No one has ever accused the Passaic River of having the same pizzaz as the River Thames. And yet, by the end of 2022, the new Bergen County Boathouse, at Riverside County Park, Lyndhurst, near the banks of the Passaic River, might just be the envy of rowers across the globe — including those who use the famous English river.

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Commission Chairman Steve Tanelli (of North Arlington) joined a host of rowing aficionados at the park Friday, July 23 — where construction of the new boathouse is already underway — for a ceremonial groundbreaking. It is estimated, when all is said and done, the project will cost $7 million and will be funded by grants from the Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program.

It’s the centerpiece of what will be a major overhaul to the Lyndhurst portion of the park.

Tedesco called the project “visionary” as he addressed the crowd assembled.

“When I became county executive, I made a commitment that the preservation of open space, the protection of our environment and enhancement of our park system, would be among my top priorities. Well, today, this groundbreaking is another example of that commitment,” Tedesco said. “The site behind me … will soon become the state-of-the-art Bergen County Rowing Center. …This boathouse will satisfy the increased demand for competitive rowing by the public with expanded access to both the sport of rowing and our waterways.”

Tedesco says he’s pleased the new rowing center will replace what is currently a dilapidated, makeshift setup.

“The new boathouse will replace a currently repurposed outdated structure currently used to store rowing equipment with a 14,285 square-foot, two story multipurpose boathouse. It will feature more high capacity rowing storage, as well as indoor recreational community space,” he said.

He says it will become “the ideal gathering space” for rowing and environmental groups to gather. Saying this, Tedesco looked to Lyndhurst Mayor Robert B. Giangeruso, present at the cutting, and he said the new building could also be used by the Board of Commissioners for meetings “on the road,” as could North Arlington.

The project was conceptualized in 2019 and is now coming to fruition thanks to the work of all involved, the county executive says.

“Once complete, the Bergen County Rowhouse will be the best in North Jersey if not the state of New Jersey. We only build the best,” Tedesco said.

He also heaped praise on the Passaic River Rowing Association, an organization that has offered rowing opportunities to the South Bergen community since 2003, and that will run the boathouse once it’s complete. He also thanked the Passaic River Coalition for its stewardship of the river.

Tanelli, meanwhile, has played an integral part in this project — and another coming down the line that will see major additions to the park. He called the ribbon-cutting a “joyous occasion,” brought on by the 2016 Bergen County Master Plan, which was developed with a vision of doing more with the “nearly 10,000 acres of county park space.”

That master plan ensures that “not only are our parks more accessible, but that they also meet the demands of the 21st century,” Tanelli said. “As one of the most densely populated portions, South Bergen was identified as lacking open space. …We could always expand our existing park space to address the deficit.

“Throughout the course of the next 18 to 36 months, Riverside County Park will undergo a complete revitalization that will increase exercise and recreation opportunities for South Bergen residents while offering historic access to the lower Passaic River. When all is said and done, Riverside County Park will have a brand new 1,200 square-foot comfort station, a 2,600 square-foot amphitheater capable of accommodating 200 people, two fitness stations, a state-of-the-art children’s playground all which was made possible by grant funding.”

Tanelli says he’s extremely proud of the work that went into the project and that will be complete by next year’s end.

Though not present at the groundbreaking, NJDEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette noted Gov. Philip D. Murphy is squarely behind this project.

“This important natural resource restoration project is one of several being facilitated by the Department of Environmental Protection in underserved communities as part of the Murphy Administration’s commitment to furthering the promise of environmental justice,” LaTourette said. “For far too long, the public has been unable to enjoy recreational activities along spans of the lower Passaic River. Through partnerships and grant opportunities, DEP can help offer the public exciting new recreational opportunities, including the chance to learn rowing skills and use those skills right here on the Passaic River.”

Clarke Caton Hintz Architects and Peterson Architects designed the project in 2019. The board of commissioners awarded the construction contract to DMD Contracting on March 17, 2021.

While the project is underway, rowers will not be able to launch from the boathouse area weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the PRRA said on its website.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.