Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Re-Greening of Cranford

Back a hundred years ago, Cranford was known as the "Venice of New Jersey." It was a town that grew up around the meandering Rahway River.

The river was a main mode of transportation with many residents having boats docked in front of their riverfront homes. About five miles of the 30-mile Rahway River goes through the Township.

Like almost all of New Jersey, Cranford became much more developed and open space, natural resources and habitats disappeared or were endangered.

The river has become a source of significant flooding. Overdevelopment both in the town and in surrounding towns causes stormwater management challenges. Cranford takes a bigger hit than other towns because it lies downstream from most of the 18 towns along the Rahway River.

The Cranford Environmental Commission was created in the 1970s. In 2006-2007 they won an Achievement Award for enacting the first NJ municipal ordinance to require sustainable building standards for new township construction and existing buildings, based on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

In town, the Commission runs programs such as encouraging homeowners to choose renewable energy through the Clean Power Choice Program as well as energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), through the ENERGY STAR Change-A-Light Program.

Blue Heron on the Rahway River

They also created an awareness program about community sustainability called My Green Cranford.

The Rahway River is popular for fishing and the Cranford Canoe Club is a historic spot where residents rent canoes to use on the river. Many homes located on the river have canoes in the backyards and docks on the river.

A 13.5 mile bike path runs through the township, connecting major points of interest. It was built with in 1982 as part of a fuel-conservation program with funds from the Federal Housing Administration. The township also hosts a section of the East Coast Greenway which will run between Calais, Maine and Key West, Florida.

New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Cranford as its 37th best place to live in its 2008 rankings of the "Best Places To Live" in New Jersey and its "greening" is certainly a factor.

How is your NJ town doing environmentally? Do you have an environmental commission? My hometown in suburban Essex County does - check on the ANJEC site for your town. Click here and find out - the ANJEC website has this information at your fingertips.

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