Learning the History of the Lenni Lenape

When I was in fourth grade the entire year focused on New Jersey history. As much as I disliked Mrs. Stackfleth, I will say she was great at teaching the history of the Garden State.

We spent a great deal of time learning about the Lenni Lenape, whose traditional territory spanned what is now eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Lower New York, and eastern Delaware. “Lenni-Lenape,” literally means “Men of Men”, but is translated to mean “Original People.” The two tribes we focused on the most were the Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation; both from New Jersey. Just like most things in Jersey today, one was in what is now considered South Jersey and one was in what is now considered North Jersey.

Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation is made up of descendants of Algonquian-speaking Nanticoke and Lenape peoples who remained in, or returned to, their ancient homeland at the Delaware Bay. Within the larger South Jersey tribe, there were three main groups; the Munsee (People of the Stony Country) lived in the north. The Unami (People Down River) and Unalachtigo (People Who Live Near the Ocean) lived in the central and southern part of the homeland.

The Ramapough Lenape Nation were a Munsee-speaking band, an Algonquian language-speaking people. Although the Ramapough Lenape Indian ancestors have resided in the Ramapough Mountains for thousands of years, there is little documentation in New York or New Jersey that refers to the nation. This is most commonly believed to be due to a lack of written language by the Ramapough people. As a result, most information has been passed orally from generation to generation, much of which has been lost to the ages.

The Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation are both recognized by the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs.

Throughout the year all the Tribal Nations in New Jersey as well as the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs offer programs on their histories and original ways of life. It is a great way to learn about the original residents of Jersey.

Always Bee Prepared

Nature is a truly amazing thing. Whether you like to go for a hike, fly fish, or something else, being outside is always an adventure.

Last night’s nature adventure took place at the local Roxbury Community Garden. This is my third season at the garden and it has been a great experience. I’ve met wonderful people and have enjoyed the satisfaction of planting something and watching it grow and provide food. Gardening has also been a great respite from the craziness of every day life.

Last night it also provided bees… lots of them.

Seven thousand to be exact. Roxbury is lucky enough to also offer an apiary. It is right next to the garden, so the bees can swing by and borrow a cup of pollen when they need it. Well, yesterday they decided to make a break for it.

Swarm! Swarm! Swarm!

When I arrived at the garden last night there were plenty of people taking advantage of the beautiful weather. I noticed “bugs” in the area and thought to myself that anglers fishing would certainly appreciate the evening hatch. Until I arrived at my garden plot and realized those bugs were actually bees and they decided to take up residence in my plot.

Yikes!

Honey bees are a an important part of our ecosystem. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service point to general strengths in honey bee colonies. In 2017, the United States had 2.88 million honey bee colonies, down 12 percent from the record high 3.28 million colonies in 2012, but down less than 1 percent from 2007.

We had quite the discussion as to what we should do. I decided to do what my mother always told me when I was a child and needed help; “ask for help from the friendly policeman.”

I called the Roxbury Police dispatch and explained we had a swarm at the garden and wanted to know if they had any way to contact the Environmental Commission, as they would know how to contact the bee keepers. They said they would see what they could do and would also dispatch an officer.

I was able to capture some of the fascinating process on video.

Luckily, our Garden Manager, Anne, arrived shortly after calling the police and helped us find a solution. As a member of the Roxbury Environmental Commission, she was able to reach out to a few people and come up with a plan. Enter Ken Hyman, Bee Keeper (and Anne’s neighbor).

Ken and his wife are bee keepers and bee conservationists, as well as members of the New Jersey Bee Keepers Association. They were able to come and collect just about the entire swarm of 7,000 bees safely.

An officer arrived at the garden as well to check and make sure no one was injured or stung, which we very much appreciated.

The bees moving to their new temporary home.

It was a long and fascinating process. We were all appreciative Ken and his wife were able to come so quickly and volunteer their services to resolve this specific issue. We were also appreciative the Roxbury Police checked on us to make sure no one was injured or had any allergic reactions.

So what do YOU do if you ever have a swarm of bees in your backyard?

First and foremost, do NOT take a care of Raid or other bug spray to it. Honeybees, unlike yellow jackets, are happy little insects. They pollinate flowers and make delicious honey for all of us to enjoy. According to the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, across the United States, and especially in New Jersey, the increase in development has caused a decrease in the plants and habitat that are critical to the survival of our pollinators. This reduction of food and habitat has drastically reduced pollinator populations. Widespread use of pesticides and herbicides are also influencing this decline.

The best thing to do is contact a beekeeper and ask to have the bees relocated. If we had not been able to relocate those bees, they had a very small chance of overnight survival. If you would like to encourage bees and other pollinators, do not use harsh chemicals on your lawn or in your garden. If you have a birdbath, change out the water regularly to avoid mosquito growth and provide stones or sticks in the water so they don’t drown when they land for a break and a drink. Plant a pollinator garden to encourage bees and butterflies.

If you are a Roxbury resident and are interested in joining the apiary, contact the Roxbury Environmental Commission.

It just goes to show, you never know what wonders of nature you will experience. Yesterday I was privileged to see and experience one of nature’s life cycles.

How Do I Get Rid of My Christmas Tree?

Now that the dumpster fire that was 2020 is over people are starting to take down their decorations and toss the Christmas tree. When I was a kid, you just dragged it to the curb and that was it. However, we now have many options in Jersey to give new life to the tree that gave our families so much joy during the holiday season.

Cape May County Park & Zoo

A zoo may not sound like a place that could use a Christmas tree, but the animals just love them! They are great treats for the goats and play things for the other animals. The Cape May County Park & Zoo is accepting Christmas trees until January 10th. Trees can be dropped off daily, 7am – dusk, in the Office parking lot (your first right when you enter the park). Make sure you remove all ornaments and tinsel.

Our 2020 Christmas tree

Mulch, mulch, mulch…

Many towns now offer curb-side pickup of trees for mulching. After chipping, the mulch is sometimes offered to town residents for their personal use, while others make it available to their community gardens. Each town will have their own pickup schedule. It is best to check on your town’s website or contact your local DPW (Department of Public Works).

Sand dunes

If you live down the shore, it is also worthwhile to check with your DPW to see if they are collecting trees for use in local sand dunes. In the past Island Beach State Park has collected trees from all over the state to help support their sand dune project, however, they are skipping this year.

In Your Backyard

When it comes giving new life to your Christmas tree, don’t forget to look to your own backyard. Break off branches and place them around to protect your garden beds throughout the winter. Additionally, if you take off the needles and just use the branches, you can use them in your compost pile.

Home Depot

Whether you love or hate “big box” stores, they can play an important role in the community. Home Depot has partnered with a tree chipping company to collect and chip Christmas trees. They started the day after Christmas and will continue throughout January. Make sure to contact your local Home Depot to confirm they are collecting trees in your area as well as their collection schedule.

Final Reminders

A few final reminders before you recycle your tree:

  • Remove all ornaments and tinsel, garland, lights, and ribbons
  • Do not wrap your tree in plastic
  • Remove the base
  • Some towns do not recycle wreaths
  • If you have any questions, make sure to contact your local DPW or recycling center before bringing your tree to the curb or recycling location

My 2020 Jersey Christmas List

This has been a hard year for all of us; especially for the small business owners of New Jersey. Like many, I am urging everyone to shop small as much as possible this year.

My Christmas list this year has a special Jersey flair this year. These are gifts that are made by Jersey artisans available in Jersey stores.

Cape May Suncatchers

Cape May Suncatchers
Credit: Cape May Suncatchers

These works of art by Tommy of Cape May Suncatchers are just amazing. He digs up antique bottles found around the beaches of Cape May and then carves them into beautiful ornaments, suncatchers, and window-hangers. This would certainly be a unique and lovely gift, especially for those who love Cape May.

Just Jersey Goods

You can find just about ANYTHING with a unique Jersey attitude from the Jersey Jersey Goods store in Morristown. From cutting boards and mugs for the foodie to books for the state historian, you can find almost anything with a Jersey theme at this awesome shop. Personally, I am partial to the Parkway token keychain. For decades, it was a required item in every car as you went down the shore. And it is worth mentioning I was a champion at pitching it up and over the car from the passenger side as well as the trick shot through the sunroof.

Sue Sachs Jewelry

Credit: Sue Sachs

Located in Livingston, Sue has been making jewelry and crafting metal objects for more then 30 years. Her jewelry and metal objects are crafted in sterling silver, brass, copper, and/or gold. I feel they are masterfully created and bring a sense of whimsy to each piece. I especially love her garden pieces, as I have become an avid gardener the last two years and you can often find me at the Roxbury Community Garden during the season. Her “shovel series” is definitely at the top of my list!

Reddie to Burn

Credit: Reddit to Burn

OK, I am completely partial on this one. Our intelligent and incredibly talented Goddaughter and niece has started her own candle making business. Reddie to Burn Candle Co. offers a wide variety of soy hand-made candles and wax melts and uses clean fragrances for just the right amount of scent. Which one is the best? Well that’s up to you. Personally, I really like the idea of a having access to the smell of a library any time I want it. One of my favorite places in college was leaning up against a book shelf in the stacks.

Gift Certificates

If you have that person who is just too hard to buy for, consider purchasing a gift certificate from a locally-owned business. From nail salons, to restaurants, to sport shops, every business is having a hard time right now and I am sure your gift certificate purchase would be appreciated.

Local Non-Profits

Just as small businesses are struggling, local non-profit organizations are having an even harder time right now. Many people are out of work and every dollar in a family budget has been stretched to its limit. Many organizations are really in need of support so they can continue to help their local communities. Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a thoughtful and unique gift. Here are some that have a special place in my heart:

  • Peters Valley School of Craft: Peters Valley enriches lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts. This community, brings together established and emerging artists from around the globe. Peters Valley was officially incorporated as a non-profit in 1970 and is located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • The New Jersey Historical Society: The NJ History Society collects, preserves, teaches and interprets New Jersey history through its archives, research library, and educational programs. Not only is it a great place to visit, the Society offers materials for teachers to help share the story of New Jersey with their students.
  • Discover Jersey Arts: A collaboration between ArtPride New Jersey and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts is a multifaceted program dedicated to increasing the awareness of and participation in the arts in New Jersey. It is coordinated through the regional Jersey Arts Marketers (JAM) network and provides resources for both arts organizations and patrons alike.
  • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: Even though it is not New Jersey-exclusive, the NY/NJ Trail Conference plays an important role in our great state. This is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains, and protects public trails. Together with organization partners, the Train Conference strives to ensure that the trails and natural areas we all enjoy are sustainable and accessible for generations to come.
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation: The mission of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected over 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bay, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks.

No matter how you decide to celebrate the holiday, I urge you to “shop small” and look to support the businesses and non-profits right in your own community. After all, these are the businesses and organizations that sponsor your son’s little league team or purchase an ad in the high school play’s program. They will (God willing) be there for the long-haul providing services, products, and jobs to you and your neighbors.

Protecting Our Parks

We’ve all had to make alternate plans this year due to COVID-19 and the following lockdown. As a result, many had to cancel vacation plans and stay local. And that means lots of people in town, county, and state parks.

Unfortunately, not everyone values our park systems.

Just a few weeks ago, Hedden Park in Dover/Randolph was closed for two weeks due to vandalism, litter, damage to the creek, and a dumpster fire. Today, we went to a park and unfortunately the continuation of poor behavior.

HeddenPark

Damage to Jackson Brook at Hedden Park. Credit: NJ.com

Two weeks ago while at the Delaware Gap, we had the opportunity to talk to a Park Ranger and he told us they spend an incredible amount of time telling people to get out of the small creeks, as they are not for swimming and have no lifeguard supervision. As we were leaving, we observed several emergency vehicles heading towards the Gap. When we returned home and turned on the television, we learned someone died right in the area where we were.

Some of you may normally not bother visiting your local parks. And I can spot newbies a mile away. When they come to the park they. bring. everything. If they have children, some actually bring high-chairs and play pens. Kids are either in the river or ignoring the beauty around them as they play on their phones.

Cigarettes-sm

Trash left behind at Saxton Falls.

If you are new to New Jersey’s parks, I hope you enjoy, but I ask that you respect the space. Do not dam up any creeks or rivers to create swimming holes. Moving rocks will release sediment and upset the ecological balance of the water system. It is also a swimming hazard. There have been five drownings at the Delaware Water Gap so far in 2020. Just today there was a water death at Upper Greenwood Lake. If you want to swim, go where it is allowed and there are lifeguards on duty. Don’t leave your trash behind. Carry in/carry out. Leave the space cleaner than how you found it.

When all of this is over, many will never go to a park again. Some might have just discovered a little spot near their home to enjoy the outdoors and have a new appreciation for open space. I ask on behalf of all of us that use parks in the Garden State on a regular basis, that you respect the natural space availed to you. These are wonderful spaces that have been set aside for all of us to enjoy. Please take only photos and leave only footprints.

Heritage

heritage noun
her·​i·​tage | \ ˈher-ə-tij  , ˈhe-rə- \
Definition of heritage
1: property that descends to an heir
2a: something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor : LEGACY, INHERITANCE proud of her Italian heritage
a rich heritage of folklore
The battlefields are part of our heritage and should be preserved.
b: TRADITION
the party’s heritage of secularism

There have been a lot of conversations about heritage as of late. Right now, what one person looks to as a proud heritage, another person looks to as oppression. This is resulting in the removal of statues and the review of what is often a tumultuous history of our nation.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

We all learned that rhyme as children when we were taught Columbus “discovered” America.

Well… not quite.

The truth is, as children what we were taught was not always accurate. According to Columbus’ journal, he suggested the enslavement of the indigenous people he encountered in modern-day Haiti. While he did not find the riches he expected, he sent back 500 indigenous peoples in the form of slaves to Queen Isabella of Spain. The horrified Queen immediately returned the individuals, as she considered them Spanish subjects, thus they could not be enslaved.

Columbus made a total of four trips to the “New World” during his days of exploration. The man is now a point of controversy due to the true history of his exploration. Some consider him a great explorer, as the first in a long line of explorers to travel to the Americas. Others remind us of the flawed history we were taught and his inhumane treatment of the indigenous people he encountered.

So, why am I telling you all this? Stay with me.

New Jersey has been the home of countless Italian immigrants and Americans of Italian descent; like me.

I was born in Columbus Hospital in Newark. I grew up with macaroni on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. – sharp. When I passed my driver’s exam, one of my new jobs was heading to DiPaolo’s Bakery on Bloomfield Avenue before dinner on Sunday to pick up bread and dessert. I went to (and still go to) the annual Feast of St. Gerard at St. Lucy’s Church; the Church my Great Grandmother would help clean every day after morning mass. We were taught to be proud Americans – but to never forget where you came from.

Enter Christopher Columbus.

During October, Italian Heritage Month, Columbus Day is celebrated; often with parades and sometimes, a day off from work. Due to the recent civil unrest, there are calls to remove statues of Columbus and eliminate the holiday. Some have even suggesting replacing the day with “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

In the city of my birth, there are – or were – two Columbus statues. The larger of the two was in Washington Park. It stood as a gift from the Italian community of Newark in 1927. Funds were privately raised directly from the immigrants who helped turn Newark into a modern metropolis. The second one I saw often, as it was in front of St. Francis Xavier Church on Bloomfield Avenue. My Grandmother was part of the St. Francis Senior Citizens Club. Another “job” of mine once I was able to drive was to drop her off and pick her up from her meetings. This statue was a gift to Newark from the Italian Tribune newspaper.

Both are now gone.

Under the cover of darkness, Mayor Ras Baraka had the statue removed from Washington Park. In a press release from the Mayor, he said the removal of the statue is not a slight to the Italian-American community, but as a “statement against the barbarism, enslavement, and oppression that this explorer represents.”

Trust me when I tell you, a slight is exactly what that act was.

The second statue was removed by the Italian Tribune before the Mayor made the decision to remove it as well. Additionally, a Columbus statue was removed from West Orange by their Mayor. Another statue was recently removed in Trenton.

That statue the Mayor took down represents more than just a man. It represents the hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants and Americans of Italian descent that made important contributions to the history of Newark, New Jersey, and the United States. There is no doubt the history of Columbus we were taught as children is not accurate. He does not represent all that is great of the Italian heritage. However, if the statues of Columbus come down, will something to commemorate all Italian immigrants and their descendants have done go in its place? While I hope so, I doubt it.

StLucys

St. Lucy’s Church

Italian immigrants throughout the country assimilated quickly to their new homeland. Oftentimes, they gave up their language and in many instances, their ethnic names within one generation. Pasquale became Patrick and Lucia became Lucille – all in the effort to be more “American.” When I was a child, I used to bring home books in Italian from the library and beg my Grandmother to teach me. Her answer was always the same; “you are American and you speak English!” To this day I am still trying to learn.

Despite the often posted “Italians need not apply,” they worked hard. They were masons, butchers, and worked on the railroad. The men built the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. They enlisted in the military of their new homeland, and fought on the front lines of two World Wars.

I hope a new statue will be placed in Newark as a way to commemorate all the contributions of the Italian community. Here are four examples:

Mother Cabrini: Saint Francis Cabrini was an Italian immigrant who created a missionary to help other Italian immigrants when they came to America. She is the first American Saint to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Amerigo Vespucci: Our country’s literal namesake, Vespucci traveled to the “New World” multiple times during his time of exploration.

Giovanni da Verrazzano: da Verrazzano’s expedition to the “New World” traveled almost the entire East Coast of the United States and Canada.

Monsignor Joseph Perotti: As a young priest, Father Perotti immigrated to Newark in 1896 and became the first Pastor of St. Lucy’s Church, an important Italian place of worship, where he remained his entire pastoral career, until his death in 1933.

These are just four of the countless members of the Italian community in Newark that are deserving of recognition.

I am a proud American. I am also proud of my heritage.

Right now there’s a lot of yelling on both sides of the argument to remove the statues of Christopher Columbus. A lot of yelling, but not a lot of listening. I really wish both sides could come to an understanding that would make everyone happy, however, I doubt that will happen. I truly fear if the statues come down, Columbus day is removed from the calendar, all the good Italian immigrants and the generations after them will be lost to the ages.

We will truly forget where we came from.

The Official Jersey Bucket List

As we all continue to wait to be paroled from Coronavirus jail, many of us are making plans of what we would like to do once we are free to go anywhere and do anything. Well, this had me start to make a “Jersey bucket list;” all the things Jersey-related someone should do at some point.

I hope you consider checking out some of these ideas once we are turned loose. Whether you are a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or someone who loves the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone.

Visit High Point: At 1,803 feet above sea level, High Point State Park is the highest spot in the state. High Point is also the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The view is simply spectacular, as you can see New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The land for High Point State Park, donated by Colonel Anthony R. and Susie Dryden Kuser, was dedicated as a park in 1923. You can hike, swim, fish, and camp.

Hike the New Jersey Section of the Appalachian Trail: While you are checking out High Point, get on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” as it is often referred to, is a non-governmental, independently managed recreation facility of the national park system and is the nation’s longest marked hiking only trail at 2,180 miles. The AT runs from Maine all the way to Georgia. The New Jersey section is 74 miles long. If you are a serious hiker, many can complete the entire New Jersey section in less than a week. It can also be traversed in shorter day hikes. Hiking the Trail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

Complete the Hot Dog Trifecta: In Jersey we have opinions about EVERYTHING. Including who has the best hot dog. For many, it comes down to three: Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hirams in Fort Lee, and Hot Grill in Clifton. I know some who would argue River View East in Elmwood Park or Maui’s Dog House, North Wildwood. We certainly have a ton of great options!

Decide which is the Best Italian Hot Dog: Just like everyone has their favorite hot dog joint, there is always an argument as to who has the best Italian hot dogs. It comes down to two places: Dickie Dee’s in Newark and Jimmy Buff’s in West Orange. Try both and decide for yourself.

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Visit Sunset Beach in Cape May: This is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I could easily spend an entire day at Sunset Beach. Take the kids to play miniature golf, grab a bite to eat the The Grille, or do my favorite thing of all – dig for Cape May diamonds on the beach. The most touching moment of the day takes place as the sun sets. At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

Shop the outlets in Atlantic City: As you leave Cape May, check out the great deals at the outlets in Atlantic City. From Calvin Klein, to Coach, to Cablea’s, there’s something for every member of your family. It is definitely worth the ride!

Visit Morristown National Historical Park: One of my first dates with my now husband was a visit to Jockey Hollow. It is a great place to see “where America survived.” The entire area is known as Morristown National Historical Park and includes multiple interesting places to explore and commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Plan a Wine Tasting Event at One of Jersey’s Wineries: The Garden State is home to over 40 wineries. It’s history goes all the way back to 1758 when Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine “of acceptable quality,” meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France. While New Jersey’s wine history has experienced challenges, it is now flourishing!

Visit all of New Jersey’s Lighthouses: There are over 20 lighthouses still in existence in New Jersey and they are from the top of New Jersey to the bottom; not just down the shore. About half of those are open to the public.

Catch a Wild Brook Trout on a Dry Fly: When people talk about fly fishing they usually think of two things: Montana and the movie A River Runs Through It. What you might not know is that there’s plenty of great places to fly fish right in New Jersey. As someone who has been fly fishing for over two decades, there is nothing like catching a fish – any fish – on top water. To me, the most perfect catch is a native wild brook trout on a dry fly. For me that would be on one of four of my favorite dry flies: an Adams, a Royal Wulff, A Blue Wing Olive, or an Elk Hair Caddis. And not your standard 12 or 13 inch brook trout; a serious brookie. In case you didn’t know, the brook trout is the state’s official fish.

Go to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: One of the most beautiful churches in the state is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. At this occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a minor basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Enjoy Dinner at The Belmont: Growing up, I had two favorite restaurants: The Finish Line and The Belmont and I had favorite dishes at each place. At The Finish Line, I loved their zuppa di pesce. At The Belmont, I know many people go for Stretch’s “Famous” Chicken Savoy, but for me it was always their Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato.  I haven’t been to The Belmont in a long time, and I am way overdue.

Lemonade and a Cheese Steak at The Midway: Like many others, I have great memories of going “down the shore.” I’ve learned your shore stop has a lot to do with you age. When I was a teenager, like many others, my stop was Seaside. A favorite practice of mine was to grab a cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway, sit on one of the many benches, and people watch. It was always fascinating. Sadly, Sandy and the boardwalk fire took away the “shore of my youth” as Governor Christie put it. What hasn’t changed is the opportunity for cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway while people watching.

Visit the Pine Barrens: The Pinelands is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem, stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The reserve contains Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest. It is approximately 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties. The reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston. The Pinelands was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It is also known as the home of the legend of The Jersey Devil.

I’m sure there’s a lot I am missing. What is on your Jersey bucket list?

The Jersey Shore, the Red Knot, and the Horseshoe Crab

While we have all been under lock and key for the last two months, something amazing has been happening outside. Nature has taken over.

Air pollution has decreased dramatically in the Northeast. Nests of the Leatherback Turtles in Thailand are at their highest levels for 20 years. Ocean life has increased due to the lack of global shipping activity. And depending on what you read, there has been an increase in red knot and horseshoe crab activity off the coast of New Jersey.

A recent article on Forbes.com reports that horseshoe crab and red knot populations have stabilized during the important spawning season for the crabs and the migration period for the red knots. Meanwhile, another article, this one from the public media outlet in Philadelphia, has reported numbers of horseshoe crabs and red knots have dropped precipitously this year.

I have not been to the Jersey Shore this year, so I can’t say which is accurate. It is important to remember, however, that the red knot and the horseshoe crabs are both important parts of the New Jersey ecosystem and the two species are intertwine at the Jersey Shore.

RedKnot

A red knot at the Jersey Shore. source: NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife

In 1999, the red knot was listed as a threatened species in New Jersey under the New Jersey Threatened Species Act. As a result of the Red Knot Status Assessment in fall 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the red knot as a candidate for federal listing and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recommended listing the red knot as endangered in April 2007.

Each spring, red knots migrate from wintering areas as far south as the southern tip of South America, to breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic; 20,000 miles round trip. The red knot is one of the longest-distance migrants spending over six months of the year migrating back and forth between wintering and breeding areas.

The Delaware Bay is an essential part of the red knot’s spring migration because it is the center of the Western Hemisphere’s only population of horseshoe crabs. Horseshoe crab eggs are quickly metabolized into fat by the red knots. That fat store allows these small birds to double their body weight in approximately two or three weeks.

The Delaware Bay is the last stop before they make their way to their arctic breeding grounds. The fat they add to their body mass by filling up on the eggs of the horseshoe crabs allow red knots to survive, continue courtship, mating, and egg laying until food becomes available.  Without a sufficient fat reserve, their survival is at risk.

So if you head to the Jersey Shore and see a red knot, consider yourself lucky. If you see a horseshoe crab, make sure it isn’t on its back. What is most important is that you enjoy them from afar whenever possible and know you are witnessing a unique relationship that only happens at the Jersey Shore.

Farmland Preserved in Bedminster

This announcement was made on the New Jersey Conservation Website. The residents of New Jersey should be thankful to the ongoing work by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Lamington Conservancy. They are ensuring our open spaces are available for generations to come.

Two beautiful farmland properties along the Black River, totaling nearly 125 acres, have been permanently preserved by New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners.

“Preserving these two properties protects agriculture, water quality and Bedminster’s rural character and scenic beauty,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We’re very grateful to our many preservation partners for making this possible.”

Scully-Peretsman Farm

Robert Scully and Nancy Peretsman donated a conservation easement on 75 acres along Black River Road to Bedminster Township in December, ensuring that it will remain farmland forever. The couple wanted to make sure that the farm’s agricultural heritage and rich and productive soils were protected.

“On behalf of Bedminster Township, I extend our gratitude to Bob and Nancy for their commitment to farmland preservation and to ensuring that the rural character of the Pottersville neighborhood will be maintained for future generations,” said Mayor Larry Jacobs. “I also want to thank the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for guiding us through the process and reaching an arrangement that we are all proud of.”

The farm is located just south of Pottersville village, and includes historic red barns housing 53 Katahdin ewes. The scenic Axle Brook runs along the southern property edge, just before merging with the Black River, also known as the Lamington River.

Preserving this farm adds to a large swath of preserved land in the community. To the north and south are other large preserved farms, and to the west is a mile of preserved riverfront open space owned by Bedminster Township. To the east is the 170-acre Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, headquarters of the nonprofit Raritan Headwaters Association.

The conservation easement significantly restricts new building on the farm, but allows a small “exception area” for one house and outbuildings in the future.

Chubb Property

The second newly-preserved property, 49 acres on Rattlesnake Bridge Road, was purchased for $1.67 million from the Chubb Insurance Company. The property has river frontage on one side and Interstate 78 on another side. It is currently farmed for corn and hay.

The nonprofit Lamington Conservancy initially secured funding to purchase the development rights on the property, but the owner wanted to sell it outright. New Jersey Conservation Foundation stepped in and bought the farmland, while the Lamington Conservancy simultaneously purchased the development rights and transferred them to Somerset County. Funding was provided by the State Agriculture Development Committee, Somerset County and the New Jersey Highlands Council.

“It’s a good chunk of land,” said Bob Holtaway, president of the Lamington Conservancy and a former Bedminster mayor. “This transaction sews up the northwest corner of the Interstate 78 interchange and keeps it agricultural, so all is well.”

Holtaway noted that land on the other three corners of the Rattlesnake Bridge Road-Interstate 78 interchange were preserved earlier, so the area will never be developed.

The land was purchased for commercial development about 30 years ago by Chubb’s real estate arm, the Bellemead Development Corp.

The Chubb property is surrounded by preserved farmland and open space. It is across the street from the Buffalo Country LLC farm, also known as Red Tail Farm; and across the river from the Emmet and Whitman farms in Tewksbury Township. On the other side of I-78 is the preserved Lana Lobell horse farm and hundreds of acres of parkland owned by Somerset County.

The property is about 80 percent farmed, and more than half of its soils are “prime” or “statewide,” the two highest classifications of soil quality. The southwest portion of property is wooded and abuts the river.

“The preservation of the Chubb property is a wonderful example of the collaborative efforts we develop with other organizations in preserving property,” said New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. “The State Agriculture Development Committee and other groups are proud to have worked on this important project.”

“Farmland is a defining feature in the character of the Highlands region,” said Lisa J. Plevin, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Council. “We were pleased to work in partnership with other organizations on this preservation project that will protect abundant agricultural resources.”

“Somerset County is constantly striving to preserve important pieces of our agricultural community to ensure that this rich heritage is around for generations to come,” said Freeholder Melonie Marano, planning liaison. “We were happy to collaborate with the state, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and other partner agencies to secure this property for the benefit of our community.”

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since its inception in 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks. For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit http://www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About the Lamington Conservancy

The Lamington Conservancy is a non-profit land conservation organization created in 1999 to assist landowners in protecting and preserving their open, agricultural land in the Lamington River Valley. The Conservancy is committed to safeguarding the rural character and open countryside of this unique area. We promote farmland preservation and the protection of the area’s natural and historic resources. In conjunction with local land trusts and local and state governments, the Conservancy helps landowners select the land conservation program which best suits their needs and assists them throughout the process.

Giving Tuesday: Jersey Style

After Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, a very important day in the holiday season takes place – Giving Tuesday. Started in 2011, #GivingTuesday is an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas season – a time of year that has become all too focused on commercialism.

giving-tuesdayThere are a wide variety of worthwhile charities around the world. However, I would like to bring a few charities with a focus on New Jersey to your attention.

Arts Ed NJ: The arts are an important part of our culture. I regularly write about the importance of arts and music in school. I am the person I am because of the arts experiences I had throughout my public school education. Arts Ed NJ (previously the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership) was established in 2007 with the mission to provide a unified voice for a diverse group of constituents who agree on the educational benefits and impact of the arts, specifically the contribution they make to student achievement and a civilized, sustainable society.

New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: I love the outdoors. Fly fishing, hiking, nature photography – it is all important. After spending some time standing in a river or stream fly fishing, I feel renewed. Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with and supported parks by creating, protecting, and promoting over 2,150 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. Over 2,400 Trail Conference volunteers donate more than 100,000 hours of labor annually to keep these trails open, safe, and free for the public to enjoy. We also publish maps and books to safely guide the public through our trails. The Trail Conference is a nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs that have a combined membership of over 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.

A Helping Wing Rescue: Recently, my husband and I lost our beloved cockatiel after 22 years. We couldn’t just throw out his cage, unused treats, and carrier. So we decided the best way to honor him was to help out a bird rescue and donate everything. When it was time to bring his things to A Helping Wing Rescue, we saw first-hand how much this team cares for the birds that live there. These special birds all deserve homes. But while they are there, their team can all use help they can get.

NJ Italian Heritage Commission: I am an American, a New Jerseyan, and a proud descendant of Italian heritage. New Jersey was a hub of Italian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century and my family was among them. Although Italian Americans played an integral role in our nation’s development, many of their positive contributions are being forgotten and overshadowed by the unending negative stereotypes in the media. The NJ Italian Heritage Commission works to educate individuals about the important contributions those of Italian heritage made to New Jersey and America. It also works to promote Italian studies in school – an area of study and research that has continued to drop in recent years.

These are just a few of the worthwhile organizations in New Jersey. I hope you will consider them when deciding on where to make a donation on Giving Tuesday. No matter where you decide to donate, make sure it is something close to your heart. Also make sure it is worthy of your money. If you can’t make a donation, consider donating your time.