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Windsor ParkWindsor is one of Teaneck's hidden gems

By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, August 27, 2008

It is easy to miss Windsor Park. A monorist could drive by and not be aware of its existence. But its lack of visibility has noting to do with its size -- only Argonne and Votee are larger among township's parks. Argonne is 54.24 acres and Votee is 40.69 acres.

The 22-acre park runs for 1.6 miles along the western side of the railroad tracks from the Bergenfield border amost to Cedar Lane. At its widest Windsor measures 600 feet and at its narrowest, a little over 10 feet.

There are no benches, picnic tables, playgrounds or athletic fields in Windsor Park. But there are woods, a trail that runs the length of the park and a stream.

Windsor is the township's oldest park, according to George Reskakis, chair of the council's Parks, Playgrounds Recreation Advisory Board.

The park was established in 1933, and originally consisted only of the four-acre triangle at the western end of the State Street Bridge, today known as Frank Hall Veterans Park.

At the time, said Reskakis, it was the prevailing belief that towns should have one acre of park land for every 100 residents. Teaneck had one acre for 4,000 residents.

Expanding Windsor Park to include most of the land abutting the west side of the railroad tracks seemed the most logical way to add more parkland. Township officials reasoned that this land was not suitable for development because it was adjacent to the tracks and because much of it was wetland.

Windsor Park2The Windsor Park trail is widest and most accessible from the Bergenfield border to the State Street Bridge. South of that to Cedar Lane, the park narrows, is wetter and the trail is more difficult to navigate.

West Laurelton Parkway resident Wayne Thoen has led groups on walks of the Windsor Park trail. Thoen, a member of the Hackensack River Greenway Advisory Board, has observed deer, wild turkey, red foxes and groundhogs in the park and painted snapping turtles in the creek that he has informally named Windsor Creek.

But Thoen is puzzled over the disappearance of muskrats in recent years. This aquatic mammal was once abundant in Windsor and Votee parks.

"There used to be a lot of them until about five years ago," Thoen said, noting that the state has outlawed hunting and trapping muskrats, which were once prized for their fur.

"They are harmless and beautiful. I would like to know what has happened to them. Maybe the county or the town is trying to eliminate them," he said, observing that the muskrat has a tail similar to a rat's tail.

The creek runs the length of the northern park, entering via a culvert visible from the south side of the State Street Bridge. Thoen has determined that the culvert drains three separate water sources which merge and become the creek. The creek runs north through Bergenfield to Coopers Pond and finally empties into the Hackensack river.

Killies, small fish used by fishermen for bait, swarm in the creek and are best viewed from a bridge just south of the Givaudan perfume warehouse at the Bergenfield border. When the killies are stirred up, as for example, by tossing pieces of bread in the water, snapping turtles that also inhabit the creek sometimes emerge from their mud caves.

Thoen recalls standing ont he bridge and observing two snapping turtles mate.

"I was throwing bread to the killies and a snapper came up out of the mud. I threw it a core of my apple and the turtle ate it up. Then all of a sudden, a larger turtle came up and it looked as if it was going to attack the smaller one. The two turtle begans snapping at each other."

But Thoen soon learned that the snapping was not the result of hostility but a mating exercise. The larger turtle turned out to be a male; the smaller, a female.

"The male mounted on top of her and they sank to the bottom and stayed there for about 20 minutes. Occasionally a long neck would come up for some air and then go back down again. The didn't move. I never saw the mating of two snapping turtles before and probably never will again."

The most accessible entrance to the trail is from the south side of the bridge. The trail continues south, skirting the creek.

Although few people know about the Windsor Park trail, teenagers do, said Thoen. They often congregate late at night and the stream and parts of the trail are marred by the litter of beer and soda cans and food wrappers.

"The teenagers come in at night and do their nasty things, drugs or whatever," said Thoen, who has occasionally entered the park at night and confronted the intruders. Moterbikes are another problem. Thoen noted that the park is neither patrolled nor adequately maintained.

"I don't like the wildlife being disturbed by the hell raising oging on," he said.

Last year, the township designated a portion of Windsor Park as a dog -friendly are where dogs are allowed on leashes. Dogs are banned from all other township owned parks. The council has also discussed converting the dog-friendly area to a fenced in dog run.

Jordon Wouk, chair of the Hackensack River Greenway Advisory Board, envisions a series of almost continuous trails connecting the Hackensack River Greenway to the Teaneck Creek Conservercy at opposite ends of town. The proposed trail would run along the Route 4 Greenbelt to the golf course, cross Windsor Park and end of the conservancy.

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