North Haledon vows to fight to keep 25-feet tall star on top of High Mountain
Anyone who lives in Bergen or Passaic counties has likely seen a 25-feet tall illuminated star that is visible for miles on top of High Mountain.
The star became a symbol of hope, but it is now the source of controversy.
Boy Scout Troop 71 based in North Haledon first erected the star back in 1955 on the summit of the mountain.
“All built in our scoutmaster’s cellar. And in his front yard we set it up all before we brought it up on the mountain,” says 81-year-old Peter Spalt.
That star was a regular sight atop the mountain, overlooking the town all through the holiday season. The annual lighting was a must-see event. But then repeated vandalism took its toll and the star went dark in the 1960s.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the town erected the star once again as a symbol of hope.
“We’re trying – and I think we were successful – in giving people something to grasp on to during this pandemic,” says North Haledon Mayor Randy George.
Another generation fell under the spell of the star. Spalt’s daughter Jo Ann Angelucci says that her niece’s Haledon recreation youth basketball team even named themselves “the Stars.”
“It’s important to the kids. They know it. They see it out their bedroom windows,” Angelucci says.
But the star is now in danger of going dark once again. The Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based nonprofit which owns the portion of the High Mountain preserve where the star sits, has ordered the town to take it down.
Barbara Brummer, the conservancy's director for New Jersey, said in an email statement, "The star is negatively impacting the habitat for several rare and imperiled plants, which were the chief reasons for originally conserving the land.” She said the conservancy will have to "investigate potential courses of action" if the town doesn't take it down.
But Mayor George says that he is not taking the star down – not only because everyone loves it, but because the town gave the land to the Nature Conservancy in 2000.
“That mountain would be built on right now if it wasn't for the generosity of the Borough of North Haledon. And they're threatening me with some kind of action? Listen, let me be clear. Take the action. Take the action,” George says.
The old star was powered by a generator, while the current one uses solar panels.