On the other side of the New Bridge
Journeys into River Edge
I had occasion to take a stroll across the New Bridge the other day.
What I found and what I didn’t find came as a surprise.
First about what was not there. Our local histories tell us that decades (and centuries) ago communities such as New Bridge and Old Bridge (River Edge) covered both banks of the Hackensack River. We all know a bit about the history to be found on the River Edge side (Von Steuben House), but there was blocks of commercial buildings that comprised a business district on the other side of the bridge (on what is now called Old New Bridge Road) in New Milford and Teaneck. Over the years bit by bit the old buildings with a history disappeared. The most recalled was the New Bridge inn that burned down in 1965. But there were others, most recently those at the corner of Old New Bridge Road and Steuben Avenue. Now those e last remnants have been leveled, replaced by an extension of the parking lot for the modern day New Bridge Inn restaurant.
Over the last few decades, those couple of blocks had been more than a bit run down and neglected. Nonetheless, one always felt that there was some charm remaining, and with the right type of TLC could be brought back to the respect they deserved. Instead, now the corner invites one to invoke the words of that famous Joni Mitchell song.
But if one goes just a few steps beyond that corner, a pleasant surprise is to be found. It is the Frank M. Chapman Birding Trail.
The trail is a lovely path extending from just across from the New Bridge in to just north of the Teaneck DPW. Part of the Hackensack River Greenway, the trail is full of flowers, views of secluded parts of the river (harkening thoughts of what the river looked like throughout a century ago – even with the background noise of jets, train whistle and the hum and horns of traffic on Route 4). There are also some 20 signs describing various species of birds to be found along the path and the river.
The path is named after Frank M. Chapman, who is described on the sign as an Ornithologist, Conservationist and a Native of Teneack. Born in West Englewood in 1864, he is buried at the Brookside Cemetery in Englewood. During his life he became known for his years on the staff of the American Museum of Natural History, where he started in 1888 as assistant to Joel Asaph Allen, and where eventually In 1901 he was made associate Curator of Mammals and Birds and in 1908 Curator of Birds.
But he is probably best known for his role as pioneering writer of field guides. He came up with the original idea for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. He also wrote many ornithological books such as, Bird Life, Birds of Eastern North America, and Life in an Air Castle. Chapman promoted the integration of photography into ornithology, especially in his book Bird Studies With a Camera, in which he discussed the practicability of the photographic blind and in 1901 invented his own more portable version of a blind using an umbrella with a large 'skirt' to conceal the photographer that could be bundled into a small pack for transport along with the other, at the time very bulky, paraphernalia of the camera gear. For his work, Distribution of Bird-life in Colombia, he was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1917.
The bid path is a fitting remembrance for this man of accomplishment and his attachment to Teaneck and those creatures that dot this habitat along the river.
Personally, a walk along the birdway changed my mood and perspective in short order.
It’s a lovely spot, a real gem, there, connected to the New Bridge Landing and right in our midst – a way to get away from it all just 5 minutes away.
Backgorund Info: Wikipedia