Eagle Rock Reservation‘s vegetation has been seriously damaged by its large deer population in recent years. This past Monday, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. unveiled plans to restore the park’s native plants and trees.
As part of Essex County’s Deer Management Program, the county will be creating five enclosures in the reservation that will be planted with more than 13,500 native plants–the kind of plants that used to be found in abundance in Eagle Rock. Their decline has left many species in the park without food or shelter, and opened the landscape to erosion and invasive plants. The county has used controlled hunts to reduce the deer population, and is now ready to restore the landscape.
The enclosures will keep deer out, but allow in smaller animals such as rodents and birds, which will help eventually to spread seeds naturally from the new plants to other areas. The total size of the fenced in area is small–just 8.5 of the park’s 408 acres–but the approach at Eagle Rock mirrors a program already in place at South Mountain Reservation, where 41 regeneration sites were planted with 24,000 native plants. In addition, 14 acres of the former Essex County deer paddock were fenced in and the South Mountain Conservancy planted 26,000 native species to cultivate the site into a Wildflower and Forest Preserve.
“The damage caused by deer over-browsing has put the forest in Eagle Rock into a critical state and replanting native species is essential to restoring the health of our natural treasures,” DiVincenzo said. The Eagle Rock Reservation Conservancy will be working with the county on the restoration, which includes work to reduce flooding on the Prospect Avenue side of the park.
Rhodeside & Harwell, a landscape architecture firm in Newark, was awarded a $71,000 contract to design the reforestation program and other improvements. Applied Landscape Technologies of Montville was awarded a contract for $655,049 to perform the construction work. The Eagle Rock Reservation Conservancy got funding for the project from New Jersey’s Green Acres program and a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board. The work should completed by next summer.