survey flags were found on the woodland in back of the building at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ. After discovering that the property was owned by the County of Bergen, TCC signed a long term licensing agreement with the county to allow it to develop the property into a park. The conservancy applied and received $500,000 from NJ Green Acres, $450,000 from Bergen County Parks Department and Open Space Trust Fund, $50,000 from the Puffin Foundation and $300,000 from the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council to form trails, site improvements and wetland hydrology analysis. Teaneck Creek Conservancy became part of Bergen County’s Overpeck Park in July of 2004 and opened up to the public on May 7, 2006.
The conservancy has created a natural masterpiece by blending the perfect mixture of artwork with nature. The Puffin Sculpture Park greets you as soon as you arrive in the parking lot of the Puffin Cultural Forum.
Artwork may appear around the corner on any of TCC’s nature trails such as this wooden turtle (carved from a Black Locust tree trunk) which may be found on the blue trail or this wooden rabbit found near Dragonfly Pond off of the Red Trail.
There are two tributaries of Teaneck Creek found in the conservancy.
95% of Teaneck Creek’s watershed is urban which causes flash hydrology during storm events. Flash hydrology consists of the rapid movement of water through Teaneck’s storm system into Teaneck Creek, followed by a rapid elevation of water height, accelerated water flows and then a rapid return to low flow water levels. Flash hydrology can destabilize the stream channel by erosion of the stream banks.
Despite Teaneck Creek’s poor water quality due to non-point source pollution, the creek and surrounding wetlands and woodlands host a large diversity of wildlife. Wildlife that have been observed at TCC include:
- Snapping Turtles
- Green Frogs
- Eastern Box Turtle
- Great Egret
- Great Blue Heron
- Red Fox
- White-tailed Deer
The 46 acres which comprise Teaneck Creek Conservancy experienced degradation from dumping and filing of debris in the 1960’s during construction of the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 80. The dumping of debris caused degradation in TCC’s wetlands by cutting off the historic hydrology to Teaneck Creek causing the wetlands to act more as a perched bog rather than a functioning riparian wetland. A Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan was developed for the preserve after three years of study by Rutgers University, United States Geologic Survey and TRC Omni. The restoration plan essentially breaks the 46 acres into four sections (Section A, B, C & D). Each section will have its own restoration plan based upon existing soil, vegetation and hydrology.
Section A consists of 9 acres and is located in the northeastern section of the preserve near Fycke Lane. Section A consists of the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in Teaneck Creek Conservancy. Analysis of the soil indicates that the 9 acres have remained unchanged for the past two to three hundred years. The goal for this area is to maintain the existing conditions and protect the 9 acres from future negative environmental impacts that may occur.
Section B, at 15 acres is located in the heart of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A prominent feature of Section B is a body of water known as Dragonfly Pond whose water comes directly from storm water runoff from nearby Teaneck Road.
Dragonfly pond is surrounded by large stands of Common Reed. The goal for Section B is to leave existing stands of Common Reed near the pond and prevent its spread by planting native shade trees. Common Reed, though invasive, is useful in removing excess nutrients and sequestering contaminants from water. In addition, given the source of water for Dragonfly Pond, the area is prone to drought conditions in the summer months. Under drought conditions, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage cannot survive.
While invasive plants such as Garlic Mustard and Mile-a-Minute Vine are found throughout Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s 46 acres, they are especially plentiful in the 14 acre Section C and 8 acre section D.
Section C and D are located in the southeast and southwest section of the park respectively. These areas of the park historically received the largest amount of disturbance during the construction of Route 80 and the NJ Turnpike. The soil consists primarily of debris. Only pockets of native vegetation remain in the 8 acre section D. The restoration plan for section D indicates that 5-6 acres will be clear cut and reconfigured into a series of freshwater wetlands. 3 upland native wooden acres will be spared. In Section C, a large clay berm was constructed in past wetland management efforts to help stem flooding from Teaneck Creek. Restoration efforts call for the clay berm to be broken so that water will be able to flow and pool creating new freshwater wetland habitat naturally.
It is hoped that 20 new forested freshwater wetlands will be created from the Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan for the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy features 3 trails. All trails are nearly flat. Blazes are created in the shape of a turtle and are colored and numbered. Trail maps are available near the entrance by the parking lot for the Puffin Cultural Forum.
The handicapped accessible .65 of a mile red trail traverses the preserve from DeGraw Avenue to Fycke Lane. Starting from the Puffin Cultural Parking lot, the red trail leaves the parking lot heading down wooden stairs where artwork known as “Migration Milestones” showcases pictures of migratory birds and facts.
This information is all carved on old cement which was previously dumped in the conservancy during construction of the intersection of nearby I-80 and I-95.
From here, the red trail heads north or south. Heading south, the red trail passes upland forest to the east which contains a big Silver Maple with a label near blaze R2.
Continuing south, the red trail passes by the Bergen County Audubon Society’s Butterfly Garden.
The idea for the garden came about in the fall of 2011 and funding from the Bergen County Audubon and National Audubon Society helped make the dream a reality. Native plants such as Swamp Milkweed, Buttonbush, Ironweed and Spicebush among others were planted for a two fold purpose. The first is to provide habitat for butterflies to lay eggs and for their caterpillars to eat. The second purpose is to provide nectar sources for butterflies. It is hoped other species of wildlife will be attracted to the butterfly garden as well.
Volunteers from three groups assisted with the project. The Teaneck Creek Weed Warriors cleared the garden of non native vegetation such as Japanese Knotweed and Porcelain Berry. Volunteers from the Teaneck Garden Club (members stored plants over the winter donated by Metropolitan Plant Exchange. Finally, members from the Bergen County Audubon Society completed the planting and will maintain the garden.
The butterfly garden marks the first time native plants have intentionally been planted to replace invasive species at TCC.
Heading closer to DeGraw Avenue, the Green trail approaches from the northeast. Turning back north, the red trail retraces its steps and heads back to the entrance of the TCC. A little north of the main entrance, the red trail comes to a “T” near blaze R4. Turning left (west) this section of the red trail heads to Puffin Place and the Blue Trail.
Heading east, the red trail comes to blaze R5 with upland forest to the south and dense scrub shrub land to the north. Heading northeast, the red trail passes the green trail to the east and heads past Dragonfly Pond to the west near blaze R7.
This section of the red trail follows the historic public service trolley route which was in service from 1899-1938. The public service trolley route connected Paterson to Edgewater where a ferry took passengers to NYC.
Continuing north, the red trail comes to the 5 Pipes. The five pipes were leftover massive drainage pipes that are large enough to stand in. Rather than discard them, volunteers painted the interiors and exteriors to represent five eras of time.
The exteriors of the five pipes represent natures flora and fauna found at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy across time. The interiors of the five pipes represent the human relationship to TCC in 5 different historical eras. These eras include:
1. Native American (The Lenape)
2. Colonial Period (The Dutch and the English)
3. A new nation’s early years (1776-1899)
4. USA: The 20th Century
5. USA: The 21st Century and Beyond
From here, the northern end of the Green trail is accessible immediately after the five pipes to the east near Teaneck Creek. A bridge crossing Teaneck Creek from the Heritage Point of Teaneck is found here.
Continuing north, two massive Black Willows can be found at blazes R10 and R11 respectively. Near blaze R12, the Blue Trail is accessible to the west. Continuing north, the red trail crosses Teaneck Creek in the Fycke Woods section. (FYI: Fycke is a Dutch word meaning fish or animal trap)
The Red Trail parallels Teaneck Creek to the west and comes to an outdoor ecology classroom at blaze R14. The outdoor ecology classroom is located near the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in TCC (Section A near Fycke Lane). The location of the classroom was previously surrounded by large dense stands of Common Reed. After most of the Common Reed was removed, native trees, shrubs and herbaceous species were planted. The outdoor ecology classroom was built after receiving funding of $100,000 from private and public sources in 2003. The classroom has four 12-foot long benches, a boardwalk and a 30 foot –wide five-sided opening in the middle that looks down into wetlands.
The red trail ends at Fycke Lane where the Fycke Lane Interpretive Project at Teaneck Creek Conservancy is found.
The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project was conceived in 2003 and constructed in 2011 after being funded with a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
The project consists of 8 educational signs which provide illustrations and information on landscape perspectives ranging from habitat, wealth, and history among other landscape perspectives. The signs were constructed by a wall made of recycled materials. These signs will be replaced from time to time to provide fresh perspectives. The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project opened Earth Day in 2012.
Starting from the red trail near DeGraw Avenue, the rustic .50 of a mile green trail traverses northeast to the Lenape Turtle Peace Labyrinth at blaze G2.
The Labyrinth, located inside a Cottonwood Forest, was made from rubble found in Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
The turtle shaped Labyrinth was created to honor the Hackensack Lenape Native Americans whose lands included the TCC.
The Lenape Native Americans believed that the world began when a giant turtle swam to the surface of an ocean that covered the earth and the turtle’s back supported the continent. Hikers are encouraged to follow the rubblestone to the center of the labyrinth. A sign posted at the entrance states “A walk to the labyrinth’s center can provide an opportunity to meditate, heal and grow”.
From the labyrinth, the green trail continues through the cottonwood forest until it reaches Teaneck Creek at blaze G8. Here there is a bridge crossing Teaneck Creek connecting the Glen Pointe Development with TCC. The green trail continues north following Teaneck Creek to the east. The Green Trail ends at the Red Trail at blaze G10 near the Five Pipes.
An interesting note is the green trail is the only trail in the park system that was designed and built by volunteers. The red and blue trail were designed and built by contractors.
The woodchip lined .27 of a mile blue trail traverses the northwestern section of TCC. Starting from Puffin Place, the blue trail heads north through a dense area of wetlands and reeds and passes a picnic area known as Black Walnut Meadow near blaze B4.
Black Walnut Meadow is the location of one of the first ongoing art exhibits I saw at Teaneck Creek Conservancy: Windows on the Park. Generally once a year, old window frames are taken and hung up alongside the blue trail to challenge the separation between public and private spaces.
After leaving the Black Walnut Meadow, the blue trail heads north through wetlands and connects to the red trail at blaze B8 near the red trail’s R12.
TCC includes over 140 native species of plants including:
Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.
NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!
Click here for more information!
Great Ecology/Hiking Books!
1. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!
Click here for more information!
2. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.
Click here for more information!
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!