New Jersey Continues Its Golf Development Boom

New Jersey has been a relative hotbed of golf development in recent years. Egg Harbor Township, northwest of Atlantic City, has seen several new courses open in recent years, Donald Trump is in on the action with an upscale private club, and a half-dozen cities are in the process of building new municipal facilities.

Perhaps most encouraging is the transformation of former industrial properties into golf courses. The nationís biggest such redevelopment is now underway in the Garden State. Involving 1,230 acres that span the neighboring communities of Rutherford, Kearny, Lyndhurst and North Arlington, Meadowlands Golf Resort & Village is a 72-hole project that involves a resort, homes, office buildings, recreation fields, retail stores, hotels, a marina, a NASCAR track and restaurants. The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is now spending $130 million cleaning and capping seven landfills in preparation for the project. The first 36 holes could be opened as early as 2005.

Now, the city of Bridgewater is getting into the act. The Somerset County town in the north-central part of the state is planning Wyeth Golf Course. Bridgewater officials, led by Mayor James Dowden, began trumpeting the proposed municipal golf course in late-January 2003. The layout will occupy the site of the former American Cyanamid plant off Main Street.

The course is named after Wyeth, a large multinational corporation formerly known as American Home Products. Before any golf course can be built on the 300-acre parcel, however, Wyeth must complete a thorough cleansing of the soil. In 1998, the company agreed to a 10-year, $75-million cleanup effort to remove waste left behind by years of making rubber chemicals, pharmaceuticals, dyes, pigments and petroleum-based products.

Much of the toxic waste was stored in lagoons on the property, but the chemicals have seeped into the soil and groundwater. Clean-up procedures are now taking place in a state-of-the-art, 65,000-square-foot building erected in 2002. Once the land is purged of all toxic elements, a concrete cap will be put on the dirt to seal the contaminants underground. Soil would then be piled onto the cap and the course would be built on that soil.

Once the property is cleaned up, Wyeth will donate it to Bridgewater. Wyeth's golf proposal still needs approval from state and federal agencies since the former plant is a registered Superfund site. Besides an 18-hole golf course expected to cost $8.2 million, the conceptual plans show a 95-acre wildlife refuge, a recreation complex with ballfields, indoor tennis facility and a driving range. If the site-mitigation work proceeds without any hitches, Bridgewater golfers could be playing a new championship-caliber municipal track by 2011.