Founded by Captain Bill Sheehan in 1997, Hackensack Riverkeeper defends the Public Trust resources of the Hackensack River through a fourfold strategy of environmental action, advocacy, education and litigation. The organization employs that strategy on behalf of the people and wildlife that depend on the 45-mile long river that runs from Rockland County, NY to Newark Bay, and its 215-square mile watershed. The organization is a founding member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance.
Hackensack Riverkeeper carries out its education mission through both formal programs like its award-winning Urban Watershed Education Program and numerous nonformal programs designed to raise awareness of the natural and human histories of the river. The group is well known for its longstanding Eco-Cruise program that in a typical year enables about 3,000 people to explore the river and observe its wildlife aboard the specially-rigged pontoon boats Robert H. Boyle II and Geraldine Theresa.
Hackensack Riverkeeper is the primary advocate for the watershed and as such, promotes responsible, sustainable development. The organization regularly consults with local, county and regional planners to ensure that land-use planning decisions reflect current science and provide for proper public access. The organization operates two paddling centers – at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus, NJ and Overpeck County Park in Teaneck, NJ – that rent canoes & kayaks as well as conduct guided paddles from April through October each year. In 2020, despite COVID restrictions, over 7,500 people were safely served by the centers.
Hackensack Riverkeeper works to remediate centuries of pollution and environmental damage caused by centuries of human actions and abuse. In the short run, they engage in an effective River Cleanup program that each year mobilizes over one thousand volunteers who remove tons of trash and debris from the river, its tributaries and banks. They also participate in a regional water sampling and monitoring program that tests for pathogens and monitors the general health of the lower Hackensack River and Newark Bay. In the long run, the organization always seeks the best possible solutions to the many problems caused by sprawl development and the loss of natural habitats that have taken place throughout its watershed region.
Hackensack Riverkeeper is a resource that assists local, state and federal agencies identify sources of pollution, stop that pollution, provide for public waterfront access, protect wildlife habitats and other green spaces, and ensure compliance with – and enforcement of –environmental laws and regulations. When government agencies demonstrate inability to enforce them (or when industry refuses to take responsibility for its actions) Hackensack Riverkeeper does what all Waterkeepers do: they use the power of the courts in order to secure justice for the people and the ecosystems of the Hackensack River Watershed. To learn more about all the work Hackensack Riverkeeper does to protect our waterways, visit their website at hackensackriverkeeper.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.