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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,,,

Rosemary Fuhrman August 03, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Thank you for this continuing attention to New Milford. Your story today so clearly frames the current issue. Master plans are written through the lens of the past and with an thoughtful eye to the future. The 1970 master plan appears to have done that. Unfortunately, as other pressures arose in the past 20+ years, our elected officials are seeking to serve all masters which is resulting in short-sighted decisions with the wants and needs of the citizenry playing second fiddle to the those who seek to profit from developing every last parcel of land. The good news is that sleeping giant of New Milford citizens has been awakened by the current plan before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. We want our concerns to be heard and for our elected officials to return to the concept of service to the community they represent. What we ask of them is hard and time consuming. But most worthwhile things are.
TommyIce August 03, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Excellent post Rosemary. When we look back on the past, we can see clearly the wisdom of those that went before. We can also see clearly the short-sightedness of previous generations. My fear is that in the future, history will show that we are currently being lead by the short-sighted sort of "leadership". And we let it happen slowly by not being involved. The best that can be said for this current administration is that they finally got the townspeople involved in their own destiny. Now what we all need to do is meet the potential candidates, find out their views and stances then vote for an independent candidate not affiliated with a party.
AML August 03, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Rosemary & Tommy...You are "spot on" with your comments. Ann P.....Thanks for writing such a wonderful, factual story regarding the history of New Milford. Thanks for doing the research to report the facts surrounding the previous Master Plan which states "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." The Master Plan suggested open space. Obviously, Hekemian & his so called "expert" engineer, Mr. Dipple, HAVE NOT DONE THEIR HOMEWORK. Ann, I would grade you an A+, and Mr. Dipple, would receive an F. Actually, An F would be too good a grade for him!
Ulises August 04, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Let's not forget the prior M&C that changed the Master Plan in the interest of developing this property. That Mayor was DeBari and one of the council members was Subrizi back in the day. We need Independant candidates to emerge to set things write in boro hall...
Kevin Wright August 04, 2012 at 12:21 PM
The "dam" proposed to "improve the recreational opportunities along the Hackensack River," which would have affected "undeveloped land along the river in the southwest section of the Borough" refers to a plan to exclude the tides from the upper valley with a dam in the vicinity of Little Ferry (I believe) to create Lake Hackensack. It was abandoned around 1974 with the realization that it might only aggravate flooding (by keeping water at the level of high tide), but it would also have created the largest cesspool in northern Jersey, due to storm drains and sewage overflow. Also, it is the contaminated "muck lining", on the riverbed, deposited from such sources, that makes it impossibly expensive to dredge. Few also realize that French Creek, now piped underground for much of its passage, has a tidal outlet. Especially with heavy rainfall, when the tide backs up at the outlet of the culvert on the west side of Old New Bridge Road, it blocks the stream's discharge, flooding the intersection.
JP August 04, 2012 at 12:45 PM
What's interesting is this article states the Hirschfield Brook is the most pronounced surface drainage in the area. My mother lives along this brook in Dumont. 3 years ago after one of the big saturating storms we had, many trees fell along the brook - some completely blocking the brook from one side to the other. After numerous calls to the town to let them know, and zero being done, the blockage has caused such a dam of debris, that nothing can pass through. It just goes to show that all these towns really have no desire to take care of the underlying problems that would keep this water way moving and prevent flooding.
john nashmy June 02, 2013 at 06:56 PM
I believe the Hirschfield Brook originates in Teaneck not Tenafly as noted. If you follow it on a map it appears to be in Milton Votee Park.

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