Space Technology Computer Summer Camp1999

Environmental Problem Solving Using Computer Applications

Sponsored by the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (HMDC)

Problem Statement:

Giant's Stadium stands by the Hackensack River and remains a big public attraction in the Hackensack Meadowlands. People come from all around the tri-state area to watch games, go to concerts, and attend the various other events at or nearby the stadium. Known as an urban industrial area, it may be surprising to learn that the Hackensack Meadowlands was once an area dominated by greenery and wildlife. Instead of the factories, buildings, and skyscrapers we now see walking though the crowded streets of the area, there was nothing but meadow. Meadows are flat grassy lands usually found near rivers. Water from the Hackensack River nourished the surrounding soil and provided for a healthy flourish of greenery, also allowing for the existence of various animals and creatures. It was common to find animals such as raccoons, weasels, muskrats, and foxes.

Around the 1600s settlers entered New Jersey and other nearby areas in search for farmland. Many were successful. Crops were being cultivated and sold for money. Animals were being raised to facilitate farm work, provide food, and raise money. As the farming continued successfully, more and more people entered the area hoping to share in the success. The amount of land suitable for farming soon declined. Anxious to settle down and with no other land left available, eager farmers moved into the meadowlands. Farms grew along the riverside as more and more settlers arrived from all parts of the world. Unfortunately, this area was not very suitable for farming. The river flooded often and attracted many mosquitoes. Farmers cropped with much difficulty. The flooding disturbed the plants and ruined the fields. The soil was too moist and the crops were unhealthy. While working the fields, farmers and their crew were attacked everyday by hundreds of mosquitoes.

Desperate for a solution to these problems, farmers developed mosquito channels. These were ditch-like channels used to carry the problem causing water from the farm soil back into the river. The result was dryer soil, more suitable for farming. As the soil dried out, the mosquitoes slowly left the area. With land being more suitable, even more settlers came to the Hackensack Meadowlands to grab this growing opportunity. Rather than farm, people began building houses. As New York City began getting crowded, its workers entered the area as well. Roads were built and jobs were created in the area. As this pattern grew, neighborhoods formed. Soon, industrialization seeped from New York City into New Jersey. The Meadowlands as we now know them were finally taking shape.

Anxious for work and unaware of such consequences, people did not take into account the toll of urbanization on the environment. Animals were being driven out of their homes and forests were being killed so people could build over the land. However, some areas of the meadowlands remained swamp from the mosquito channels. The swamps were used to dump trash and waste. Pollution from the city was killing what greenery was left. As the number of clusters of buildings grew, only patches of land were now left for the animals to live. Their living area became smaller and the distance between the patches of suitable land increased as more buildings were built. Animals now were separated into smaller communities. There no longer existed a uniform ecosystem for the plants and animals to survive. Springtime once meant a time for selective mating. Now trapped in these clustered lands, finding a mate was often difficult. Offspring decreased. The animal and plant population sizes were rapidly declining.

Thirty years ago began a movement toward the preservation of plants and wildlife. There was finally recognition of the unfavorable effects of urbanization and expansion. New laws and regulations were passed to prevent pollution and control unnecessary expansion. Actions were taken in attempt to restore some o the damage that had already been done. The recycling movement is such an example. The environment reacted favorably to these changes. Many animals that were once in danger of extinction are now increasing in population size.

Now this is your turn to make a change! There still exists a problem in the Hackensack Meadowlands area. The animals and plants in the area need a more uniform environment in order to grow and flourish. Much time has been lost and much damage has already been done. The task will be to design and build pathways connecting the isolated patches now inhabited by the animals and plants. These paths should be suitable for the animals, as well as for people. You will be using maps and satellite images of the Meadowlands area to locate area where animals and plants remain, and land suitable for the pathways. There are several considerations to keep in mind. For example, this should be achieved with minimal disturbance to surrounding houses and buildings. Good luck!



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