Thirty-five years ago–January 5, 1987 to be exact, Rachel Donner, a still current hike leader for Shorewalkers wrote an article (reprinted below) for the newsletter explaining our mission to preserve and protect the shores.
On January fourth, the first Sunday of the new year, 17 Shorewalkers assembled at the South Ferry terminal of the Staten Island ferry. This organization is trying to establish a Hudson River Shore Trail; on this particular day, the goal was the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was a brisk 26 degrees and winds on the East Reiver crossing created a wind chill factor that forced most passengers inside where they were entertained, or annoyed, by the strains of a fiddler.
From St. George, the hikers rode an M1 bus past Sailor’s Snug Harbor, then walked along Richmond Terrace in a section of old houses and a car junk yard of orderly arranged car doors in many colors. There were few people outdoors, while hymn tunes emerged from the Fellowship Baptist Church. Further on, Procter & Gamble smokestacks loomed in contrast to the flat upland area of the United States Lines container port which looked, from not too great a distance, like a giant bus parking lot.
Crossing the Goethals Bridge was the highlight of the day. Some folks joke that the bridge is named after Elizabeth Goethals, a fictional patriot, while it is actually named after George Goethals who constructed the Panama Canal. Ironically, the Outerbridge which sounds as though a location is being described, is named after Eugenius H. Outerbridge. Completed in 1928, the airy 11,000 foot (with approaches) Goethals, 135 feet above the Arthur Kill, afforded views of industrial America, or, more specifically, Howland Hook, Staten Island and Elizabeth, NJ. Eyes felt the sting of pollution where there were cranes and storage tanks, the appurtenances of modern shipping, yet there were also ducks in the marshy inlets. At the New Jersey end of the bridge there were pools of a waste treatment plant and another neat junk yard, this one specializing in car parts, screen doors, and metal barrels.
Some of the group retreated to a local restaurant where English was a foreign language, others sought out Elizabeth’s churches, but most found their way to Broad Street, with its Sunday closed-down look, and the 3:19 train back to New York, to another world.