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  • 02/23/2023 2:30 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Legislative task force delivers tome on best-practices forest management


    Report identifies 16 steps for healthier public forests, at least one of which — limited logging — raises hackles and objections

    New Jersey needs to take 16 steps to best oversee and manage its forests to fight climate change, prevent fires and improve its ecosystems, according to a legislative task force.

    In making those recommendations Wednesday, the task force offered its 270-page report to better manage hundreds of thousands of acres of publicly owned forested lands in New Jersey, with much of the focus on whether those practices ought to allow limited logging.

    There appeared to be a somewhat broad consensus among the nearly 50 organizations participating in the process on a number of recommendations, including calling on the Legislature to come up with a new source of funding to hire staff at the Department of Environmental Protection to implement its findings.

    The suggested actions urged the DEP to conduct statewide planning and mapping for forested public lands and to begin a formal rulemaking process to develop a forest management plan that land.

    Fewer bucks and does

    More daunting, the recommendations urge the DEP to look at ways to reduce deer density in New Jersey, which include additional hunting, and to take more aggressive actions to reduce the growth of invasive species.

    The most controversial action would allow what the report termed “tree cutting” or “limited logging” in some cases to meet the ecological objectives of a healthy forest. The issue of logging continues to emerge as a contentious one, with several organizations arguing there is no basis for doing so.

    Speaking near the end of the hearing before two legislative committees, Elliott Ruga, policy director for the Highlands Coalition, called claims of “ecological health’’ to justify logging spurious.

    “The disturbances of mechanized timbering and the removal of felled timber — including the need for new access roads — causes impacts, often devastating, to sensitive ecological components of the forest that must be weighed against any ecological goal,’’ Ruga told lawmakers.

    “We should not be logging the mature forests of North Jersey,’’ added Sara Webb, a forest ecologist and professor emeritus of biology and environmental sciences at Drew University, saying the thinning of trees makes it difficult to grow new trees because of deer overpopulation and invasive species.

    But Sen. Bob Smith, who appointed the four co-chairs of the task force, asked, “Is this a real problem?’’ Smith (D-Middlesex) said he already has asked the DEP for that information. “How much of the actual state was clear-cut in 2021? In 2022?’’

    What price better stewardship?

     Smith also wanted to know how much will it cost the state to improve its stewardship of public forests. The task force did not provide an estimate, suggesting the DEP would be better suited to answer that question, according to co-chair Tom Gilbert.

    “If adequately funded and implemented through legislation and rulemaking, these recommendations will result in significant steps in better protecting and stewarding our public forests lands,’’ Gilbert said.

    The recommendations also include asking the DEP to identify areas where active management is needed to promote carbon storage and maintain biodiversity. Along those lines, the agency should designate carbon preserves with the aim of protecting mature and old-growth forests.

  • 02/15/2023 4:44 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    NJ To Require All-Electric Cars, 100% Clean Energy By 2035

    Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement during a speech at Rutgers University, moving up the state's goal by a lofty 15 years.

    Megan VerHelst's profile picture

    Megan VerHelst,Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

    Posted Wed, Feb 15, 2023 at 1:59 pm ET|Updated Wed, Feb 15, 2023 at 2:26 pm ET

    Replies (406)

    Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the state will move up its goal to reach 100 percent clean energy by 15 years and require all new cars sold in the state to be electric by 2035.Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the state will move up its goal to reach 100 percent clean energy by 15 years and require all new cars sold in the state to be electric by 2035. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the state will move up its goal to reach 100 percent clean energy by 15 years — an initiative that will also require new cars sold in the state to be all-electric by 2035.

    Murphy made the announcement during a speech at Rutgers University. The decision to move the state's 100 percent clean energy goal from 2050 to 2035 was among six environmental actions Murphy plans to enact to achieve the "Next New Jersey," he said.

    "These bold targets and carefully crafted initiatives signal our unequivocal commitment to swift and concrete climate action today," Murphy said in a statement. "We've turned our vision for a greener tomorrow into a responsible and actionable roadmap to guide us, and it's through that pragmatic, evidence-based approach that we will ultimately arrive at our destination."

    Murphy signed three executive orders Wednesday aimed at combatting climate change. Among the state's goal to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2035, one order calls for the installation of zero-emission heating and cooling systems in 10 percent of all low-to-moderate income residential properties by 2030.

    Another order calls for the state Board of Public Utilities to research the possibility of a natural gas utility in New Jersey.

    Find out what's happening in Morris Township-Morris Plainswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

    Let's go!

    The move to require all-electric cars by 2035 is among some of the most aggressive actions taken to tackle climate change in the nation.

    In August, California Gov. Gavin Newsom officially banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in the Golden State by 2035. The mandate requires all new vehicles to have zero emissions and be free of fossil fuel emissions.

    The California Air Resources Board will require 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to produce zero emissions. By 2030, that number will climb to 68 percent.

    "The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to stem the tide of carbon pollution," Newsom said in a statement.

    Murphy's announcement comes a month after he lost the title of "America's Greenest Governor" in a progress report card released by the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

    In its report, the group said that while Murphy has made "significant progress in the clean energy space," his work is overshadowed by other states.

    Since Murphy earned the title, Maryland’s new governor Wes Moore pledged to achieve a 100 percent clean energy transition by 2035, and Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker signed into law the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which sets a target of 2045.

    "With other states adopting clean energy goals that outpace New Jersey, we urge Governor Murphy to ensure that our state fully transitions to 100% clean energy by 2035," Tom Gilbert, co-executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said in January.

    Murphy's announcement also comes the same week a group of 20 lawmakers threw their support behind an effort to put the brakes on a proposed natural gas power plant in Newark.

    Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was among those to sign a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy this week, expressing their “strong opposition” to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s proposed methane gas-fired power plant.

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  • 02/07/2023 4:28 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)



         TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed legislation (
    S757) authorizing commercial farms that are located on preserved farmland to hold special occasion events, subject to certain conditions. The Legislature concurred with the Governor's conditional veto of an earlier version of the legislation. The Governor recommended changes to ensure protections for agricultural or horticultural production on preserved farmland.

         "As the Garden State, agriculture is quintessential to New Jersey's identity and agritourism is the next frontier to maintaining this heritage," said Governor Murphy. "This law will open new revenue streams for those who work tirelessly to maintain the preserved farmland that is core to our state's cultural fabric. I am especially proud to sign this bill in honor of the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer, whose legacy of advocacy for our state's agricultural and tourism industries is found writ-large in this new law."

         Special occasion events allow preserved farmland owners the opportunity to introduce new streams of income to family farming operations and increase the enjoyments offered to the public by agritourism.

         "This bill permits operators of preserved farms to host special occasion events that the public can enjoy with their family and friends on agricultural lands," said NJDA Secretary Douglas H. Fisher, who is also the chair of the State Agriculture Development Committee. "I appreciate Governor Murphy signing this bill today which enables farmers to augment their bottom line which in turn helps to secure agriculture's continued success in the Garden State."

         Under the bill, a preserved farm that produces agricultural or horticultural products worth more than $10,000 annually may hold up to a maximum of 26 special occasion events per calendar year, of which 6 may have 250 guests or more in attendance.

         Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senators Paul Sarlo and Steven Oroho, and Assemblymembers Roy Freiman and Raj Mukherji. The late Assemblyman Ron Dancer also served as a primary sponsor of the bill.

         "New Jersey's farms are one of the state's most productive and attractive assets," said Senator Paul Sarlo, Chairman, Senate Budget Committee. "In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, our farms offer a beautiful venue to host weddings and other events that help farmers supplement their income and preserve their farmland. This will help make life more affordable for farmers and provide economic benefits to their communities."

         "This law gives farmers in New Jersey the opportunity to supplement their income by hosting special events on their land. Agritourism is a growing industry and, by allowing our farmers to participate, we make it possible for them to expand their businesses, grow the economy and showcase that which makes New Jersey's agricultural community special. Further, it provides access to farms and farmland, allowing all to enjoy the beauty of nature, and gives insight into the challenges and rewards farmers encounter in growing the food we consume," said Assemblymen Roy Freiman and Raj Mukherji. "By finding a balance between protecting preserved farmland and giving farmers in the Garden State the ability to host events, we can introduce new streams of income to the farming industry without compromising agricultural production."

         "I am proud this legislation will be signed into law. Our heritage as the 'Garden State' goes back hundreds of years, and our farming tradition is still thriving in many families and communities throughout the state," said Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho. "In addition to growing fruits, vegetables, and grains, our farms can also be used for wedding ceremonies and many other special events. This bill, now law, will provide an economic benefit to farmers, preserve important farmland, and showcase New Jersey's rich agricultural legacy."

         "Special occasion events for farms have become a critical part of the farmers' plan to keep farming as well as great destinations for the residents of the state. As a champion of New Jersey's acclaimed agricultural industry and an ally to all farmers, I know my late friend Assemblyman Dancer would have celebrated today, and then would have gone back to work on the next bill to help farmers. We shared much of the same vision for New Jersey's future and I have been honored to help ensure his public service continues to make a positive impact," said Assemblyman Alex Sauickie, who currently serves the 12th legislative district, succeeding the late Assemblyman Dancer. "His legacy is felt in the lasting success of the Garden State's farming communities."

         Under the bill, a special occasion event is required to not interfere with the use of the preserved farmland for agricultural or horticultural production, have minimal effects on the occupied area, and must be designed to protect the agricultural resources of the land to ensure that the land can be readily returned to productive agricultural or horticultural use after the event. All applicable State and local laws and ordinances including those concerning food safety, litter, noise, solid waste, traffic, and the protection of public health and safety apply to the special occasion event.

         "This legislation will allow preserved farm owners an additional economic opportunity to help sustain their farm viability into the future," said Allen Carter, President of New Jersey Farm Bureau. "The Farm Bureau appreciates the Governor, his Administration and the Legislature's work to help set reasonable rules for hosting events on preserved farmland."

         "Our industry keeps the 'Garden' in the Garden State," said Devon Perry, the Executive Director of the Garden State Wine Growers Association. "As the fastest growing sector of agriculture in New Jersey, we celebrate ongoing support of agritourism across the board."

  • 01/05/2023 9:56 AM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)


    NJDEP Fish and Wildlife's CHANJ team just finished a 5-year project looking at the functional connectivity of New Jersey's landscape for native mammal species.  One part of the project used DNA samples and a gene flow analysis to answer the question, how well are animals getting around in our urbanized state?  


    With help from more than 100 volunteers equipped with sampling kits of scissors, gloves, plastic tubes and data sheets, we collected 1,669 DNA samples from 33 different native mammal species across the state.  Most samples were taken from road-killed or legally harvested animals.  


    Our goal was to sample large and small species with different territory sizes and life histories.  For each species we aimed to collect at least 20 samples north of Route 1 (north Jersey) and 20 samples south of Route 1 (south Jersey).  



    Our samples were processed by the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Montana.  Below are maps showing the sample distribution for each of 10 mammal species we assessed in this study:


    Gene Flow Species Maps


    The analyses show that patterns of gene flow within multiple species across NJ appear to be affected by our human-modified landscape (e.g., roads and development), which limits their ability to disperse.  We hypothesize that carnivores like Coyotes and Bobcats may be having the hardest time because of their large area requirements compared to other animals.  But landscape "resistance" appears to be an issue for species with smaller home ranges too, including Woodchucks and Eastern Cottontails.  This is yet more evidence that habitat connectivity needs attention in the Garden State (visit to learn more and find tools to help)


    Gene Flow Results Infographic


    The results also showed that very common, urban-adapted species like White-tailed Deer, Raccoon and Eastern Gray Squirrel are less impacted by habitat fragmentation so far, at least genetically speaking.  And Virginia Opossums taught us a new word - panmixia - meaning their genetics are similar all across the state, uninfluenced even by physical distance.  This may be due to Opossums' nomadic nature and urban adaptability.


    For more of the juicy science behind this study, check out our full report here: 

    A huge thanks! to all the volunteers and participants who collected DNA for this study, and to the Genomics Center for making it meaningful. 


    Special thanks also go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife & Sportfish Restoration Program for funding our project.

    CHANJ learn more

    Email us at

    New Jersey D E P Fish and Wildlife


    Questions? Contact Us

  • 10/05/2022 1:25 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Frederick Law Olmsted’s Garden State legacy

    Observing the father of American landscape architecture's 200th birthday by exploring F.L. Olmsted's lasting influence in New Jersey.

    Cedar Court, panoramic view of house, ca. 1900


     North Jersey History and Genealogy Center


     October 5, 2022 


    Jeffrey V. Moy, North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

    The Garden State is home to nearly 40 parks designed by the Olmsted Firm, the first landscape architecture company in the United States.

    Founded by business partners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the Olmsted Firm remained active from 1857 until the 1960s, with most of its New Jersey projects in the counties of Essex, Union, and Passaic; and a few significant ones in Morris Township and Morristown.

    General view of Central Park, Harper’s Weekly, August 27, 1864. North Jersey History & Genealogy Center collections (NJHGC).

    Nature Perfected

    Best known for designing New York’s Central Park with partner Calvert Vaux in 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. preferred working in the Pastoral Style, as characterized by a meticulously planned and yet naturalistic built environment.

    In this setting, Olmsted crafted flowing hills out of rocky outcrops, deposited tree lines and berms to hide nearby roads and buildings, and strategically placed babbling streams and groupings of boulders and shrubbery, all crafted to appear as if they had existed in tranquility for hundreds of years.

    Ellicotdale viewed from Ellicot Arch, Franklin Park, Boston. The Olmsted Firm designed the public park systems of Boston and Buffalo, among other cities of this era. Olmsted Papers Project photograph.

    In addition to Central Park, Olmsted created the park systems of the cities of Boston and Buffalo. Historian Jeanne Kolva describes Olmsted’s philosophy on public parks as a combination of artistic endeavor and social experimentation, intended to encourage commonality between the Gilded Age’s super rich and the majority of America’s working and middle classes.

    In an era where comfort and wealth were enjoyed by a select few, parks supporters sought to provide natural and orderly public spaces to improve social order.

    John Olmsted, father of Frederick L. Olmsted, Sr., n.d. Olmsted Archives photograph.

    Frederick Law Olmsted was born in 1822 to Charlotte Law Olmsted and her husband John, a successful Connecticut merchant. Fred’s mother died when he was only 4 years old, leaving his father to raise him and his brother, John Jr., alone.

    Fred left at age 16 to attend Phillips Academy, and upon graduating moved to New York City where he found work as a merchant and journalist before purchasing land in Staten Island at age 26 to try his hand at farming.

    Frederick Law Olmsted in 1850, approximately two years after moving to Staten Island. University of California Libraries collection

    While experimenting with various farming techniques on Staten Island, Olmsted developed an affinity for horticulture and landscape design. In 1859, Frederick married his departed brother John’s widow, Mary Cleveland Perkins, and adopted her three children, John Charles, Owen, and Charlotte. The couple later had three children of their own: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., John Theodore and Marion.

    By the time Frederick Olmsted Sr. and Calvert Vaux won the design contest for Central Park in 1865, Frederick was 43 years old. His children and step-children became involved in the firm during the 1880s, with Olmsted eventually retiring in 1895 at age 73.

    John Charles Olmsted, n.d. F.L. Olmsted National Historic Site photograph.

    John Charles Olmsted graduated from Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School and was active in the family’s firm from 1884 until his death in 1920. John instituted modern office management techniques within the business while convincing municipal planners across the country that comprehensive park systems were indispensable components of 20th century American cities.

    Frederick Law Olmsted, Junior, ca.1890. National Park Service photograph.

    Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was born on Staten Island and educated at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1894. Like his brother John, Fred Jr. joined the family firm in 1897, and during his 50-year tenure worked on thousands of projects.

    F.L. Olmsted Jr.’s advocacy for a national chain of parks was instrumental in formulating the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act, whose purpose he stated was, “To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects, and the wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

    National Parks Organic Act of 1916. National Archives and Records Administration.

    Guided Growth

    John Charles and Frederick Jr. worked together to complete statewide surveys aimed at identifying potential parklands. Building up the company to a staff of 60 employees, the Olmsteds championed the City Beautiful movement. This Progressive reform philosophy stressed that aesthetically pleasing built-environments led to positive social change, particularly among the those residing in America’s crowded urban centers.

    Plan for Maplewood Memorial Park, October 11, 1926. Brinley & Holbrook collection, NJHGC.

    The City Beautiful model called for adopting urban master plans that included small neighborhood parks, larger city parks, and suburban nature reserves, in addition to public art and the banning of billboards and other offensive nuisances.

    Park-goers enjoyed fresh air and natural surroundings while socializing with neighbors and learning to become civic-minded individuals in a supervised public space. To Progressives, this was a much-improved alternative to other 19th century forms of entertainment: The saloon, dance hall, and any number of venues where youth and vice roamed free.

    “Sketch of proposed Maplewood athletic field”, South Orange Record, April 2, 1920. Brinley & Holbrook collection, NJHGC.

    The corollary to the City Beautiful Movement was the City Efficient Movement, which encouraged the creation of new zoning laws and subdivision regulations to guide city planning in the United States, particularly as wealthy and middle-class residents flooded into new suburban subdivisions after the First and Second World Wars.

    Branch Brook Park: the first county park

    Lake in Branch Brook Park – Newark Souvenir Folder, 1937. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    Branch Brook Park holds the distinction of being the first public county park ever constructed in the United States, and it remains one of New Jersey’s most majestic. It was built during the late 1800s in the working-class neighborhood of northern Newark, and anchored to the south by Barringer High School and the Cathedral of the Sacred Basilica.

    Branch Brook Park, Newark, winter scene, ca1900. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    This 359-acre oasis runs four miles north to south and is approximately a quarter-mile wide, featuring meadowlands, lakes, woods, and open fields. A meandering parkway guides pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles along its central corridor, which has, since the 1920s, been lined with thousands of cherry trees donated by Caroline Bamberger Fuld, a prominent Newark philanthropist and sister to department store magnate Louis Bamberger.

    Military Park, ca.1910. Prior to the City Beautiful Movement, many of America’s public parks originated as militia training grounds or town commons where livestock grazed. Newark’s citizen soldiers trained at military park from 1667 until after the Revolutionary War, when it was converted into a public park. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    Branch Brook Park began with a much more modest history. The former Civil War Army training ground was previously known as Old Blue Jay Swamp, the site of a private water reservoir to the South and tenement housing on its northern end. Its life as a park began in 1895 when the city transferred the first 60 acres of land to the Essex County Park Commission.

    Branch Brook Park, Newark, Park Avenue Bridge, ca1910. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    The Commission initially hired landscape designers John Bogart and Nathan Barrett, who presented a geometrical Romantic series of gardens, but supporters disapproved and hired the Olmsted firm to create a more naturalistic interpretation that featured native species situated among four distinct sections.

    Branch Brook Park, Newark, North park, ca1900. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    By the 1920s, Newark’s most affluent families had begun to move from their city residences to larger estates in nearby suburban territories. This offered city leaders an opportunity to increase Branch Brook Park’s footprint. From 1924 to 1929, 50 additional acres of land were acquired, primarily from the Ballantine and Heller families, and the transaction was commemorated by the Ballantine Gateway on the park’s east side.

    Branch Brook Park, Newark, east side park, ca1900. Olmsted made careful use of trees, shrubbery, and earthen berms to obscure large portions of the surrounding city from parkgoers. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    Both John Charles Olmsted and F.L. Olmsted Jr. worked directly on Branch Brook Park’s layout and left ample notes on proposed landscaping plans. Among their design flourishes was the use of an artificial berm along the perimeter to disguise neighboring properties. This provided the illusion that the park’s outer borders fronted onto woodland and shrubs – at least as long as the viewer’s gaze avoided any tall buildings in the distance.

    “A Chain of Beautiful Parks”, New York Times, April 6,1902. Morristown & Morris Township Library collections.

    A June 1901 article in the New York Times noted that despite the park’s still incomplete state, it had become a busy destination for city residents, including a recent cricket match between the Newark Cricket Club and the Kings Country Club of Brooklyn.

    During the 1920s, Harmon Hendricks donated 20 acres of his estate to the Parks Commission, which extended Branch Brook Park’s territory all the way to the neighboring town of Bellville’s southern border. Today, this tract includes a large concentration of the park’s blossoming cherry trees, whose number far exceeds those along the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.

    Eagle Rock Reservation

    Eagle Rock in winter from Mountain Ave, 1915. NJHGC collections.

    Spanning over 400 acres, Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange rests atop the Watchung Mountains with views overlooking Montclair, the Oranges, and New York City’s skyline. Acquisition of the land began in 1895, with the Olmsted firm providing a more nuanced landscape plan. The ensuing layout maintained the existing maple and red oak woodlands, while supplanting some existing species with pine and hemlock.

    Hiking path in Eagle Rock from postcard, ca.1898. NJHGC collections.

    Regrading work at Eagle Rock followed Olmsted Firm directions, as did construction of the main entrance, shelter house, community fireplace, pavilion, and an open-air event space known as “the Casino” that today serves as Highlawn Pavilion restaurant. Other improvements included construction of bridle paths, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a baseball diamond.

    The Hundred Steps at right with horse and buggy alongside trolley tracks approaching Mountain Ave, ca1905. NJHGC collections.

    An 1894 extension of the Orange trolley line brought visitors up the steep hill via Washington Street, while early automobile owners drove all the way to the main entrance from Eagle Rock Avenue. Adventurous hikers climbed the 100 steps to Eagle Rock’s pristine cliffside views of northeastern New Jersey towards Manhattan.

    The manicured grounds and gardens of Morris County

    Cedar Court, panoramic view of house, ca. 1900. Historic photograph collections, NJHGC.

    The architecture firm of Carrere & Hastings built Otto Kahn’s estate in Morris Township. However, topographic records held at the Olmsted Archives note the Olmsted firm conducted the initial land surveys that guided overall work on the grounds.

    Cedar Court, entrance from Columbia turnpike, ca. 1910. Historic photograph collections, NJHGC.

    Situated on the corner of Park Avenue and Columbia Turnpike in Morris Township, Cedar Court served as the country estate of New York financier Otto H. Kahn from 1897 to 1920. Twin Italianate mansions crowned the expansive 260-acre property. Morristown landscaping firm Brinley and Holbrook designed specific elements within the grounds, including stables, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course.

    Normandy Heights, Residence of Mr. Otto Kahn, 1911. Historic photograph collections, NJHGC.

    With homes in London and New York City, Otto and his wife Adelaide Wolff moved their country home to the north shore of Long Island in 1920, in keeping with the wave of wealthy residents relocating to the newly fashionable destination. The subsequent sale of Cedar Court resulted in demolition of the Twin Italianate mansions in 1937. Allied Chemical Company purchased the land for use as its headquarters before itself being acquired by Honeywell. Today, the estate’s rolling hills continue to offer a romantic glimpse into Morris Township’s past.

    “The Grove”, n.d. NJHGC collections.

    In Morristown, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the grounds of “the Grove,” a private residence located at 71 Macculloch Ave. Built in 1865 and purchased in 1901 by Mr. and Mrs. C. Wicliffe Throckmorton, the Second Empire-style house, complete with its trendy mansard roof, reflected the type of architecture that was popular in Morristown during the mid-19th century.

    Twombly Estate, Florham, ca 1910, Madison, NJ. Historic postcard collection, NJHGC.

    In 1897, heiress Florence Vanderbilt and her husband, financier Hamilton McKown Twombly, built their country estate “Florham” in Madison, NJ. They hired the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White to design the mansion, farms and dairy, with the Olmsted Firm completing the landscape design. The estate sat amidst well-tended gardens and specimen plantings. In 1958 the property was acquired by Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is known today as the College at Florham.

    For the public good and private enjoyment

    Main entrance to Cadwalader Park, n.d. Trenton Public Library photograph.

    During the late 1880s, Trenton entrepreneur and resident Edmund C. Hill proposed a grand public park befitting his city’s status as a major manufacturing center, while also encouraging construction of upscale suburban housing for Trenton’s affluent residents. The resulting development of Cadwalader Heights remains New Jersey’s only residential neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

    Edmund Hill, Dorothy Hill, and Elbridge Weir at Cadwalader Mansion. Trenton Public Library photograph.

    Edmund Hill made Cadwalader Park the centerpiece of his tenure on the Trenton Common Council, a position he held for three terms. Hill championed an 1888 ordinance authorizing $60,000 to acquire 80-acres from the George Farlee estate near Ewing Township.

    Later that year the council purchased an additional 75 acres from Thomas Cadwalader. Local residents found the existing grounds so attractive that they began frequenting the site before construction of the formal parklands even began.

    Preliminary plan for Cadwalader Park by FL Olmsted and Co, September 17, 1891. Trenton Public Library collections.

    Trenton hired the Olmsted firm in 1890 to create a unified landscape design for the two properties. By 1890, F.L. Olmsted was already preoccupied with work on the grounds of Stanford University’s new campus, as well as the 6,000-acre Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Nevertheless, the firm completed its plans for Cadwalader Park by September 1891.

    Trentonians’ pride on Cadwalader Park is evident from its inclusion in the Pictorial History of Trenton, reprinted from The Trenton Times Newspapers, 1929. NJHGC collections.

    The park was immensely popular among Trenton’s 60,000 residents. Within a week of its opening, 5,000 people visited, and by the next weekend another 10,000 followed suit to picnic, play ball, and enjoy the natural surroundings. Working-class families and tradesmen — used to living in cramped city apartments — all made good use of their time at Cadwalader Park alongside the city’s affluent and middle-class.

    Ivy Court ad in the Sunday Times Advertiser, March 3,1920. Trenton Public Library collections.

    The surrounding neighborhood of Cadwalader Heights was established in 1907, and featured homes built in the Craftsmen, Colonial Revival, Tudor, and English Manor styles. Olmsted proposed that well-planned communities set amidst natural beauty would create a more unified and harmonious citizenry. This was a half-century before suburban “Levittown’s” sought to aid the assimilation of America’s post-World War II families.

    Several residential plots in Cadwalader Heights border the park in the upper right corner of this map, and follows the naturalistic winding roadways that Olmsted preferred over the gridiron pattern used in older portions of the city at left. 1930 Real Estate Book of the City of Trenton and Borough of Princeton, Mercer County, NJ. Rutgers University Libraries collection.

    Unlike nearby residential developments, Olmsted’s layout avoided the rigid gridiron patterns in favor of meandering tree-lined roads set aside manicured parkland. By the 1920s, Cadwalader Heights population included prominent entrepreneurs, business leaders, and a variety of professionals ranging from commerce to the arts. Over the past century, the Trenton enclave developed into a solidly middle-class tight knit neighborhood of proud homeowners.

    Two centuries have elapsed since Frederick Law Olmsted was born to a small Connecticut family, and throughout his life he established a monumental legacy of creating natural beauty amidst some of the nation’s most densely populated spaces.

    The Parks Beautiful movement held grand designs for greater social cohesion and uplift that may have proved far too lofty. Yet the work of individuals like Olmsted and Vaux  nevertheless has resulted in immeasurable enjoyment by millions of Americans.


    ·       Glenn Modica, Cadwalader Heights: The History of an Olmsted Neighborhood, Bucks Digital Printing, 2007

    ·       Jeanne Kolva, Olmsted Parks in New Jersey, Schiffer Publishing; Atglen, PA, 2011

    ·       Dennis N. Bertland, Historic Sites Survey of the Town of Morristown, New Jersey; Morristown & Morris Township Library, 1981

    ·       Pat Fiaschetti, “Olmsted’s Idealistic Enclave in Cadwalader Heights,” New Jersey Monthly, Sept 8, 2015

    ·       Barbara Hoskins, Morris Township, NJ: a Glimpse into the Past, Joint Free Public Library of Morristown and Morris Township, NJ, 1987

    ·       Historic Newspaper Collections, North Jersey History & Genealogy Center (NJHGC)

    ·       Historic Postcard Collection, NJHGC

    ·       Vertical Files, NJHGC

    ·       Olmsted Online.

    For a behind the scenes look at our collections and additional information on New Jersey history, follow us on Twitter @NJHistoryCenter and Facebook; and read our other articles here. 

  • 08/16/2022 2:16 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Morris Parks Skating Program Rates No. 1 in New Jersey

    August 10, 2022, 6:19 pm | in

    Morris Parks Skating Program Rates No. 1 in New Jersey

    “Learn To Skate USA” Honors Mennen Arena Learn To Skate Program


    The Morris County Park Commission’s skating program at the Mennen Sports Arena is being honored by the national Learn to Skate USA organization, which has ranked it No. 1 in New Jersey.

    Learn to Skate announced the ranking in an Aug. 4, 2022 letter noting the Morris County skating program enrolled 1,242 skaters this year into the affiliated Mennen Learn to Skate program. The achievement will land the Mennen Arena program a highlight in the Winter Issue of the Learn to Skate USA Magazine and the October Issue of SKATING Magazine, where the Morris County program will be shared with all members of U.S. Figure Skating.

    “To be acknowledged by Learn to Skate USA for the Arena’s Learn to Skate Program is a testament to the dedicated professional skate instructors, arena staff and the participants who will benefit from learning a skill that will allow for low impact physical activity for a lifetime,” said David Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission.

    Learn to Skate USA is a world-recognized educational program that promotes skating nationally. It is supported by U.S. Figure Skating, USA Hockey and U.S. Speedskating, as well as the Special Olympics, the Professional Skaters Association and the U.S. Ice Rink Association.

    Learn to Skate USA offers a standardized curriculum designed to help skaters of all ages and abilities master the basics of ice skating through specially formulated pathways for preschoolers, older children, adults and skaters with disabilities.

    The William G. Mennen Sports Arena was built in 1973 on donated land in Morris Township and it was opened to the public on January 12, 1975 with only one ice surface and permanent seating for 2,500 spectators. In 1986, a second ice surface was completed and in 2002, a third ice surface was completed.

    Mennen Sports Arena now receives over 1 million visitors annually, and has hosted everyone from National Hockey League players and Olympic champion skaters to world class tennis players and pop-music stars at the many events held in nearly 50 years of operations.

    Learn more about the Mennen Arena at MorrisParks.Net.

  • 06/22/2022 10:55 AM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    10 NJ Counties Among Healthiest Communities In 2022: U.S. News

    A new environmental category shows health risks from natural disasters among ethnic groups and communities.

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    Josh Bakan,Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

    Posted Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 9:38 am ET

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    Ten counties in New Jersey are among the healthiest communities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.Ten counties in New Jersey are among the healthiest communities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. (Shutterstock)

    NEW JERSEY — Ten New Jersey counties are among the healthiest communities in the United States, according to a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

    The fifth annual report — released Wednesday in collaboration with CVS Health — highlights the healthiest 500 counties in the United States.

    The following New Jersey counties made the cut:

    • Morris County, 16th
    • Hunterdon County, 27th
    • Somerset County, 67th
    • Bergen County, 75th
    • Sussex County, 228th
    • Burlington County, 250th
    • Monmouth County, 256th
    • Warren County, 330th
    • Middlesex County, 337th
    • Gloucester County, 408th

    To rank each area, U.S. News looked at how nearly 3,000 U.S. counties performed in 89 metrics across 10 health-related categories, including an environmental category new to this year's list. The new category was included to help account for the growing threat of climate change.

    The categories are based on factors key to evaluating community health identified by the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics — a policy advisory board to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — as part of its Measurement Framework for Community Health and Well-Being.

    Find out what's happening in Across New Jerseywith free, real-time updates from Patch.

    Let's go!

    U.S. News collected data for its rankings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

    Read more about the rankings' methodology.

    Using data on natural disasters from the National Risk Index by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. News found in this year's analysis that Indigenous people are at the greatest risk from natural hazards. They have higher risks from sustained periods of colder temperatures, droughts, flooding in rivers and streams, and wildfires compared with other racial and ethnic groups, the analysis showed.

    Black people are more at risk from heat waves, hurricanes, tornadoes and coastal flooding than any other demographic group, according to the analysis, and earthquakes pose the highest risk to Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

    Tornadoes pose the highest risk to the overall population in the United States and are a particular threat to white, Black and Hispanic populations, the analysis found.

    The ranking also revealed connections between top performers on the list and COVID-19 health outcomes. Communities with higher cumulative COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people have lower rates of postsecondary education, lower life expectancy and lower shares of adults who have recently engaged in leisure-time physical activity, the analysis showed. Communities with higher vaccination rates also had lower rates of death due to COVID-19.

    These are the top 10 healthiest communities in the United States, according to the ranking:

    1. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
    2. Falls Church, Virginia
    3. Douglas County, Colorado
    4. Morgan County, Utah
    5. Carver County, Minnesota
    6. Sioux County, Iowa
    7. Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
    8. Hamilton County, Indiana
    9. Broomfield County, Colorado
    10. Delaware County, Ohio

    U.S. News also ranked several subgroups of communities including high-performing and up-and-coming urban communities, as well as high-performing and up-and-coming rural communities.

    Other key findings in the 2022 report:

    • Four of the top 20 are in northern Virginia: No. 2 Falls Church, No. 12 Loudoun County, No. 13 Arlington County and No. 17 Fairfax County.
    • For the second year in a row, Iowa counties are most heavily represented in the top 500, with 57 counties in the state making the list after 61 made it last year. Minnesota was next with 52 counties in the top 500.
    • Rhode Island, Iowa and Minnesota were the states with the highest median overall scores across their counties, while Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas had the lowest median overall scores.
    • Communities with lower scores in the mental health subcategory tend to have lower life expectancies, lower median household incomes and lower labor force participation, as well as higher rates of poverty.
    • Rural communities are more likely to have higher shares of adults reporting frequent mental distress, and urban communities are more likely to have higher shares of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with depression.

    See the full ranking for this year's top 500 healthiest communities.

    Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.

  • 06/17/2022 4:03 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Grand vision for Liberty State Park rapidly gains ground


    But concerns over privatization linger as lawmakers agree to improvements, $250 million appropriation

    Credit: (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

    Tall grasses at Liberty State Park with New York City in the background

    A fast-tracked bill focusing on improvements to Liberty State Park won relatively quick approval from a key legislative committee Thursday, but not without some changes that might discourage large-scale commercialization of New Jersey’s most popular park.

    The legislation (S-2107) was approved unanimously by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. However, Thursday’s vote failed to address perhaps the biggest concern critics have — ensuring Caven Point, a 30-acre tract of Hudson River waterfront and a migratory bird habitat would be preserved.

    Sponsored by the entire Senate delegation from Hudson County and introduced less than two weeks ago, the bill appears likely to win final approval by the end of June, when the Legislature recesses for its summer break. It still needs to clear the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly, no easy task given the legislation includes a $250 million appropriation out of the general fund.

    The Liberty State jewel

    The measure is the latest in a long line of proposals, all defeated in the past, to envision privatization of parts of the 1,200-acre park. With its inspiring views of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, Liberty State is widely considered the jewel of the state park system. The never-built commercial facilities once planned for the park included a waterpark, racetrack and amusement park.

    Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson), the bill’s sponsor, said the measure is aimed at helping the park reach its full potential. “The reality today is the park does not serve a lot of people,’’ he told the committee, noting the bill could increase transportation access the public, especially those without a car.

    “This legislation is the next step to making the park great,’’ Stack said. If passed into law, the bill could help reduce flooding and protect the park from the impacts of climate change and sea level rise while providing the money to create more fields for soccer, football and baseball, as well as more nature trails.

    What $250M buys

    The committee also heard from an architect who had prepared an outline of what improvements the $250 million bring to the park — up to nine new recreational sports fields; a community center; two amphitheaters, including one seating 5,000 people; and an Olympic-sized pool and swimming facility.

    Most of those options were backed by supporters of the bill, who include two local sports legends — former basketball coach and Hall of Fame member Bob Hurley and Jerry Walker, a former star at Seton Hall University. Both are strong advocates for increasing recreational facilities in the park.

    “There is just not enough things (for kids) to do in the park,’’ said Hurley, who coached nationally ranked teams at now closed St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City. “The park is underutilized.’’

    Another 500 acres would be set aside for nature trails and for protection of biological habitats, according to the architect, Alan Mountjoy. The proposal would mirror some, but not all, of the recommendations already drafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    “This is a framework for a world-class park,’’ Mountjoy said.

    A casino for Liberty State Park?

    Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) noted that New York is already contemplating opening two new casinos in New York City and questioned why the plan did not include the possibility for a casino somewhere near the park. “You should consider the possibility of a casino coming is a reality,’’ Codey said.

    Mountjoy said it never came up in discussion with the public and other stakeholders. One of the amendments adopted by the committee discounted any possibility of a casino in the park. Voters in 2016 overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed a casino in north Jersey.

    To some degree, park advocates said they supported many of the recreational initiatives proposed in the bill. Greg Remaud of NY/NJ Baykeeper said he was very hopeful a compromise could be reached, adding he thought advocates could support as much as 90% of what is envisioned.

    Hands off Caven Point

    “Take Caven Point off the table,’’ said Remaud, a point also made by other conservation groups throughout the day.

    But Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex County and chairman of the committee, refused to do so. He argued such an amendment would be stepping on the executive branch’s prerogatives.

    Others said they hoped to change that stance as the bill moves through the Legislature, although the amendment removing a mandate for the DEP to consider revenue-raising options has loopholes.

    “Right now, the elephant in the room is still Caven Point,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

    Anjuli Ramos-Busot, the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said she is still hopeful of winning more changes as the bill heads through the legislative process, a point echoed by other environmental groups.

    “It is a good first step,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “We need to keep on working.’’

  • 05/17/2022 11:10 AM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    The Toms River Mayor’s Advisory Council on Developmental Disabilities has unveiled a sensory trailer to be used as a quiet space and decompression area for people who may become overstimulated due to ADHD or other conditions.

    The trailer will be brought to different events in Toms River to be used by people who can use a quiet, sensory-friendly area for a period of time before rejoining the event.

    In the past, families may have had to leave an event or avoid going to one altogether. Now, they have a space that encourages inclusion.

    The fundraising for the sensory trailer was single-handedly led by committee member Tracey Nardini Fournier.

    A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trailer is expected to be announced soon.


  • 04/28/2022 11:34 AM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Will rising seas engulf NJ’s history?


    As seas rise, conflict beckons over which NJ historic sites to save

    Credit: (Andrew S. Lewis)

    More on NJ's climate threats

    An attempt by the state to slow the rapid erosion of East Point Lighthouse’s shoreline with a sand-filled "geotube" quickly proved to be inadequate against the rising water.

    The Garden State’s history is starting to wash away.

    New Jersey as it exists today was built up over hundreds of years from the arrival of Europeans, and thousands of years of Lenape settlement before that. Reminders of the past are scattered everywhere — the state has more than 100,000 historic properties, one in nearly every city and town.

    “This is part of our cultural consciousness,” said Barton Ross, a past president of the advocacy group Preservation New Jersey. “To experience the historic neighborhoods and what they bring.”

    But as climate change pushes water up along New Jersey’s coast, the risks of flooding and destruction during storms are rising for the state’s waterfront heritage.

    “That’s what we’re trying to save for future generations,” Ross said. “To preserve it so they can understand what their heritage is, and how special a state like New Jersey is.”

    Read Climate Central’s Future Flood Risk: Historic Sites in NJ.

    Sea levels rise as heat trapped by pollution in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans, causing the water to expand. Warming temperatures also melt glaciers and ice sheets.

    New Jersey’s coastline is experiencing some of the highest rates of rising seas in the nation, in part because the mid-Atlantic region is plagued by land subsidence, or sinking land. Depending on pollution levels, a state climate report this week cautioned that sea levels could rise an additional 4 to 6 feet or more this century. That poses a major threat to the tangible remnants of the state’s past. There are roughly 2,500 historic sites in the state that can flood when nearby waters reach just 2 feet above the average high tide, according to a report from the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center published in January. Push that surging water to 7 feet above the average high tide, and that number balloons to more than 20,000.

    The effects are already apparent. Each year, Ross’s group publishes a list of the 10 most endangered historic sites in New Jersey. Flood risks, both from sea level rise and heavy rainstorms, have steadily become a more important factor in the criteria.

    “We really have a couple (of sites) each year that fall under this category of needing some kind of flood mitigation or some other type of preservation,” Ross said.

    The change, detailed in this reporting collaboration between NJ Spotlight News and Climate Central, is forcing advocates and authorities that use limited resources to preserve historic and cultural places to grapple with an emerging question: How do you prioritize the parts of history to be saved?

    Ellis Island under threat

    Ellis Island represented the gateway to America from 1892 to 1954.

    “For me, it’s such an important site because it questions our current values,” Wolfram Hoefer said. “What do we think about immigration these days?”

    A landscape architect and professor at Rutgers University, Hoefer immigrated to the U.S. from North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany in 2006. “It is so important for America,” he said of Ellis Island.

    More than 12 million immigrants, almost all from Europe, were processed by federal customs officials at the small piece of land now split by New Jersey and New York in New York Harbor. Today, families across the U.S. trace their roots back to Ellis Island.

    Nowadays, the biggest threat to Ellis Island isn’t a lack of investment or public attention: It’s the water that surrounds it. The island is already plagued with regular floods. By mid-century, floodwaters could reach the site’s structures multiple times per year, and by the end of the century they could cover the entire island multiple times a year, a Climate Central analysis shows.

    Climbing temperatures driven by fossil fuel pollution are threatening heritage sites like this across New Jersey, with everything from emblematic landmarks like Ellis Island to century-old lighthouses starting to crumble beneath the impacts of climate change.

    ‘Everything that keeps the park running and operating safely, and gets visitors here, was underwater or destroyed.’

    “Historic sites allow us to relate to our own past and where we come from, but also question our current actions and our current values according to what happened in the past and how we are dealing with the present and the future,” Hoefer said.

    The federal government stopped using Ellis Island as an immigration center in 1954, and the facility fell into disrepair until it was added to the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. It reopened to the public in 1990. The Great Hall was restored as a museum, attracting around 4 million visitors each year before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    ‘Critical to our collective history’

    “Ellis Island is critical to our collective story,” said Erin Dempsey, who leads the National Park Service’s cultural preservation efforts at the island. “To so many people, Ellis Island lives large in their minds, in their family history and it looms large in our cultural identity as American people. So impacts to Ellis Island, I think, really have wide-ranging effects on so many people.”

    Superstorm Sandy revealed the extent of Ellis Island’s exposure when it slammed through the region nearly 10 years ago. Surging water rose out of the harbor and inundated the island. The old ferry building had its doors and windows blown out, and basements around the site filled with water.

    Credit: (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

    Damage on Ellis Island in late 2012, following Superstorm Sandy. It took a year of recovery following Sandy before Ellis Island reopened to visitors.

    “Everything that keeps the park running and operating safely, and gets visitors here, was underwater or destroyed,” Dempsey said.

    The Great Hall sits just high enough that it avoided first-floor flooding. Historic artifacts in the building had been stored upstairs, which kept them safe in the short term. But Sandy knocked out Ellis Island’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, leaving those artifacts exposed to uncontrolled temperatures and humidity.

    After the storm, a National Park Service team of museum specialists packed up the island’s artifacts and shipped them to a storage facility in Maryland.

    It took a year for Ellis Island to reopen to the public after Sandy, and nearly three years for all the artifacts to be returned.

    To protect against the next Sandy, the National Park Service has rolled out a $50 million plan to make Ellis Island more resilient. That includes elevating critical infrastructure like HVAC systems and generators, all of which need to be running to protect the artifacts stored at the park.

    “The main thing we had to do was make sure that some of those critical systems like electrical, mechanical systems, the HVAC system, [were] raised up out of the flood plain. So that was our biggest response,” Dempsey said. “We needed to get all of that critical infrastructure so that it wouldn’t be affected by storm surge in the future.”

    The park service is also tackling the island’s well-worn sea wall — a project that posed a conundrum for  NPS leadership. They had to decide whether to raise the height of the wall, which would better guard against flooding but change the historic nature of the park that the service is tasked with protecting. Dempsey said that visitor experience, especially the evocative feeling that many tourists get as they sail into the island and the views they enjoy once there, were critical considerations.

    “What’s difficult here, for us, is that one of our main goals is to protect our historical resources as they are,” Dempsey said. “We need to maintain their integrity.”

    Ultimately, the NPS decided to restore the sea wall at its original height — preserving the island’s historic presence but leaving the harbor waters just feet below the edge during regular high tides. “We’re doing this rehabilitation work, making sure the masonry is in good shape, making sure it can stay as it is for another one hundred and fifty years, instead of altering its character, which could lead to a slew of other issues, potentially,” Dempsey said.

    Grappling with how far to go to protect a single site is one thing. A pair of lighthouses in South Jersey poses a related question: What makes one site more worthy of money and resources for protection than another?

    “That’s why historic preservation is so important,” said Hoefer of Rutgers University. “It asks current questions about decisions we did in the past. And what do we do presently?”

    A tale of two lighthouses: Barnegat and East Point

    On a recent morning, a pair of bald eagles perched on the upper branches of an Eastern red cedar near the edge of the Delaware Bay shoreline. Behind them was the 163-year-old East Point Lighthouse, its fresh coat of red and white paint gleaming in the sunshine.

    “It’s just gorgeous,” said Nancy Patterson, president of the local historical society that manages the wedge of semi-dry land where the lighthouse sits. “This is an important thing for the community; it’s a historic site that deserves to be protected, especially because of where it is.”


    Historic NJ lighthouse battered by rising seas, now shuttered over contract dispute

    Like the bald eagle, the fight to keep East Point Lighthouse in Cumberland County from disappearing has been a long, difficult struggle — and one that is likely to get harder. It joins Barnegat Lighthouse, a popular tourism spot at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, on the Atlantic coast, in being threatened by unrelenting sea level rise. The two historic lighthouses offer a vivid look at the tough choices New Jersey is willing to make when it comes to prioritizing historic structures.

    Since the Maurice River Township Historical Society took charge of East Point’s upkeep 50 years ago, volunteers like Patterson have waged a battle for recognition with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which owns the lighthouse and its grounds.

    In that time, compared with other historic lighthouses in the state, the department has done little to protect East Point from erosion made severe by the combination of naturally subsiding land and unnaturally accelerating sea level rise.

    Lack of support for East Point

    The effects of that lack of support were particularly striking this spring. For much of last year, Patterson was locked in a standoff with the department over the terms of a new management agreement that would have allowed the state to terminate its partnership with the society with little notice, as well as be entitled to revenues from its museum and gift shop, which in part sells work by local artists.

    Because of the standoff, Patterson felt she had to shelve plans for a berm project that she believes is necessary to save East Point from not just the next Superstorm Sandy, which flooded the lighthouse, but regular nuisance flooding. Local municipalities had offered to provide topsoil and sand fill for free, and the society had cobbled together enough donations to pay for labor. Meanwhile, in March, the DEP announced that it would begin a $1.3 million restoration of Barnegat Lighthouse, paid for by the state’s corporate business tax.

    Barnegat and East Point are two of the oldest lighthouses in the state that are still in operation. East Point was first lit in 1849 and Barnegat in 1859. Both structures were originally built hundreds of feet back from the water’s edge, but natural erosion and sea level rise have reduced those buffers to stone throws from the waves.

    Credit: (Andrew S. Lewis)

    In March, the Department of Environmental Protection announced that it would begin a $1.3 million restoration of Barnegat Lighthouse, paid for by the state’s corporate business tax.

    That is where many of the similarities between the two lighthouses end. In 1957, the land around Barnegat was made a state park, and in 1971 the lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since the late 1980s, Barnegat and the surrounding land have been restored and rebuilt with millions of state and federal dollars to save it from the results of age and the encroaching sea, including an Army Corps of Engineers-built rock seawall.

    Barnegat is facing at least a 1% chance of flooding each year already. That chance increases to at least 10% each year by 2040, and by 2060, the lighthouse will face a chronic annual flood risk, the Climate Central analysis found.

    Already at risk of chronic flooding

    Down in Cumberland County, however, the historic, but less heralded, East Point Lighthouse is already at risk of chronic flooding, with a 99% chance of at least one annual flood.

    Rapidly rising waters spell trouble not just for these landmarks, but for historic sites across the country. A 2014 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists identified intensifying flood, coastal erosion and wildfire threats to historical sites and infrastructure across the nation, as well as state and local parks.

    Cornell University professor Sara Bronin says that a whole range of natural hazards increasingly threaten historic sites. “You can see that in sea level rise in coastal areas, wildfires in the West, and even increased precipitation leading to more erosion, mudslides and moisture that ends up being retained in the buildings, structures and sites that we’ve tried to protect by designating them historic,” she said.

    ‘If East Point got anywhere near even a small fraction of the support and infrastructure over the years that they’ve seen at Barnegat, or Cape May, or any of the other lighthouses, it would be a really nice tourist place.’

    Bronin has worked in local planning and zoning as a lawyer, architect and policymaker, and is the current nominee to serve as chair of the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Her 2020 paper identifies how federal law makes it difficult and costly for climate-related adaptations to historic properties, and finds that the legal standards typically applied to physical changes to preservation sites inadequately address climate change.

    “Currently the way that we protect historic properties is something of a patchwork with local, state and federal officials each looking at the issue from a different angle and not necessarily coordinating,” Bronin said.

    Inequitable preservation efforts

    This can lead to inequitable preservation efforts in the face of worsening climate change. The same year that Barnegat became a federally recognized historic place, 83 miles to the south, on the Delaware bayshore, East Point was nearly destroyed by fire. By that point, the lighthouse had been abandoned for decades — the fire inspired the Maurice River Historical Society to push for the structure’s renovation.

    It wasn’t until 1995 that East Point was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and not until 1998 that an exterior restoration was completed by a volunteer effort led by the Maurice River Historical Society. In 2019, the state attempted to address East Point’s dire erosion problem with a sand-filled synthetic “geotube” berm along the shoreline. The project was meant to be a temporary solution, but almost immediately, storm surges were breaching the berm, rendering the lighthouse property “a big bowl of water with no place to go,” as Patterson described it last year.

    Instead of a park, much of the land around East Point is state-owned preserved open space and wildlife management areas, meaning it is to remain essentially untouched rather than built up with hard infrastructure to defend against sea level rise.

    “If East Point got anywhere near even a small fraction of the support and infrastructure over the years that they’ve seen at Barnegat, or Cape May, or any of the other lighthouses, it would be a really nice tourist place,” Patterson said. “But [the department’s] mission is to, basically, gather up as much land as possible and let it go back to nature. Protecting history is completely against what they’re trying to do here.”

    Credit: (Andrew S. Lewis)

    After being abandoned for decades and nearly destroyed by a fire in 1971, East Point Lighthouse was rescued and restored by volunteers of the Maurice River Historical Society, and its lantern was reactivated in 1980.

    In a statement, New Jersey’s Chief Resilience Officer, Nick Angarone said: “The DEP evaluates historic assets and structures against climate change, including sea-level rise, looking at issues such as risks to a structure, benefits and public access. The Barnegat Light Lighthouse and East Point Lighthouse are both vulnerable to sea-level rise and face different threats from climate change. The Department recognizes the value of both historic structures as well as the importance they have to their communities and visitors. With that in mind, we assess the needs of each lighthouse and account for all available resources, including federal funding, to ensure that both lighthouses continue to stand as New Jersey beacons for future generations.”

    It’s not that Patterson isn’t happy to see the state investing in Barnegat Light, she said. It’s just that it seems unfair to prioritize one over the other. “I want to see Barnegat get the attention it’s getting,” she said. “I don’t want money taken from them to give to us — I want it given to them and us.”

    It’s a race against time, and limited resources. A professor and chair of the department of historic preservation at the University of Kentucky, Douglas Appler says the lack of funding for historic preservation, and reliance on philanthropies and individuals for investment, means officials don’t have much leeway with deciding where the money goes. “There are limits to what local government and state government can do in a system where everything is basically privately driven,” he said.

    Appler says this is particularly true in smaller towns and municipalities — like the unincorporated community of 227 people living in Heislerville, where East Point is found. “They don’t have a ton of levers to pull.”

    ‘They don’t get away with treating Barnegat the same way they get away with treating the southern bayshore.’

    Patterson worries that, because East Point is a “money pit,” in terms of upkeep, the state is only interested in seeing the structure and the property disappear. And while Barnegat is also expensive to maintain, it is central to the tourism economy of Long Beach Island, home to some of the Jersey Shore’s most expensive real estate.

    “They don’t get away with treating Barnegat the same way they get away with treating the southern bayshore,” Patterson said. “We’re treated like the neglected stepchild — there’s not enough of us to add up to enough votes, and we don’t have enough millionaires to add up to enough contributions to their campaigns.”

    If the state would only invest…

    The bayshore municipalities of Cumberland County are among some of the poorest in New Jersey. If the state would only invest in the property, Patterson insisted, it could become a tourist attraction that would help prop up Maurice River Township and surrounding economically depressed municipalities.

    “Maurice River Township would look different,” Patterson said. “Restaurants could survive, and businesses could make it, because they would have people coming in.”

    Already, Patterson hosts Christmas and Easter events on the historical society’s shoestring budget. But she envisions restoring the old drainage ditch behind the lighthouse by removing the invasive phragmites, which have taken over, with native plants like bayberry, beach plum and goldenrod. Tourists and schoolchildren could learn about what a native coastal New Jersey landscape looks like — one that isn’t relentlessly inundated by saltwater, that is. Just something more than a rutted dirt road to the property would be nice, Patterson said.

    There was some good news recently. Though the state would only issue the historical society a license agreement instead of a lease — preventing the group from doing their own renovation work — they did change the terms so that revenues from the museum and gift shop can’t be taken by the state. And the berm project is being allowed by the DEP to move forward. If the final approval processes go well, Patterson is hoping topsoil and sand will be rolling in within the next few weeks.

    Patterson thinks stopgap solutions are better than nothing, but she plans to continue to fight for more substantial fixes to preserve the landmark as seas continue to rise and storms continue to intensify.

    “Nothing would make me happier than to hear, twenty years from now, somebody say, ‘I just care so much about the place because we always had such a good time there,” Patterson said. “Because it’s a part of my history.’”

    Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add more detail to a statement from New Jersey’s Chief Resilience Officer Nick Angarone.

    — Breanne Sharp and Kelly Van Baalen (Climate Central) contributed data reporting.

    This story was produced in partnership with Climate Central, a Princeton-based nonprofit, nonpartisan climate science and reporting organization.

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