Empowering Minds and Nurturing Nature: A Partnership Focused on Education Along the Hackensack River

By Karen Imas, Public Policy Manager

June 8, 2023

The Hackensack River has a long and storied history in New Jersey playing a crucial role in the industrial development of the state. Over the years, this river has faced significant environmental challenges, ranging from industrial pollution to overdevelopment and combined sewer sewage overflows. However, thanks to the efforts of organizations like Hackensack Riverkeeper, the river has seen significant improvements in recent years. Attentive Energy recently joined up with Hackensack Riverkeeper to support efforts to raise awareness about protecting, preserving, and restoring the Hackensack River and its 215 square-mile watershed.

Hackensack Riverkeeper has been working for more than 25 years towards the restoration of the river by educating the public about the river’s ecological importance, advocating for responsible public policies, and engaging in hands-on river cleanups. One of the primary ways Riverkeeper has been able to achieve its goals is by working with students from New Jersey.

On May 17, Attentive Energy joined Captain Hugh Carola, Program Director, to launch the Eco-Cruise Partnership for the 2023 season.  Eco-Cruises are educational and interactive tours for students and for the general public aboard Hackensack Riverkeeper’s specially rigged 30-foot pontoon boats. Captain Bill Sheehan started the program in 1994 to increase awareness of the lower Hackensack River as a vital natural and recreational resource. Since then, more than 75,000 people have explored the river with Hackensack Riverkeeper.

“By educating students about the river’s importance, we are working to create a culture of environmental responsibility and stewardship,” said Carola. “Our students learn to appreciate the river’s ecological value and the importance of protecting it for future generations. Offshore wind similarly focuses on protecting our planet and natural resources for the future and we are able to draw those parallels for the students through this partnership,” he added.

The Eco-Cruise Partnership will host area schools from Hudson and Bergen Counties and educate students about the river’s ecological importance, biodiversity in New Jersey’s waterways and career pathways in maritime and environmental science.

The 2023 season Eco-Cruise Partnership program was launched with students from River Dell High School in Bergen County. The students were able to learn about the river’s ecosystem, see wildlife and marine life on the water, and learn about the impacts of pollution on aquatic life. They also participated in onshore hands-on activities learning about run-off, erosion, and water quality.

“The Attentive Energy – Hackensack Riverkeeper Eco-Cruise Partnership not only imparts knowledge but also inspires future environmental stewards,” said Damian Bednarz, Managing Director, Attentive Energy. “Supporting community-based organizations focused on sustainability, climate change and biodiversity dovetails with our goals of sustainable and responsible development of offshore wind projects on and off the shore.”

The Eco-Cruise season runs from May to October 2023 and during that time it’s expected that students and teachers from upwards of twenty schools in Bergen and Hudson Counties – and beyond – will do a deep dive into the following themes:

  • Environmental Education – ecology, history, human impacts and environmental challenges
  • Community Science – Teach young people to collect data such as water samples which helps researchers and conservationists track changes in the river
  • Civic Engagement – Learn ways to get involved in environmental activities in one’s community

Learn more about Hackensack Riverkeeper’s work and mission at www.hackensackriverkeeper.org.