ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER RECEIVES
BIOMIMICRY GRANT FROM 3M
The Somerset County Park Commission Environmental Education Center (EEC) has received a $50,000 Eco Grant from 3M to develop a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum field trip program using the theme of biomimicry. The grant will be matched by funds donated by the Somerset County Park Foundation.
According to the Biomimicry Institute, "Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies."
The EEC is in a unique position to develop and implement a science-based environmental and conservation education program based on the biodiversity of the Great Swamp basin. The living laboratory of Lord Stirling Park, adjacent to the EEC, provides excellent opportunities for environmental STEM education.
Biomimicry curriculum will be used as:
-A new way for young people to view and value the natural world; to see Nature
not just as something to learn about,
but as something to learn from
-A compelling way to present science, technology, engineering, and math subjects
-A tool to enhance and express creativity through design, with hands-on, minds-
on, project-based activities
-A way to connect school subjects to one another, and school subjects to the real
world beyond classroom walls
-A unique and powerful way to think and learn about sustainability
The 3M Eco Grant and matching funds will be dedicated to the development and marketing a new science-based K-12 biomimicry curriculum focused on the unique biology of the Great Swamp Basin. The EEC staff will support teachers and educators through onsite field trips, school outreach, online resources, and teacher training workshops.
Funding will also be used to renovate existing space at the EEC as a biomimicry lab, enhance existing trails and facilities with interpretive signage, and to create printed and digital resources for teachers and educators. Grant money would also go towards scholarships for school field trips, and a long term evaluation study to determine the impact of the programs.
Shawn McCrohan, Manager of the EEC commented, ""It is exciting to be working on a project that will have young people looking for ways to apply nature's adaptive strategies to solve some of today's biggest environmental challenges as well as other innovative solutions based on nature."
3M is awarding almost $400,000 to 10 organizations with its 2014 Eco Grants, which are aimed at connecting kids to nature and improving environmental and conservation education for youth. Since 2001, 3M's environmental giving program has invested more than $25 million in sustainability initiatives as part of the company's vision of improving every life.
The Somerset County Park Commission Environmental Education Center is nestled within the western portion of the Great Swamp Basin of the Passaic River. The variety of habitats includes: floodplains, swamps, rivers, intermittent streams, marshes, meadows, fields, forests, and natural and man-made ponds. These habitats provide homes for diverse plant and animal populations in this environmentally sensitive park. All are within walking distance of the multi-faceted building. An environmentally based library is located within the Center itself. The Exhibit Hall annually hosts environmentally focused presentations that are free to the public.
SUCCESSFUL FOOD BANK COLLECTION AT
"STUFF THE TURKEY" HUNTER PACE
Kashew is flanked by (l to r) Freeholder Peter Palmer, Freeholder Pat Walsh, and Marge Margentino, Manager of Lord Stirling Stable, as they prepare to deliver the non-perishable food items collected at the “Stuff the Turkey” Hunter Pace held at Lord Stirling Stable, 256 South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
The Somerset County Park Commission Lord Stirling Stable, located at 256 South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge, joined with the Friends of Lord Stirling Stable to present the "Stuff the Turkey" Hunter Pace, providing riders the opportunity to make Thanksgiving a little brighter for Somerset County residents in need.
A Hunter Pace is an event for horse and rider in which teams of two to three follow a well-marked course that is 6 to 8 miles in length. There are usually more than 30 fences, up to 3' in height.
Participants were asked to bring non-perishable food items for donation to the Somerset County Food Bank. Among the nearly 175 items that were generously contributed were canned vegetables and fruit, mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, gravy, pasta, breakfast items, sauces, soup, and much more.
SOMERSET COUNTY & HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP
ANNOUNCE FIRST PHASE OF DEVELOPMENT AT
MOUNTAIN VIEW PARK
District 16 State Legislators, Somerset County Freeholders, Hillsborough Township Officials, and representatives of the Somerset County Park Commission officially announced the first phase of development of Mountain View Park at the site of the former GSA Belle Mead Depot in Hillsborough, NJ.
Officials from Somerset County government, the Somerset County Park Commission, and Hillsborough Township recently marked the soon to begin first phase of an athletic complex at Mountain View Park with a ceremony at 141 Mountain View Road in Hillsborough, the site of the former GSA Belle Mead Depot.
Somerset County and Hillsborough Township executed an Offer to Purchase the 369-acre property with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in October of 2008. The Somerset County Improvement Authority ultimately acquired the property in April of 2009 at a cost of $15,735,000. The funds from the purchase were then applied to the environmental cleanup of the former depot.
"Turning the former GSA Belle Mead Depot into a functioning recreational asset for the residents of Somerset County is a huge undertaking that will provide immeasurable value," stated Somerset County Freeholder Deputy Director Mark Caliguire.
"County leadership has focused on this property since the 1950s and it is an honor to satisfy the legacy that they set for us," said Freeholder Peter S. Palmer.
Since the acquisition of the property the County has awarded contracts for several demolition and cleanup activities including removal of approximately 20 miles of rail bed. Additional materials removed and properly disposed of include approximately 1,512 cubic yards of contaminated soil and stone and approximately 2,665,258 square feet of concrete from fourteen (14) foundation slabs. The Waste Water Treatment plant was removed and crushed with its associated 107,000 gallons of gray water and 23,000 gallons of sludge removed and properly disposed.
"This massive conversion from a contaminated property to one that will soon serve as an active recreation option for the residents of south Somerset County is a tribute to cooperative planning," commented Mayor Doug Tomson, Hillsborough Township. "Working closely with the County agencies and the Park Commission has created a plan that will serve our community for many decades to come."
The future Mountain View Park is contiguous to the County's 5,500-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve and in close proximity to the Township's Ann Van Middlesworth Park. It is flat and relatively open, providing a sweeping vista of the nearby Sourland Mountain.
The County and the Township also entered into a cooperative agreement to oversee the cleanup and develop a plan for the future use of the facility. The agreement created a GSA Joint Administrative Committee that oversaw the preparation of a Master Plan that identified a long-range vision and strategy to develop the proposed site into a regional park to serve the leisure services and recreational needs of the county residents throughout the southern portion of Somerset County. The process included stakeholder meetings and public charrettes to solicit public input.
Phase 1 of the project includes the development of two (2) adult baseball fields, four (4) Youth Baseball fields and one (1) special needs Challenger Field. All fields will be lighted. Amenities include batting cages, playground, pavilion, a concession/restroom facility, park maintenance facility, and a paved perimeter multi-use trail with associated parking. The plan also accommodates the possible future development of six (6) additional baseball/softball fields.
Approximately 40 acres near the Mountain View Road frontage will be reserved for future commercial use. Proceeds from the sale of the 40 acres will be utilized to offset the park's development.
The project continues to promote the goals of the Somerset County Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan (December, 2000) by implementing the goal of providing open space for a diverse mix of quality recreational experiences appropriate for a County-wide park system. This goal further states that "In view of the county-wide spread of suburbanization, greater priority should be given to acquiring larger, intact tracts of land with the highest amenity value and greatest amount of developable land area for active recreation facilities and supporting services."
An August, 2005 Capital Facilities Study also identified the need for a "South Central County Athletic Complex" which recommends the development of "an active recreation complex in the southern part of the County to complement the nearby 3,000 acre Sourland Mountain Preserve."
Rotary/Rutgers Enabling Gardens Partnership
Grows Lives One Seed (and Pergola) at a Time
Freeholder Peter S. Palmer presents a citation commending members of Rotary District 7510 on the creation of a healing space, which includes a pergola and container plantings, in the courtyard of Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center in Bridgewater. Participating in the presentation are, from left to right, County Park Commission Director Raymond Brown, Park Commission Leisure Services Division Deputy Director Cynthia Sullivan, Park Commission Therapeutic Recreation Manager Dina Trunzo, Branchburg Rotary Club President Victoria Maloney, Freeholder Robert Zaborowski, Branchburg Rotary Club President-elect Mike Cohen, Branchburg Rotary member Senator Christopher (Kip) Bateman, Freeholder Peter S. Palmer, County Department of Human Services Director Michael Frost, Rotary District 7510 Director of Club & Community Service and Branchburg Rotary Club member Laura DePrado, and Park Commission Senior Program Coordinator Leora Shahay.
Into every garden, a little rain must fall. Such was the case when the Board of Chosen Freeholders presented a citation commending the Rotary/Rutgers Enabling Gardens Partnership on the creation of a healing space, including a pergola and container plantings, in the courtyard of Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center.
"Because the open courtyard takes in a great deal of heat during the summer, the addition of the pergola, along with some climbing plants, will provide shade and color for the benefit of patients of the Mental Health Center, especially those who participate in the Therapeutic Horticulture program," said Freeholder Peter S. Palmer. "The horticultural program offers organized gardening sessions with opportunities for patients to participate in hands-on activities for the therapeutic benefits that gardening can provide."
Horticultural activities that take place in the courtyard have included the planting, harvesting and sampling of a variety of fruits and vegetables, floral arranging, sensory activities and crafts.
The Enabling Gardens initiative is a partnership between Rotary District 7510 and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension of Rutgers University. Funding for the project was provided by Rotary District 7510, local Rotary Clubs and Rotarian business owners. The pergola was installed by Archadeck of Morris County.
The Therapeutic Horticulture program, which is run by Park Commission Senior Program Coordinator Leora Shahay, is supported by the Somerset County Park Foundation in conjunction with an annual grant from the Garden Club of Somerset Hills.
EAST COUNTY PARK TRAIL OPENS FOR PUBLIC USE
County & local officials cut the ribbon to open the new loop walking & biking trail at the 150-acre East County Park bordered by Dubois, Reinman, and Old Stirling Roads in Warren. From left to right; Mayor Gary DiNardo, Committee Person George Lazo, Deputy Mayor Mick Marion, Park Commission Vice President Bill Crosby, Freeholder Patricia Walsh, Park Commissioner Paul Consiglio, Park Commission President Steve Fuerst, Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione, Committee Person Carolann Garafola, Freeholder Peter Palmer.
Somerset County Freeholder and Park Commission liaison Patricia Walsh has announced that the new loop trail at the 150-acre East County Park, bordered by Dubois, Reinman and Old Stirling roads in Warren Township, is officially open to the public.
The Board of Freeholders, the Warren Township Committee, and the Somerset County Park Commission have developed the facility as a partnership. Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new trail on September 10.
"The county and township have a history of partnering on the development of athletic fields within the park," Freeholder Walsh said. “These include a synthetic-turf multi-use field, a synthetic-turf soccer field and a natural-turf soccer field. The current design adds a network of multi-use trails throughout the park that will connect the existing uses and make more of the park accessible to the public.”
The trail features an 8-foot-wide stone multi-use loop approximately four-tenths of a mile long. Also included is a 26-space paved parking area, accessible from Reinman Road.
"We are very pleased to be partnering with Warren Township to realize the full vision of East County Park," said Freeholder Walsh. "The trail network opens up the most scenic portion of the park to the public and allows for the future development of additional passive recreational uses."
“It’s very exciting to see this park concept become a reality. Warren residents have asked the Township Committee to explore further recreational opportunities in the Township,” said Deputy Mayor Mick Marion. ”Given our past positive experiences working with the County Freeholders and County Park Commission on the Pop Warner Complex and Duderstadt property, it was a natural progression. This area is one of the most picturesque pieces of property in the Township; it represents the Townships rural heritage. The trails will provide a family friendly location designed for the public to enjoy walking, running, biking, or pushing strollers. After a long tough winter, residents will look forward to and be excited about our late-summer, early-fall opening.”
“We are pleased to have been able to provide new passive recreation opportunities to East County residents,” commented Park Commission Director Ray Brown. “The trail loop is an important addition to a growing park facility.”
PARK COMMISSION PARTNERS WITH RARITAN HEADWATERS ASSOCIATION
TO PROTECT THE RARITAN RIVER
The Somerset County Park Commission, led by the Ranger Division, has entered into a collaborative arrangement with the Raritan Headwaters Association to promote an educational initiative to protect the Raritan River from the introduction of invasive species.
The Headwaters project is funded by an Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen fellowship and focuses on spreading awareness about the nuisance alga, didymo, and the importance of leaving no trace of visits to the streams and rivers enjoyed by fisherman, kayakers and boaters.
The basic “Leave No Trace” principle being promoted is to have fishermen, kayakers, boaters, and other stream recreationalists regularly inspect their gear including removal of rocks, mud, plants, moss and other materials; thoroughly cleaning equipment to remove any attached materials; and completely dry equipment in the sun following use.
Aquatic equipment is vulnerable to transferring known aquatic invasives including whirling disease, zebra mussels, water chestnut, New Zealand mud snail and future unknown threats. Aquatic invasive species are not native to an ecosystem and when introduced can cause economic and/or environmental harm or threaten human health.
Park Commission Rangers will serve as a positive presence at parks and Commission events to educate visitors on the importance of taking personal responsibility for keeping the Raritan River healthy, clean, and safe. In addition, “Leave No Trace” flyers will be posted at Park Commission facilities along the river.
For more information on the “Leave No Trace” program contact Angela Gorczyca at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (908) 234-1852 x315.
Howe Athletic Complex at Colonial Park Ribbon-cutting and Dedication
May 22, 2014
Senator Kip Bateman and Freeholder Zaborowski
The Somerset County Park Commission, State and County officials, representatives from the Somerset County Park Commission, and members of Gymkhana Cricket Club, Somerset Cavaliers Cricket Club, and Dutch Total Soccer officially opened the Howe Athletic Complex at Colonial Park in Somerset, New Jersey.
The Howe Complex, off Colonial Drive at the northeastern corner of the park near Elizabeth Avenue, includes two adult soccer fields, three youth soccer fields, and a full sized cricket pitch.
“We have been waiting a long time for a pitch like this,” commented Aslam Khan of the Cavaliers. Added Rana Aftab of Gymkhana, “It’s a beautiful pitch, perfectly flat as it should be.”
“It’s a great location and a rare thing to have so many fields in the same place,” commented Jordi Meijer of Dutch Total Soccer. “We often find ourselves spread out at many school fields but here adult and children’s games can be played at the same time.”
The facility was constructed on the former homestead of Dr. Eugene and Lois Howe. The Howe’s placed the funds received from the sale of the property to the County in a trust account to be returned to the Somerset County Park Commission upon their passing. Mrs. Howe passed away in 1995 and Dr. Howe passed in 2008. A significant portion of the trust’s assets were used to construct the complex, a generous gift to the people of Somerset County.
Dr. Howe was well known in Franklin for volunteer work that included co-founding the Meadows Foundation that continues today to serve as stewards of early Dutch and American Heritage. His passion for reading, poetry and preservation drove him to also become a volunteer at the former Franklin Inn in East Millstone, a structure that also served as a used bookstore.
Dr. Howe was employed as a scientist and researcher at MERCK & Co. where he was awarded 18 patents for his work in isolating and synthesizing amino acids.
Reservations for use of the soccer fields and cricket pitch may be made by online at http://www.somersetcountyparks.org/applications/applications.pdf or by calling the Park Commission at 908-722-1200, ext. 225.
SOMERSET COUNTY PARK COMMISSION HELPS
RESTORE THE AMERICAN CHESTNUT
The First Orchard of Its Kind Planted at Lord Stirling Park
Chestnut trees planted from seed are protected from rodent damage by tree tubes. A fence will keep the deer from browsing the young leaves. By the middle of summer a small Chestnut forest should begin to appear. The site is visible from the Environmental Education Center West Observation Blind at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge, NJ.
The Pennsylvania/New Jersey Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) recently planted a progeny test orchard of 250 of the most advanced, potentially blight-resistant American chestnut seedlings at the Somerset County Park Commission, Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The seedlings, called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0, are part of a unique breeding program led by TACF to restore the American chestnut to the eastern forests of America.
Corporate volunteers from Verizon and Johnson & Johnson helped prepare the area for the planting. Goldman Sachs employees provided labor and funding through the New Jersey Land Conservancy’s Partners for Parks corporate volunteer program.
Once the giants of the eastern forests, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall and numbered in the billions. They were a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife, and an essential component of the human economy. In the beginning of the 20th century the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight was accidentally imported from Asia and spread rapidly through the American chestnut population, killing an estimated four billion mature trees from Maine to Georgia by 1950. Several attempts to breed blight-resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.
In 1983, a group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation with a mission to develop blight-resistant American chestnut trees. Now assisted by nearly 6,000 members, volunteers, and partners, the organization is undertaking the planting of potentially blight-resistant trees in select locations throughout the eastern US.
“The Pennsylvania/New Jersey Chapter’s partnership with Somerset County Parks represents a huge step in our chestnut restoration program,” said TACF Regional Science Coordinator Sara Fitzsimmons. “This orchard is the first of its kind in New Jersey, enabling us to test and evaluate our Restoration Chestnuts 1.0 for blight resistance and growth characteristics.”
Jane Parks, Environmental Education Center, Environmental Events Specialist stated, “The Somerset County Park Commission Environmental Education Center started working with TACF in 2006 by planting a test site of American and Chinese Chestnuts. We are very pleased that our location has been selected for the first Restoration Chestnut 1.0 planting in New Jersey. The planting aligns with our mission to educate the public about the importance of preserving our fragile environment.”
PARK COMMISSION EARNS AWARD FOR
RECENTLY PUBLISHED HISTORY
The Somerset County Park Commission has been presented with the 2014 New Jersey Recreation and Parks Association (NJRPA) Agency Showcase Award for Natural Beauty of the Somerset County Parks, a history of the Park Commission in text and photos.
The award was presented at the 39th Annual NJRPA Awards Program and Dinner at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The Agency Showcase Award recognizes outstanding marketing campaigns and
promotional materials that encourage participation in recreation activities or promote health and wellness programs.
Natural Beauty of the Somerset County Parks by Clifford W. Zink chronicles the history of the Somerset County Park Commission with 425 illustrations and photos from the 57-year history of the Commission. The funding for Natural Beauty was provided by the Somerset County Park Foundation. The Foundation is a 501c3 whose mission is to preserve, support, and promote Somerset County Park Commission programs, facilities, and open space through advocacy and fundraising.
Natural Beauty traces the development of Somerset County’s park system from its roots in the County’s agricultural past through its evolution over nearly six decades into an organization utilizing creative public-private partnerships to preserve open space and serve more than 2,000,000 visitors and program participants annually. The book highlights information and excerpts from historic documents and interviews with former and present elected officials, commissioners, directors, planners, naturalists, rangers and recreation staff.
Natural Beauty is available free with a $40 donation to the Somerset County Park Foundation by visiting the Somerset County Park Commission Headquarters 355 Milltown Road, Bridgewater, NJ, 08807; 908 722-1200.