Liberty National Golf Course Retaining Walls

The great wall of Jersey - building a better-looking divider

A great wall was constructed in Jersey City, New Jersey; striking for its natural-looking beauty and expansiveness. The new wall divides a public walkway and a private golf course.

The Liberty National Golf Course is projected to open on July 4, 2006, according to its owner, Paul Fireman of Willowbend Company. Fireman is also the CEO of Reebok International Ltd. Bordered by the Hudson River at its east end, Liberty National is indeed an appropriate designation, taking into consideration that is less than 1,000 yards west of The Statue of Liberty. With its 4,000-foot shoreline, there are many vantage points at the golf course to see not only the statue but also Lower Manhattan, including the stately Empire State Building.

The course is certainly not for all golfers since its membership initiation fee will be about $500,000, according to a recent article written by Damon Hack in the New York Times. To cater to many of the high-powered club members who have top-floor offices in the Lower Manhattan Financial District, there will be a luxurious yacht available to shuttle them across the Hudson, away from their daily business stresses to the serene landscapes of Liberty National. A heliport is also under construction for a more time-efficient crossing.


Since 1966 there has been a concept evolving by the state of New Jersey that is known as the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. In recent years, the idea of a waterfront walkway along the Hudson River has been incrementally coming to fruition. The plan is grand and ambitious in scope, and eventually, will be completed section-by-section. It is an important part of New Jersey's Coastal Management Plan Program and when the walkway completed, it will feature a continuous, 18.5-mile long, public walkway. The walkway will run parallel with the Hudson River near the waterfront starting at the George Washington Bridge and head south where it will terminate at the Bayonne Bridge.

In light of the state's waterfront walkway program, the paramount purpose of building the great wall at the golf course is to meet the design standards as set forth in the Coastal Management Program and equally important is to provide an aesthetically pleasing component to the landscape at either side of the wall. To that end, the wall is being constructed along a 1,400-foot stretch that is by the shoreline. While the 1,400 feet is the straight-line measurement from one end of the all to the other end, it gently meanders along the length, so its actual length is somewhat longer. According to Tom Bauer, landscape architect and partner of Melillo & Bauer Associates, Inc., the variable wall alignment adds more interest and dynamics.

Melillo & Bauer, Point Pleasant Beach, is a leading New Jersey Landscape architectural firm that is in charge of the golf course's landscape design details, including the walkway and the wall. The firm is not involved with the layout of the golf course itself.

The wall is being constructed with massive architectural precast concrete blocks. The block's design is proprietary for the Charlevoix, Michigan company, Redi-Rock International. Melillo & Bauer first heard of the uniquely designed block from Rusty Bayliss, president of the Spires Group, Tulsa, Okla. Since the start, Bayliss has been affiliated with the Liberty National Golf Course project in a consultant capacity.

After thoroughly evaluating the Redi-Rock architectural block product, Tom Bauer recommended it to the owner for a number of reasons. The first reason was that something had to be built for effectively separating the two different locales. "We [Melillo & Bauer] decided that the best way to separate the Waterfront Walkway [public] from the golf course [private] was to build a long and high, natural-looking retaining wall rather than a typical barrier, so we recommended the Redi-Rock product to the owner," says Bauer.

Bauer's idea of building a retaining wall is noteworthy because originally, both areas to be segregated by the wall were on the same grade. Essentially, there was no need to build a retaining wall. The idea was to build an earthen mound varying 12 to 14 feet high along the golf course's border running 1,400 feet parallel to the new walkway. The design of the mound necessitates a retaining wall, which is about 14 feet high.

This wall/mound design not only divides the two different areas but also creates a more interesting landscape. Thankfully, it eliminates having an offensive-looking barrier. Bauer says a more traditional type barrier, no matter how well it is laid out, leaves negative connotations in the minds of most people. A natural earthen mound that gently slopes down from the wall to the existing grade and is bedecked with grass, flowers, and shrubs does not appear as an imposing barrier.

At the public walkway, there is a similar panoramic view of Manhattan and the statue. With the 16-foot wide walkway only 6 feet to the east of, and running parallel to, the retaining wall, there is an intimate protective feeling established for the pedestrian. A cantilevered mesh-type canopy is being built over the walkway to protect the public from wild-flying golf balls that are sure to come from the other side of the wall.

Bauer says, "We have successfully avoided building a pragmatic-looking barrier that consciously divides the two areas. The retaining wall serves the purpose of separating the two areas without it being perceived as such. As to the blocks used, I am thrilled about their large size."

Each full-size block used for this wall is 18 inches high by 46 inches wide by 41 inches deep and weighs approximately 2,400 lbs. The face of each block has the appearance of limestone. There are sufficient dissimilar stone-looking patterns so each block appears to be one-of-a-kind.


Bauer says an advantage to using Redi-Rock blocks for this project is that a local dealer manufactures it. The local dealer, Smith Wilbert Vault Company of Bangor, Penn., is only 80 miles from the project. According to Bauer, the proximity was important for holding down shipping costs.


The heavy blocks are being set into place, one at a time, with the aid of a 40,000-pound Volvo hydraulic excavator. Armored, Inc., is the contractor for this project. Carlos Nunes, project supervisor Armored, says his four-man crew has been setting 40 blocks daily in a single course (about 155 feet long) and then immediately backfilling ground against installation when completed constitutes the mound.

The backfill is a selection of on-site excavated and imported soils including topsoil, silty-sand and .75-inch minus crushed/screened rock. At 8 inches each, two backfills lifts are made for each installed course of block. Three passes made with a drum vibratory roller create the desired compaction.

A geogrid system has been specified for this project. The geotechnical conditions play an important role in retaining wall design and can dictate when a geogrid system is necessary. However, the most important factor for the use of a geogrid system is closely related to the height of the wall. Larger blocks (particularly because of their depth), as opposed to smaller blocks, can be used for building higher walls without the expense of a geogrid and/or a tie-back system.


Project: Liberty National Golf Course #185 Manufacturer: Smith Wilbert Vault Company Installer: Armored, Inc. Landscape Architect: Melillo & Bauer Associates, Inc. Location: Jersey City, New Jersey Year Built: 2006

Freestanding Wall - Two or more textured sides so it looks great from all angles.

Limestone Texture Blocks - Redi-Rock Limestone blocks mimic the look of real quarried stone.

Accessories - Coordinating accessories help any retaining wall have a complete look.

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