R.I.P. Palmyra Cove

Months ago, my mother-in-law let Shari and I know about something going on at Palmyra Cove Nature Park, one of our favorite places to hike in the area. She said that the Army Corp of Engineers had made plans to start dumping dredge from the Delaware River into the park. We were astounded that they would destroy such a beautiful place – but we already understood the situation:

  1. Palmyra Cove was originally a dump for the Corps – in fact, the only reason it was there was because they stopped dumping there.
  2. They had a legal right – based on a 1998 agreement that gave them the right to dump there
  3. The Army Corps of Engineers pretty much does what they want most times

However, a lot had changed since they previously dumped at this site. In 1999, the park was established using more than $8 million in grants from the federal, state and local governments. They recently built a beautiful environmental education center (I would say another $2 million, easy) and a set of retention ponds that have become home to a number of herons, egrets, waterfowl, dragonflies and a family of foxes (one of at least two families in the park). But more importantly, the area has become a haven for birds and birders, especially in recent years. It was one of the only places in south Jersey where you could find threatened Saw-whet owls, and its warbler migration has been incredible – 27 species of warblers have been seen in its confines. Butterflies and dragonflies abound in the two big ponds in the park, and numerous creatures live in the varied habitats (mudflats, woods, riparian, open fields).

Despite widespread public outcry, opposition by all levels of the government and the Audubon Society, and even thrests of open protest at the park, the Corps could not be persuaded. Even the EPA was asked to step in but couldn’t – or wouldn’t – stop the dredging and dump. Luckily, the amount of land that they are going to be dumping on has been drastically reduced – originally 70 the park’s 250 acres, upped to tentatively 90 and finally reduced to 20 acres. Unfortunately, those 20 acres happen to be near the entrance to the park, in the prime warbler habitat and covering one of the two ponds (see my illustration, below).

Palmyra Cove Dredging

Worse, they are going to start almost immediately, meaning they’ll be in full swing just as fall migration begins. So, what we have is a bunch of stinky, polluted dirt from the bottom of the Delaware being pumped into a prime bird (warbler) habitat at the start of migration, near the entrance of the park that numerous birders visit at this time of year. Does that sound like a good idea to anyone else?

I’m grateful that they are only going to cover 20 acres (with 50,000 cubic yards – 3,000 dump trucks worth – of this stuff), but can’t say that I’m happy about it – particularly the timing. Couldn’t they hold off for 45 days and allow the migration to pass through? Then, at least, maybe the stench and nastiness of the dredge will have settled by the time spring migration rolls around. But who am I to make sense in a situation like this?

Related Articles

Philly Inquirer
Courier Post
Best of Palmyra Cove Flickr Set

Cape May Warbler Skipper Red Fox and Prey Common Green Darner (macro)


3 Responses to “R.I.P. Palmyra Cove

  • That’s a shame, possibly they could use Karl Rove’s office as a dumping area?

  • I soo need to get out your way to see all these amazing places! BTW: Just love your fox shot!

    It is amazing how these things seem to get through and happen! Their has to be someone out their who regulate places like this and say “nope, not going to happen”?? Yes, Marty you are making a difference and glad you are making us aware of the situation!

  • That is really sad. I hope something can be done to stop this, but it sounds like a done deal. What a waste.

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