Restoring the Floodplain
Interview with Chris Statile - Hillsdale's Borough
Engineer, Hillsdale Flood Plain
SWAN: This is Sam from
Bergen SWAN. I'm sitting down with Chris Statile. Chris is Hillsdale's Borough
Engineer and was on of the tour guides for the Hillsdale Flood Plain part of
Bergen SWAN's eco-tour in 2009. Chris
has helped the town acquire County and State grants to facilitate the purchase
of open space and floodwater mitigation land.
In 1995 he helped the Borough to obtain ten Pascack Brook floodplain
lots for use as open space and passive parks, keeping these lots safe from
development. In 1999 Chris facilitated the closure of an old municipal landfill
and had it converted to a ten-acre sports recreation center. He advises the
municipal planning boards for Hillsdale and River Vale and also advises the
Hillsdale Environmental Commission. Chris runs his own business in Oakland.
is the history behind your preserving of open space around the Pascack Brook
-Well, the borough of Hillsdale had put
together an open space committee, and we looked at the possible criteria for
the selection of purchasing or requiring parcels of space in the boroughs of
Hillsdale. One of the target areas the committee looked at were environmentally
challenged areas, such as the floodplains along the various brooks and streams
in Hillsdale. One of which is the
Pascack Brook floodplain.
important would you say keeping the flood plain free from development is in
terms of keeping land in good shape during periods of heavy rain?
Well it's one of our more important assets in
the community as well as many communities in the state. When we have homes in
the flood plain, people are at risk: during infrequent but heavy rainfall
activity, those areas become full of floodwaters and our emergency staff has to
evacuate people. The flood plain also
provides for a place for Mother Nature to store water, protects downstream
properties, and deposits silts and sediments from those streams into the land
and forests which can be collected and utilized by the vegetation in those
is the community protected from possible flooding by the flood plain?
We don't really gain protection from flooding,
other than the flood plain being used as a water storage device. We do have heavy floodplains. It probably
protects the downstream properties as does floodplains above Hillsdale, protect
Hillsdale the same way. That's one of the benefits of having these open spaces.
recreational activities can members of the community enjoy in this area?
One of the things we've done is we've
incorporated some walking paths through some areas along the Pascack Brook for
people to enjoy the forested areas as well as have access to the waterfront.
People do like to fish in the Pascack Brook. In other areas we've created parks
and playgrounds, which is a bit more active than just walking through the
can you tell us about the Open Space Planning Initiative?
The mayor and council had established an open
space committee years ago, and we came up with a roster of potential properties
to acquire, many of which were along the Pascack Brook, and we were able to
negotiate with those owners to sell those properties to the borough. That is an
ongoing process, and has been an ongoing process. Unfortunately this year the Open
Space Assessment was voted down by the voters in Hillsdale, so currently the
town is not putting forth any additional money into the Open Space program.
This is as far as 2010 goes.
can members of the community encourage their governments to actively strive for
open space preservation?
One of the ways of course would be for them to
vote favorably for open space funding, either through local assessments or
through county assessments, because this does benefit everybody in the
community, not just the people who live in the floodplains but also people who
can enjoy those areas which are still remaining open for people to utilize.
of the conflicts that comes up when preserving open space is that the space
preserved, there is no longer taxes collected on that space, and there can be
cost involved in the upkeep of the upkeep of those new areas. So what would you
say to someone who says that it's more important to keep taxes down than it is
to preserve these open spaces?
It depends on the type of development that may
be pushing its way into these open space areas. Single-family residential
development does not bring in necessarily more taxes than it extracts from the
community, because of the needs for service in the schools, and the public
works department, etcetera, in the community itself. So open space, in a way,
in terms of single-family residential development does tend to save money to
the community. I can't say that about
commercial development, of course commercial development would have a positive
effect on tax collection in the communities. The need to maintain the open
space by the public works department isn't that great: it's an occasional once
or twice a year clearing of any debris etcetera that might be there, or litter,
or illicit dumping. People do tend to dump their leaves and vegetative waste
into the open space in Hillsdale, and occasionally it has to be cleaned up by
the Department of Public Works. But it's not an overwhelming problem.
kinds of projects are you working on with the Hillsdale Environmental
Right now, with the Hillsdale Environmental
Commission, we're trying to provide more access to the open space areas of the
community. We are improving a walkway in Beachwood Park, which has been a
nature park for many years. We'd like to enhance it so that it's more open to
the public. We're also looking at other types of trail systems between the
Hillsdale landfill, and some properties that were acquired off of St. Nicholas
Avenue and tie those in with the high school so that there's a larger walking
path area in those open space areas. So really, the connection is more about
having access to the open space, as well as enhancing the open space.
of your goals is to interconnect all of these different open spaces and the
-Yes, I'd like to have a large
interconnected system of trails for people
in Hillsdale to utilize, and they could be potentially hooked up with
Woodvale Park to the north, which is a county park. They could potentially be
hooked up to the east with the bike path, and with the county trail system as
well, to the south and then to the west with the landfill, which would make a
very long pleasurable trail system in this portion of Bergen County.
SWAN: Great. Well that's it. Thanks Chris,
and keep up the good work.
Chris: Thank you.
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