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Honoring the Irish Who Built the D&R Canal

DEP Commissioner Campbell and Senator Codey Dedicate an Irish Immigrant Memorial

(03/30) STOCKTON - Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today joined Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey to dedicate a memorial honoring the hardships and triumphs of the people who built the Delaware & Raritan Canal, many of whom were Irish immigrants.

"It is fitting to dedicate this memorial on St. Patrick's Day to honor the thousands of Irish immigrants who helped build the D&R Canal - a vital transportation corridor of the past and a popular recreational corridor today," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "This memorial will stand as a testament to the tireless army of laborers who created a key piece of the state 's industrial history."

The event, held at Bull's Island Recreation Area, Hunterdon County, paid special tribute to the Irish immigrants who dominated the canal work force in New Jersey and throughout the northeast in the 1830s. Many of the canal workers died during the cholera epidemic of 1832, and were buried in unmarked graves along the canal. One burial site is believed to have been on Bull's Island.

Robin Boyle, a local resident from Lambertville, sparked the interest of legislators for this project. Through her efforts the memorial, along with two sets of exhibits that were dedicated previously, were funded through legislation co-sponsored by Senators Richard J. Codey, Henry McNamara and Leonard Lance.

"I would like to thank Robin Boyle for her efforts in preserving the memory of these Irish workers who came to America in pursuit of their dreams," said Senator Codey, D-Essex. "The canal itself is a testament to their labors, but this memorial will help future generations know about those who helped build this country."

The two-ton granite stone chosen for the memorial was taken from a lock in the New Brunswick section of the canal.

Built during the busiest decade of canal construction in United State's history, the D&R Canal provided a safe and short waterway between New York and Philadelphia.

Despite many hardships, the canal became a navigable waterway that facilitated the industrial revolution throughout New Jersey. Although more efficient forms of transportation eventually surpassed it, the canal today remains a wonderful link to the past and is one of New Jersey's most popular corridors for canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling, fishing and horseback riding. The 70-mile linear park is also a valuable wildlife corridor connecting fields and forests.

The D&R Canal and towpath are part of the National Recreational Trail System.



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Last Updated: July 14, 2010