By Lindsey de Stefan
Did you know there is a beautiful, bountiful river filled with a variety of plant and animal life that sits practically in your backyard?
The Ramapo River is approximately 30 miles in length and flows through Orange and Rockland Counties in New York and into Bergen County in New Jersey. The river, whose path comes quite close to Ramapo College, provides drinking water to 200,000 people in many areas of Rockland County and some northern New Jersey towns, including Mahwah.
As Ramapo River Watershed Keeper Geoff Welch explains, the river and its surrounding area was painted frequently by local artists of the 19th century and has a host of beautiful plant life. It is also home to many species of animal and aquatic life, including the blue heron.
But keeping the river clean, for the benefit of animals and humans alike, has been an issue in recent years. Because the river flows so close to many major highways, including the New York Thruway and Route 17, contamination from cars and gas stations can be a problem. Many drains go directly to the river or its tributaries, so it can become polluted easily and, in some cases, without anyone realizing it. This can also be said of contamination from private homes. For example, if someone pours antifreeze or other harmful chemicals down their drain. This, too, can contaminate our drinking water and our wildlife.
Additionally, many are eager to develop the land near the river. Putting a large number of homes that can contribute to contamination close to the river is detrimental. These homes, while some claim to be environmentally friendly, typically are not. They actually make the situation worse.
What will happen to the Ramapo River in the future is so far unclear. As environmentalists like Welch note, if we do not take precautions to keep it clean, we stand to lose a lot. We will not only endanger the wild life that inhabits it and lose a beautiful, scenic recreational area, but we put ourselves at risk, too.