Tokoloka Park is one of Teaneck's wild places

By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, October 8 2009, p. 2

Tokoloka ParkOpen land in Teaneck is hardly abundant but neither is it entirely lacking. In the southeast section, residents can walk on the three trails that meander through the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, once a part of the Hackensack Meadowlands. In the northeast lies Argonne Park, a 40-acre prestine wooded tract.

In West Englewood, the rustic Matthew Feldman Nature Center and historic Brett Park provide opportunities for walking and observation. And about a quarter of a mile east of Brett Park is the 11 acres of woodland that comprise Tokoloka Park.

There are no ball fields, playgrounds or picnic benches in Tokoloka Park. A gently sloping trail accessible from the park's southeastern border at Mattland Avenue and Jefferson Street runs through woods until it exits at the dead end on Dearborn Street.

"It is truly a passive park," said George Reskakis, chair of townships Parks Playground and Recreation Advisory Board, who adds that it is also somewhat of a mystery.

Tokoloka ParkTokoloka Park is at the eastern edge of 50 acres of land that were once the Christian Cole's estate, Reskakis said. The Cole house 1617 River Road, built in 1860, is still stand. Cole was one of the township's first council members, Reskakis noted.

The area that ultimately became Tokoloka Park once contained a pond and was, therefore, considered unsuitable for development when building in West Englewood began on a large scale in the 1930s.

"The land was too wet and that was what ultimately saved it," Reskakis said.

In a memoire of early Teaneck, former board of education trustee Robert N. Morrill recalls ice skating on the pond. According to Morrill, it was the pond that was called Tokoloka.

The pond is gone, but an abundance of wetland flora, including a variety of ferns, grown throughout the park, as do many oak, maple and birch trees.

Cole's HouseA 1930 article about Teaneck reported that deer have been observed in the park, and a 1960 report on the general development of Teaneck recommends that Tokoloka and Windsor parks remain undeveloped (Brett Park, at the time, was a farm and not yet designated as parkland.)

"Tokoloka and Windsor, having remained in their naturalistic states this long can be of greater benefit tot he community if they remain so," the report states.

There is no group of friends of Tokoloka Park, Reskakis said, noting that a frequesnt problem at Tokoloka and other passive parks is neighbors expanding their backyards into parkland.

"It is adverse possession and is trespassing. Homeowners need to be told not to do it," Raskakis commented.

The name of the park is a mystery that neither Reskakis nor Township Historian Larry Robertson could shed light on. Reskakis noted that Tokoloka is the name of towns in western Haiti and Hungary, but their association, if any, with Teaneck is unknown. Former PPRAB chair Wally Cowan speculated that the name has an American Indian origin. However, Kevin Wright, former president of the Bergen County Historical Society, said that the "loka" ending is not found in the Algonquin Indian language.