Over the River and Through the Woods Lies the Birthplace of Bergen County
The birthplace of Bergen County is defined by the river that runs through it; looking at past master plans it's clear that the more things change, the more the concerns stay the same.
The allure of New Milford to its first resident, David Demarest, was the fertile land surrounding the Hackensack River--an ideal overland gateway to the markets in New York City. Soon after Demarest settled in 1677, others followed suit, creating a need for planning the community, a master plan for development.
Master plans serve many purposes--they act as a blue print for a municipality by depicting current land uses, they make recommendations for desirable development, and guide decisions for both growth and conservation in a community.
A master plan can provide a cohesive focus by outlining development goals and objectives for a community. It can identify suitable districts for commercial or housing developments; farming, open space, recreational areas, and environmental resources; historic and cultural resources; and transportation corridors and utilities.
In planning a community, the land's physical characteristics are critical. River Road and Kinderkamack Road are the two oldest roads in Bergen County. River Road borders the eastside of the Hackensack River and Kinderkamack lies on the westerly side. The next two oldest roads are New Bridge Road and Henley Avenue, both extend eastward.
The earliest master plan available for review was New Milford's 1970 master plan. This plan indicated that the position of the Hackensack River presented a physical barrier and is a terminal point for surface drainage.
According to the 1970 master plan, because of the relatively flat topography between Boulevard and River Road, much of the surface drainage meanders. However, there are two major and one minor well-defined surface drainage courses within the borough.
The most pronounced is the Hirschfield Brook that originates in Tenafly, flows south through Bergenfield and Dumont and enters New Milford south of Milford Avenue emptying into the Hackensack River north of Main Street.
The second major drainage course is the French Brook that originates near the easterly borough line south of Ridge Court and flowing parallel to New Bridge Road to merge with the Hackensack River.
A third drainage way originates between Cedar Road and Monmouth Road and flows into the Hackensack River near River Edge Avenue.
The 1970 master plan shows poor drainage in the land bordering the Hackensack River as depicted by a 1952 engineering soil survey by Rutgers University. The report says that the soil bordering the Hackensack River and Hirschfield Brook have very poor drainage and is subject to "periodic flooding."
From 1940 to 1970 New Milford experienced a population explosion, and the amount of development reflected that--especially the houses built bordering the Hackensack River. Between 1940 and 1970 there was an 80 percent increase in population and a shift from farming to bedroom community.
Land was becoming scarce and open space a commodity. The language of the 1970 master plan would suggest that after the surge of development, New Milford was taking inventory of its growth and planning future direction at a more controlled pace.
Written into the 1970 master plan is this, "If, in the future, the Hackensack Water Company should, for any reason, abandon the filtering area adjacent to Main Street, this land should be reserved for open space purposes both to meet the need for such land and to preserve the integrity of the River. In keeping with the proposal to build a dam and improve the recreational opportunities along the Hackensack River, the undeveloped land along the river in the southwest section of the Borough should be reserved for such purposes."
To Be Continued,,,