Monday, August 23, 2010

Fossils in Peril in New Jersey

An inactive quarry in Woodland Park, NJ is home to a sandstone wall preserving trackways made by dinosaurs in the early Jurassic. Unfortunately, it also overlooks New York City, and as prime real estate, is being developed for a condominium community. A story by the Associated Press, reports that development is still barrelling ahead, despite the efforts of concerned scientists and citizens to save the trace fossils. While the local government is considering a petition to absorb the relevant section of the quarry into an adjacent park, the story says that "with tractors atop the cliff already having pushed a shroud of soil over the wall, those scientists have turned their efforts to salvaging what fossils they can for museum display."

ReBecca of DinoChick Blogs posted about this back in December, but I missed it when I was overseas. It's been a public issue for a long time, ever since the site was sold in 2004. But it doesn't seem to have caught fire on the web, based on my searches for blog posts and news stories. Though I whine about the media endlessly, this is one case when a story in a mainstream paper did its job. I'd urge everyone to sign this petition. I'm not sure if it will help, but it can't hurt. Our natural history is part of our shared heritage, and its worth can't be calculated in dollars.

It's especially precious because of the rarity of fossil sites on the densely populated East Coast. As William B. Gallagher of the New Jersey State Museum says in the 2004 article, "A lot of 'salvage paleontology' involves getting into these places and getting what we can before it's destroyed... It's the difficulty of trying to preserve geologic history with accelerated development. Nowhere is that more evident than in New Jersey, where we're rapidly running out of room."

Just imagine if the great bone beds of the western US had been developed before they could be studied. Too many good reasons to save this site. Of course, I'm a lousy capitalist, so my opinion is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of jack squat.

Satellite photo from Google Maps. Here's an inspirational story I recently wrote about, regarding a successful effort to rescue another North Jersey fossil site.


  1. Thanks for the support, my name is Gary Vecchiarelli, the gentleman in the story and the one that got the story in the papers via my friend at the Record. I posted about my visit there with the gentleman I'm trying to help save the quarry.


    This is what I posted today to thank the papers and if its OK, I'll link your blog on my site. Best Wishes!

  3. Drypto - Thanks for tipping me off to that! I don't know how I missed your post on the issue. The vagaries of internet searches, I suppose.

  4. David,

    good work. You've been linked to. Let's get this thing done.


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