Slope Failure - Rockaway Street / Morris Canal Greenway Trail Project



At the last meeting of 2017, the board voted to approve a resolution for 40% spending on the $2.2 million Rockaway Street slope failure which, with a 30-year, projected 0% finance model could cost the average household $9.54 per year. Please know that our hope is that we get 100% funding and that it costs the tax payers even less. However, now that the resolution has passed, the town is finally free to actually start seeking grants and other funding sources not pursuable until that resolution was passed. To be clear, the resolution is NOT an approval to spend actual dollars, it is the resolve to finally move forward on an issue that had not seen substantial progress in several years and needed to be addressed whether you agree with the outcome or not. Continuing to kick the can down the road was not an option for the board. The actual cost to tax payers remains to be seen and we promise to keep you updated.

River bank photo

1ST PUBLIC MEETING: September 18th, 2017 ~ 7pm at Town Hall

2ND PUBLIC MEETING: December 18th, 2017 ~ 7pm at Town Hall

During Hurricane Irene, Grace Lord Park suffered a collapse of the river bank that parallels Main Street (on the far side of the Rockaway River). The collapse left an 80 ‘drop that is dangerous for children, people using the Park and homes in the surrounding neighborhood. The path that connected the portion of the Park next to Main Street across from the canal park disappeared and was interrupted so that the woodland walk to Morris was left impassable.

FEMA was contacted asking them to fund the repair. FEMA denied the request siting the not meeting their criteria for funding. State and federal elected officials were contacted asking for their intervention in the matter. Congressman Frelinghuysen arranged for the Army Corps of Engineers to come on site. After an onsite visit, the Corps determined that it fell outside their scope of responsibility. 

Without restoration a dangerous condition remains outstanding and the park is diminished in value and of far less utility to the residents of Boonton. Like Central Park is to Manhattan, Grace Lord Park is to Boonton. Both are a center of gravity for spiritual and cultural activities in town.

The Board of Aldermen recognize that steps need to be taken both to protect the town from liability and to restore our treasured park / pathways in a fiscally responsible way. Unless repaired, the plans to improve and further revitalize our treasured Grace Lord   Park are lost. For example, plans have been discussed to connect the parking lot and path ending on Morris Avenue to a rebuilt train trestle revitalized in the style of the New York Highline and connecting to a dedicated path on the other side of the river bordering Plane Street and Main Street. Connecting  both paths in a circle around Grace Lord Park will result in pathways of approximately 3 miles before it crosses the street to the Canal side of Main Street where there will be and are other scenic paths along the canal and river. Unless the slope is stabilized none of these plans or others that will come out of the Master Planning process can be realized.

It is an expensive project however. The roughly $2 million dollar cost must be faced, debated and all the pros and cons weighed by the electorate and Board of Alderman.  Attached as Exhibit 1 is the estimate of costs prepared by Boswell Engineering.


The project involves the stabilization of a severe erosion hazard along a 650 l.f. section of the western bank of the Rockaway River. The area in question is located approximately 1,500 feet west of the intersection of Route 202 and Interstate 287 within Grace Lord Park. The slope failure is the result of several intense storm events, the presence of erodible soils and changing stream dynamics as the Rockaway River attempts to reach equilibrium.

The stream geomorphology throughout this section of the channel has altered the dynamics of watercourse creating severe erosion of the bank in the “washout area” in excess of 1:1 slopes with an 85' +/- change in grade. The soils are sandy, loam, bank run material with a high erosion factor. In addition to constant erosion and sedimentation, the washout area is devoid of woody vegetation and large trees have fallen into the channel. The deterioration of the western bank has been exacerbated by various storm events including Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, further increasing the severity of the hazard and threatening a complete failure. 

Stabilization Design

After considering several bank stabilization designs (including stone weirs, rip rap stone, bio-engineering, etc.), it was agreed that the preferred alternative would provide adequate stability to the western bank while creating the least disturbance to the Rockaway River and surrounding environment. The preferred alternative consists of the installation of multi-tiered rubble walls within the most severely eroded portion of the embankment (washout area), as well as, selective grading to blend the new system into the surrounding topography. The use of natural stone walls was selected due to the severity of the slope (greater than 2:1) and the velocity of the channel at this location during storm events (in excess of 11 fps during the flood hazard storm).

The rubble walls range in height from 3’ – 10’ and all stone will be supplied to the contractor from a local quarry. The area between each tier will be planted with a variety of native shrubs to promote food and shelter for local wildlife and provide the required riparian mitigation. The upper portion of the slope above the flood hazard area elevation will be regraded to achieve a slope of 2:1 then planted with over 200 shrubs and hydro-seeded with a native seed mixture to establish a dense ground cover specifically designed to provide erosion control. After applying the hydro-seed, an NRCS approved erosion control blanket will be installed to provide temporary stabilization while the seed mix fully germinates.

Regulatory Permitting

The NJDEP approvals were obtained on September 7, 2016 and are valid for five (5) years with a one (1) year extension. The MCSCD application will be completed during the public bidding phase. The project requires an NJDEP Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit and authorization from the Morris County Soil Conservation District (MCSCD).

Public Need

Currently, the washout along the western bank of the Rockaway River is an erosion hazard and has not been properly stabilized in accordance with the Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control in New Jersey. The washout, aside from creating an immediate risk to several properties on Rockaway Street, prevents the public from utilizing a sizeable portion of Grace Lord Park which offers spectacular views of the natural waterfalls and historic stone ruins. Prior to the collapse, the area of concern contained a natural walking trail providing a continuous path (0.65 miles) from Essex Avenue to Morris Avenue. The safety hazard present in the vicinity of the washout area is no longer safe for public access and disrupts the overall connectivity of this trail system developed by the NY/NJ Trail Conference.

Stabilization Project Considerations

At the request of the Mayor, a careful assessment of the methods for proceeding was undertaken by a subcommittee of the Board of Alderman in 2017. Aldermen Eoga and Wekilsky volunteered to serve on the sub-committee and surveyed the many options.   The options including some of the negatives and costs of the project were assessed in different ways and have been attached below. Furthermore, the previously forested upland embankment is now devoid of natural vegetation due to the severity of the grade and requires restoration from an environmental and aesthetic standpoint. The NJDEP approved design, incorporates over 300 native plantings, as well as, the utilization of tiered stone walls to compliment the naturally occurring boulders and ledge rock found throughout the site.

The State encourages the stabilization of erosion hazards throughout the State to protect water quality and “conserve, improve, and sustain our natural resources and environment.” The restoration of this public open space is a collaborative effort to provide resiliency to a vulnerable portion of the Rockaway River’s western bank. This project will not only secure the integrity of the embankment but improve all aspects of the public’s passive recreation experience at Grace Lord Park.

Additional Considerations

  • Ownership of the park taken on by the County (the county has NOT yet been contacted about this)
  • Making the decision after the Master Plan is complete in 2018
  • The Harrison Street collapse site has not been financially considered beyond the already acquired properties near that collapse
  • Reductions in cost could come from grant funding only after a decision by the board has been made to proceed
  • Reductions in costs could also come from the procurement of materials from other area build / excavation sites only after a decision by the board has been made to proceed
  • The board is also considering partial funding options as well (see amortization at 30% - 60% options)

Below are the various amortization schedules and possible costs that were considered at two public hearings. The vote on this matter took place at the December 18th, 2017 meeting.