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  • 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

    By

     North Jersey History and Genealogy Center

     -

     October 5, 2022 

    0

    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.

    Sources:

    ·       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 MorristownGreen.com 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.

    Josh Bakan's profile picture

    Josh Bakan,Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

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

    Replies (8)

    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

    TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | JUNE 17, 2022 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

    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?

    ANDREW S. LEWISMICHAEL SOL WARRENAYURELLA HORN-MULLER | APRIL 22, 2022 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

    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.”

    ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

    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.


  • 04/22/2022 1:26 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    ON EARTH DAY, MURPHY ADMINISTRATION LAUNCHES “OUTSIDE,  TOGETHER!” A COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION PLAN

    Five-Year Blueprint Will Set Open Space, Parkland, Outdoor Equity and Funding Priorities to Best Serve the Recreation and Conservation Needs of All New Jersey Residents

    (22/P21) TRENTON – To expand upon the Murphy Administration’s historic investments in local parks, open space and natural resource restoration, the Department of Environmental Protection is launching Outside, Together!, a recreational initiative that will bring the public, local leaders, conservation organizations and ecotourism industry together to produce a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today, Earth Day, at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus.

    To mark the importance of this work, Commissioner LaTourette is issuing an Administrative Order to update the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which sets the state’s priorities for, and access to, parklands and open space. That update will be the Outside, Together! planning initiative.

    DEP is taking a new approach to updating its SCORP, a recurring requirement to remain eligible for National Park Service funding. Outside, Together! will have deep and robust public engagement, and reform funding policies and protocols for prioritizing land acquisitions. Those reforms are expected to ensure fairer and more equitable distribution of recreation and conservation funds. The announcement of this initiative ties in with this year’s Earth Day global theme of Invest In Our Planet.

    “The Outside, Together! plan will give us an opportunity to ensure that our communities have equitable access to the benefits of New Jersey’s natural resources,” said Governor Murphy. “This initiative is especially imperative as we continue to assess how climate change will impact recreational activities, as well as the future of our natural resources. I look forward to expanding our investments in local parks, open space and natural resource restoration to best serve all of our New Jersey residents.”

    Earlier this year, DEP established the Community Investment and Economic Revitalization Program, recognizing that the work of the department sits at the intersection of environmental, social and economic improvement. A main function of the program is to strengthen investments in natural capital that can enhance quality of life for all New Jerseyans.  It is through this new program that DEP is taking a new approach to updating the SCORP.

    “Every New Jersey community should have quality equipment, amenities and opportunities for families and children to enjoy the outdoors,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “Outside, Together! is DEP’s pledge to the public that their input is essential in creating a blueprint that enhances and ensures fair and equitable recreation and conservation practices statewide.”

    Within the Administrative Order issued today, Commissioner LaTourette charged an Advisory Committee to partner with DEP and engage the public on six core principles for Outside, Together!:

    • Expanding high-quality open space and recreational opportunities for all New Jerseyans;
    • Enhancing climate resilience and sustainability through acquisition and development;
    • Empowering communities through investment in ecotourism and outdoor recreation;
    • Embracing the role of technology in conservation and outdoor recreation;
    • Furthering equity and environmental justice through outdoor recreation; and
    • Continuing the commitment to stewardship and the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

    Beginning this summer, and into next spring, multiple opportunities for engagement will allow DEP to set priorities, determine action to optimize access to open space and parklands and help ensure that the state’s recreational investments are consistent with the Murphy Administration’s environmental, climate, equity and economic goals. Some of the actions that the Advisory Committee will engage in include:

    • Educating the public about open space and outdoor recreation opportunities statewide, and how they may improve health and wellness in overburdened communities;
    • Enhancing the economic benefits of preservation, including those addressing climate resilience and sustainability, ecotourism and biodiversity;
    • Providing multiple opportunities for the public and key partners to offer input on outdoor recreation needs and goals through surveys as well as public informational listening sessions;
    • Identifying policy, regulatory and/or legislative actions to advance open space and outdoor recreation goals.

    DEP will issue a solicitation in coming weeks to hire a consultant to work with the Advisory Committee on Outside, Together! plan development. DEP has secured a National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Fund SCORP Planning Grant to offset a portion of the cost.

    Advisory Committee members will include DEP’s assistant commissioners from the Community Investment and Economic Revitalization, Fish & Wildlife, and Parks, Forests & Historic Sites programs as well as representatives of environmental advocacy organizations, environmental justice advocates, economic development entities and other community groups.

    “ANJEC is excited to partner with the DEP and celebrate the launch of Outside, Together!,” said Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. “Access to high quality open spaces is a right that belongs to every New Jersey resident, and this project brings improved equitable access to open spaces, particularly in communities that do not already benefit from preserved spaces and wild places. We know that high quality open spaces are essential to enhancing our resiliency to the impacts of the climate crisis and provide economic benefit by stabilizing taxes and increasing surrounding home values.”

    “Interaction is the gateway to understanding,” said Marcus Sibley, NJ NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Chairman. “There have been longstanding barriers to access and inclusion in our outdoor recreational spaces, therefore we’re supportive of initiatives such as ‘Outside, Together!’ due to the possibilities for growth, progress and healing when we’re all outside, together.”

    “Protection of parks, lands and wildlife is an integral part of the Sierra Club, which is why we are very excited about DEP’s ‘Outside, Together!’ initiative,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club. “New Jersey is one of the most unique places in the country. From the Highlands to the Pinelands, to the beautiful beaches of Sandy Hook to the massive Lake Hopatcong. These types of areas need to move forward with appropriate growth and development and utilize their historic eco-tourism potential. At the same time, they need to be resilient to climate impacts. More importantly, open space, parks and historic sites must be accessible to all, especially in urban areas.”

    The Advisory Committee is expected to convene in June and begin doing research and surveys this summer. Stakeholder engagement is tentatively planned to begin this fall, with a draft plan developed in early 2023. The plan could be ready for public review as early as spring 2023 and finalized that summer.

    To learn more about Outside, Together! and view a copy of the Administrative Order, visit https://dep.nj.gov/outside-together

     For more information about Earth Week and Earth Day in New Jersey, as well as the DEP’s 50+2 anniversary party on Saturday, April 23 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, visit https://nj.gov/dep/52earthday/

    Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep

                                                                            ###


  • 04/22/2022 1:00 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    A New Island for Birds Emerges Along the New Jersey Coast

     

     

    By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

     

    Something unusual and exciting has happened just off the coast of New Jersey; a new island that has become a haven for birds has formed. Located on the southern edge of the Little Egg Inlet, the island is about 1000 feet offshore of Little Beach Island, a Unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). Of course, it didn’t form overnight, an emergent shoal has been noted in that location since about 2018, and it has slowly been growing, likely as a result of the longshore drift of sand from Long Beach Island. The island, dubbed Horseshoe Island because of its distinctive shape, provides incredibly valuable habitat for nesting and migratory birds, including many at-risk species.

     

    Field biologists from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) had been eyeing the offshore “sand bar” with their scopes and binoculars for signs of bird activity over the past three years while they were monitoring beach nesting bird sites on nearby Refuge lands. Shorebirds were observed during low tides, but it wasn’t until last spring (2021) that it appeared the island’s elevation was high enough during all tide cycles to support nesting birds. From a distance, American oystercatchers were regularly spied in early spring suggesting they might be nesting, and so in May the CWF crew boated out to get an up-close look. On that initial trip they found several oystercatcher nests, even some hatched chicks, as well as signs of terns prospecting to nest. Most surprising of all was the large size of the island – estimated at about 100 acres at high tide - which wasn’t apparent from views from the mainland.

     

    No sooner was nesting documented at Horseshoe Island than a strong nor’easter swept along the entire Northeast Atlantic Coast over Memorial Day weekend, flooding most beach nesting bird nests along its path. There were fears it may have swept the island away as well, but once the weather settled, CWF staff were able to get out to find that not only had the island survived, but that new colonies of terns and black skimmers had arrived. Biologists from NJ Fish and Wildlife - Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) regularly monitored the island for the rest of the summer. Reducing human disturbance was important so they posted portions of the site to alert the public that birds needed protection.

     

    In its maiden nesting year, the island’s bird tallies were quite spectacular, including the presence of New Jersey’s largest least tern colony (470 adults). The island was also home to one of just a few black skimmer colonies in the state. In addition to both of those state endangered species, common and royal terns nested at the site, including the northernmost colony of royal terns in the Western Hemisphere. Piping plovers and red knots - both federally threatened and state endangered species - also used the island. In addition to all of this breeding, the site hosted a multitude of other seabirds and shorebirds that used the area for resting and foraging.

     

    Not surprisingly, as quickly as birds discovered the island, boaters also made their way to the site as the summer progressed last year. With the densest human population and one of the most developed coastlines in the nation, finding highly suitable and undisturbed habitat for coastal birds in New Jersey is incredibly difficult. It is nearly unprecedented that a new site could develop like Horseshoe Island: an undisturbed, predator-free habitat for rare birds.

     

    To ensure this new site remained the haven for birds that it was in 2021, the ENSP and Refuge petitioned the state’s Tidelands Resource Council (Council) for joint management rights of the island. The Council approved a plan that allows the agencies to close the island to public use from March 1 to September 30 each year – the most critical time for nesting and migratory shorebirds – for the next five years. As a result, people are not allowed on the island, nor are boat or personal watercraft landings permitted during the restricted period.

     

    Staff from the state and CWF (acting on behalf of the Refuge) have already begun preliminary monitoring of bird usage at the site, as well as posting for the public closure. In additional to frequent biological monitoring, the site will be patrolled to monitor unauthorized public usage and the agencies will conduct outreach about the purpose of the closure. Although managing and monitoring an offshore island in a dynamic coastal environment presents numerous logistical challenges, staff at the ENSP, Refuge, and CWF are excited about the opportunity to secure a safe future for wildlife using the site.

     

    For more information about the island and its management, read the Horseshoe Island Management Plan:


  • 04/14/2022 8:55 AM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    Charging stations key to getting more EVs on the road

    TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | APRIL 14, 2022 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTTRANSPORTATION

    Administration unlikely to see 300,000-plus electric vehicles cruising NJ’s highways and byways by 2025 unless it ratchets up roll-out of charging stations

    Credit: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

    Electric Vehicles

    New Jersey is counting on hundreds of thousands of people driving electric vehicles to cut the emissions causing climate change and to meet its ambitious clean-energy goals.

    But the state must spend more, and ramp up spending now to make that happen, clean-energy advocates warn.

    The appeal comes as advocates worry that the mandate to put 330,000 plug-in electric cars on the state’s roads by 2025 will be difficult to meet unless more resources are available to build out the charging infrastructure to accommodate those vehicles.

    Without that push for charging facilities, the electric vehicle goal could become the latest of the Murphy administration’s initiatives to face challenges in achieving aggressive clean-energy goals. The state has failed to achieve targets for energy storage needed to back up the intermittent power associated with renewable energy. And its once robust solar energy program has noticeably slowed down.

    Charging ahead with charging stations

    In recent years, the Murphy administration, however, has stepped up programs to build out the charging infrastructure. And it has increased the number of zero-emissions vehicles in use by offering lucrative rebates to consumers to buy more expensive EVs.

    It needs to do more, some say.

    “We are still a laggard,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Right now, we don’t have enough chargers in our communities. We need to increase state investments in our charging network.’’

    By one account, New Jersey is doing well in increasing the number EVs on the road. By September 2021, the state had more than 66,555 vehicles on the road, according to an analysis by EVAdoption, a consulting firm. At that time, New Jersey had the sixth-highest number of plug-in vehicles on the road in the nation.

    In tallying up the number of ports available to drivers to charge vehicles, however, New Jersey fared poorly, ranking the worst in the nation, according to EVAdoption. For owners of electric vehicles, its analysis said there was only 1 charging port for every 41.7 vehicles in New Jersey.

    New Jersey officials said that analysis was flawed, primarily because it lumped all levels of charging stations together. Different types of charging stations do a lot to ease range anxiety for drivers who fear running out of juice with no place to recharge.

    Charging by the numbers

    There are three basic charging systems: Level 1, which is generally used at home takes up to 11 hours for a full charge; Level 2, which can take between 3 to 8 hours to charge; and Level 3, more commonly described as fast chargers, can provide about 80% of a full charge in about 15 minutes.

    “A lot of our funding has been targeted to fast chargers,’’ said Peg Hanna, assistant director of air monitoring and mobile sources for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Those chargers offer consumers the quickest way to recharge their vehicles. Otherwise, people  most often charge at home or, less occasionally, at work, both at much slower rates.

    When it comes to fast chargers installed, New Jersey is ahead of California and New York, Hanna said. New Jersey has 126 locations with fast chargers with 446 plug-in ports, she said. In New Jersey, most are along well-traveled transportation corridors

    With New Jersey projected to receive $104 million in federal funds to bolster spending on electric vehicle infrastructure over the next five years, the state has the potential to double or triple the number of fast chargers in the state, Hanna said.

    Still, Hanna conceded the state’s goal of increasing the number of EVs on its roads is going to be challenging. “It is not a place where we are letting up,’’ added Cathleen Lewis, who works on EVs in the state Board of Public Utilities Division of Clean Energy.

    The BPU has initiated programs to increase charging stations at multi-dwelling units like apartment buildings; promoted building charging stations at locations with large fleets of vehicles and at tourism locations in the state; and provided incentives to homeowners to put in charging stations.

    Helping make sales

    The office also has overseen the rebates for consumers seeking to buy electric vehicles. It’s perhaps the state’s most popular program, often shutting down within weeks of opening for applications. It offers consumers up to $5,000 to purchase electric vehicles.

    Over the past five years, New Jersey has taken the right regulatory steps to ensure a smooth transition to electric vehicles, according to Kevin Miller, senior policy director of Chargepoint, a provider of charging stations for EVs.

    “It is worth highlighting the rebate program is currently the highest profile, most impactful and strategic state program regarding electrifying transportation,’’ said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC-NJ, a coalition seeking to push electric vehicles. Her comments were submitted to the BPU on its Charge Up program.

    Pick up the pace

    Frank argued the state needs to accelerate spending in that program, which currently allocates $30 million annually.  In her comments, she proposed investing at least $100 million in funding for the rebate program in fiscal year 2023.

    As to meeting the state’s goal to put 330,000 EVs on the road, Frank conceded it is “a stretch, but it is doable. At the end of the day, it is a question of whether they put enough money to do it,’’ she said.

    “None of the benefits from EVs will materialize — including progress we need to meet our climate and clean-air goals — without EVs on the road, Frank commented.


  • 04/11/2022 3:35 PM | Kathleen Avitt (Administrator)

    A new fight to save Delaware’s ancient fish

    ANDREW S. LEWIS | APRIL 11, 2022 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTWATER

    Atlantic sturgeon survived 100 million years. Pollution, boats and humans have nearly killed them all

    Credit: (Delaware Riverkeeper Network)

    A highway billboard for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s campaign for the critically endangered Atlantic sturgeon

    Drivers on northbound I-95 in Philadelphia right now might catch a glimpse of a billboard with a strange, prehistoric looking creature on it. “Extinction Sucks,” the headline reads.

    The call to action is part of a new campaign by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network called “Dino in the Delaware.” While the animal on the billboard could easily pass as a bony, snouted dinosaur, it is in fact a living fish — the Atlantic sturgeon.

    Two centuries ago, during the annual spring spawn, the Delaware River’s Atlantic sturgeon population is thought to have been around 360,000, the largest in North America. Today, few people driving on I-95 will recognize the fish, let alone have caught a glimpse of it in the wild, because Atlantic sturgeon are critically endangered, due to overfishing, bycatch, pollution, and habitat degradation.

    According to Maya Van Rossum, chief executive officer of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Dino in the Delaware campaign is an urgent, ad hoc effort to pull this ancient fish species back from the brink. “We are creating and rolling, creating and rolling,” she said, when asked about next steps for outreach. “One of the reasons for that is we don’t have the luxury of time.”

    Just as there are genetic variations between humans, so too are there differences between the Delaware River population of Atlantic sturgeon and groups of the same species elsewhere.

    Atlantic sturgeon

    In 2012, five distinct population segments of Atlantic sturgeon were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Delaware River and Bay segment, which is a part of the New York Bight population, is the most critically threatened. (Another sturgeon population in the watershed, the shortnose, is also federally listed as endangered.) A first-of-its-kind study in 2016 found that there were an estimated 3,656 juvenile (age 0-1) resident Atlantic sturgeon in the Delaware estuary. But, according to Dewayne Fox, a Delaware State University fisheries professor who studies the Delaware watershed cohort of Atlantic sturgeon, much less than 10% survive to spawning age. Female Atlantic sturgeon generally don’t begin spawning until they are 15 years old.

    “Our estimate now, based on published, peer-reviewed projects and pretty robust methodology is less than 200 [adult] individuals,” Fox said. “While 3,656 sounds great, you have to remember that one female has two million eggs.”

    Offshore and in the bay, Atlantic sturgeon can fall victim to commercial fisheries as bycatch — unintentional catches in equipment like nets and dredges — “but when they enter the river,” Fox said, “it’s a whole new world of threats.”

    Three key threats

    At the center of the Dino in the Delaware campaign are three key threats that have persisted in the watershed for decades and, researchers like Fox say, are keeping Atlantic sturgeon populations at critically low numbers: vessel strikes; habitat degradation; and low dissolved oxygen content. 

    Atlantic sturgeon in the Delaware River have long been disproportionately impacted by strikes from vessel propellers large and small. Both Van Rossum and Fox say these strikes, which are almost always mortal, are the primary threat to the Atlantic sturgeon in the watershed.

    Fox explained that, for some of the biggest vessels in certain conditions, like extreme low tides or when sandbars build up on the riverbed, there can be less than 5 feet of clearance between their propellers and the bottom.

    ‘These are things that have been around for over 100 million years, and these large vessels have only been around for roughly a century.’

    “We’ve created an artificial situation where we have these really big ships in rivers and there’s not much room underneath them,” Fox said. “And even if there is room, there’s very likely so much pressure . . . so much force being driven by those propellers that, by the time the fish hears it, they can’t get out.”

    Unlike other fish species, adult Atlantic sturgeon don’t appear to react in the presence of large vessels and swim away, according to Fox’s research. And while they are a benthic species, meaning they spend most of their lives close to the riverbed, Atlantic sturgeon also regularly move up and down the water column. In the 19th century, before they were nearly fished out of existence because of global demand for their roe — or caviar — fishers and bystanders wrote of waters boiling with sturgeon, and of explosive leaps from the water that sometimes landed the fish, which can reach 9 feet in length and weigh hundreds of pounds, onto the decks of boats.

    “These are things that have been around for over 100 million years, and these large vessels have only been around for roughly a century,” Fox said. “As adults, they don’t have any predators — why should we assume that a fish this big and this old is going to move because something makes a noise?”

    Habitat disturbance

    The cargo and crude ships working their way from the ocean to the ports of Wilmington, Philadelphia and elsewhere up the Delaware River today can reach 1,000 feet in length. To accommodate these enormous vessels, the Army Corps of Engineers, in 2010, embarked on what would become a decade-long, $400 million dredging project that deepened a 100-mile stretch of river and bay channel by 5 feet — from 40 feet to 45.

    The project was criticized by opponents who argued that, economically, the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia didn’t need to accommodate the kind of super tankers that require such a deep channel. One of the fiercest critics was Van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who said that the blasting of bedrock that would be required in some parts of the channel would be catastrophic to the Atlantic sturgeon.

    “There’s so much expertise documenting that this is a niche port and we’re perfectly fine at 40 feet,” Van Rossum said. “We could have had an Army Corps of Engineers who said, ‘You know what? It’s clear that we don’t need to deepen the main channel of the Delaware River and put in jeopardy this species.’”

    While larger ships can mean higher risk of propeller strikes, Fox said the greatest damage from the channel deepening project was the destruction of the Atlantic sturgeon’s most important spawning area. Atlantic sturgeon eggs, Fox explained, are sticky; they adhere to the first thing they touch. If that thing is sand, silt or mud, the eggs will quickly be covered over and smothered. Rock surface, then, becomes virtually the only substrate in the Delaware River that Atlantic sturgeon eggs can attach to and survive long enough to hatch.

    Credit: (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

    This Atlantic sturgeon was caught and released in an Aug. 8, 2010 census on the James River in Virginia.

    Much of the lower Delaware River and Bay is sand, silt and mud, but in a stretch of river between Philadelphia International Airport and Wilmington, Delaware, bedrock and boulders stud the seafloor, making this area a key Atlantic sturgeon spawning ground — and a headache for ships. To deepen the channel here, the Army Corps blasted the bedrock and boulders with explosives.

    “Sturgeon seek out those hard bottom areas of the river, which are in the navigation channel,” Fox said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is blowing the crap out of sturgeon spawning habitat in the river, and they’ve knocked that habitat back.”

    Ed Voigt, spokesperson for the Corps’ Philadelphia District, which oversaw the project, said the agency followed all the precautions mandated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which included conducting rock blasting only between Dec. 1 and March 15, a timeframe when the Atlantic sturgeon are not spawning. He insisted that no habitat was lost. “Everywhere we moved rock, there was rock underneath,” he said. “We just lowered it somewhat.”

    While he admitted some sturgeon could have been harmed or killed, Voigt said National Marine Fisheries allows for a certain amount of collateral damage, “basically recognizing that life isn’t perfect,” but that the project didn’t even reach that limit.

    “There might have been one or two [sturgeon killed] in the whole course of the project, but they were just sturgeon we found,” he said. “We did not decrease their numbers.”

    Dissolved oxygen levels too low

    Before Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Delaware River was so polluted with industrial chemicals and raw sewage that a so-called dead zone had formed in a large swath of the waterway around Philadelphia.

    Like humans, fish need oxygen; without it, they suffocate. In general, fish require around five milligrams per liter of dissolved oxygen to survive. Untreated wastewater breeds bacteria, and fertilizers and other nutrients spark algal and other microorganism blooms. Fueled by the untreated wastewater, these organisms out-compete the fish, consuming the oxygen they need. At the time of the Clean Water Act’s passing, much of the lower Delaware around the tri-state metropolitan areas had zero, or very little, dissolved oxygen, rendering it effectively dead.

    ‘They’re saying they still need to study it, but we have so few Atlantic sturgeon left that you can literally study it to death, and that’s what’s happening here.’

    Sturgeon — especially juveniles — are particularly sensitive to low dissolved oxygen content levels. The Delaware River Basin Commission, the interstate agency in charge of setting dissolved oxygen thresholds in the river, maintains that a level of 3.5 milligrams per liter is sufficient for fish species in the areas around Wilmington and Philadelphia — a criterion that the commission set in 1967 and has never changed.

    In 2017, the commission resolved to finally review its 50-year-old dissolved oxygen content thresholds in that area of the river through a series of studies. One of them, conducted by The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in 2018, found that most fish species have a minimum threshold that is above 3.5. For normal survival and growth, the report said, juvenile sturgeon require a minimum dissolved oxygen content level of 6.3 milligrams per liter.

    More delays

    The 2017 initiative’s deadline was extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the commission said last year it would be completed by September of this year. However, Kate Schmidt, spokesperson for the commission, said that is no longer the case.

    “I believe the schedule is pushed out a little bit,” Schmidt said. “The study part of it is wrapping up soon and we are anticipating putting out some final products, like reports, this year.”

    Credit: (Delaware Riverkeeper Network)

    Another highway billboard for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s campaign for the critically endangered Atlantic sturgeon

    But any decision on changing the threshold, Schmidt said, would be part of  a different process entirely, requiring public hearings and comments, reviews and, finally rule-making.

    According to Schmidt, the biggest driver of persistently low dissolved oxygen content levels in the river is discharge from 12 wastewater treatment facilities scattered along the banks of the river, between Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    “To improve sewage treatment at some of these municipal plants is a heavy financial load,” Schmidt said. “If you’re making them improve their treatment, the costs shouldn’t necessarily be passed on to ratepayers who might already be disadvantaged, so there’s that factor that’s going into our study as well.”

    Time is nearly up

    Van Rossum contends that, while rigorous research is necessary, it should have been done a long time ago. “Think about the people at the DRBC [Delaware River Basin Commission], at the government agencies, who could do something about this, who could make a meaningful change, who a decade ago could have passed oxygen standards that would have helped this species thrive and procreate and expand, but they chose not to,” she said. “They’re saying they still need to study it, but we have so few Atlantic sturgeon left that you can literally study it to death, and that’s what’s happening here.”

    Which is the reason, Van Rossum continued, that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has taken the unique approach of appealing to otherwise unsuspecting drivers on one of the busiest sections of roadway in the region.

    “That’s the reason for this campaign,” she said. “Because I really believe that if the people speak up and stand up for the sturgeon, that we will get the changes we need.”


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