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 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.

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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.

 

A Tale of Three Falcons

Each spring for the past 19 years, something amazing happens in the concrete jungle of Jersey City. A pair of peregrine falcons takes up residence at the top of a skyscraper; 101 Hudson Street to be exact.

The peregrine falcon historically bred in New Jersey on the cliffs in the Palisades and along the Delaware River. During the 1930s and 1940s, there were approximately 350 pairs of peregrines nesting east of the Mississippi. As the century progressed, the number of nesting pairs rapidly decreased due to multiple factors, including unregulated hunting pressure and the use of DDT. Now, the peregrine falcon is on the state’s endangered list.

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The remaining female eyase at 101 Hudson Street

Thanks to hard work and conservation efforts, there are now over 20 nesting pairs of falcons  in New Jersey. Two of which you can actually watch thanks to “falcon cams” – one in Jersey City and one in Union City Each year for at least the last 15 years I’ve looked forward to the spring when the Jersey City falcon cam is turned on so we can all watch for egg laying, hatching, and watching those eyases (baby falcons) fledge (take flight) for the first time.

Well, this year something happened that was just shocking to say the least. A few days ago window washers at 101 Hudson sprayed the baby falcons with water, pushing two of the three eyases off the roof of the building. As these two babies had not yet fledged, they both fell. One was rushed to The Raptor Trust for evaluation and treatment. The second went missing for several days. Volunteers scoured the area for days for the second eyase. It was finally found Friday and is also now at The Raptor Trust. The third eyases was found at a lower level and was returned to the nest box on the roof.

Viewers of the falcon cam could only watch in horror as all this took place.
According to reports, building management was finally reached and the window washers were escorted off the premises. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife is investigating the entire event.

This entire sad event has shocked the entire bird watching community, as the Jersey City Falcon Cam has a world-wide following. I remember back when I first discovered “the cam” and sharing it with a friend, colleague, and fellow bird lover. As word spread about the falcon cam, other colleagues would check in on the falcon family throughout the day. As member of the IT team, and when Internet access was at a premium, I was supposed to make sure access was for work purposes only. However, when it was “falcon cam time,” I never seemed to be able to catch anyone using the Internet improperly. Maybe because I wasn’t looking very hard.

I hope the two window washers are, at the very minimum, disciplined and the rest of the employees in the building are educated about the endangered birds that live on the roof. These are special birds that need to be protected. The more people that know they are there, the better so we can all help protect them.

If you have never checked out any of the falcon cams, I hope you do!

Planning on Fishing? Make sure to Get a License

Fishing season opens this weekend in New Jersey; a wonderful time of year! My husband and I just love getting out to the awesome open spaces all around New Jersey and fly fishing different fresh water locations. There is one important step many people skip, however. Buying a New Jersey fishing license.

Rockaway Borough

I can’t believe the number of anglers I see out fishing without a license. I also see plenty of people with their chum buckets taking tons of fish that shouldn’t be removed. Sadly, many of these anglers (and I use that term loosely) do not know the regulations, take whatever they like, and often, leave trash behind. When these locations are over-fished, it takes a long time for them to come back and get healthy again.

Every year my husband and I make sure to purchase our fishing licenses and display them properly as required by law when we are out fishing. We even purchase the trout stamp, even though we don’t harvest fish. Why you might ask? Let me explain.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife works hard to protect our open spaces, which includes stocking fish, checking licenses during hunting and fishing seasons, and offering education programs for adults and children. Fees collected from licenses help to continue the various programs conducted by Fish and Wildlife.

Conservation Officers are spread very thin throughout the state. It is on us to be caretakers of the resources in New Jersey.  If you see someone taking part in illegal behavior, such as poaching or other “wildlife crimes,” contact Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-855-OGT-TIPS. If you see any ENVIRONMENTAL emergencies, call the 24 hr. DEP HOTLINE at 1-877-WARN-DEP.

And if you are going to go fishing, spend the money and get your license. Fish legally. If you see trash when you are out, pick it up and carry it out. Try and help out where you can and leave the space better than how you found it. Be a good steward of our open spaces.

Why I love New Jersey

My husband and I were watching a television show about real estate in Montana. One couple was planning a move from California to Montana. Now, when most people think of Big Sky Country, they imagine the open prairie, cowboys, and wood cabins. Instead of embracing the lifestyle, they were trying to shoehorn California living into their new house. They obviously shouldn’t have left California. That’s where their heart is.

That’s kind of like how I feel about New Jersey.

Frankford-Cemetery

Frankford Cemetery in black and white by Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian.

I am often asked a simple question. “Why would you EVER want to stay in New Jersey?”

When my husband and I were married there very were few things that were non-negotiable. One of those non-negotiable items is that I would NEVER move out of New Jersey.

“Why?”

New Jersey is my home. I was born in Columbus Hospital in Newark and spent over 30 years in Belleville. When a move needed to take place, we stayed close by in Nutley until we could decide on our next move. While it may sound crazy, going to the next town over from Belleville was tough. I also felt like I had betrayed my beloved Belleville by moving to our rival town. Two years later, we moved again. Instead of town-to-town, we moved county-to-county. Again, I almost had a nervous breakdown.

As my regular readers know, I don’t deal well with change. I know people who have moved across the country and half-way around the world. Me? I move from Essex County to Morris County and I could barely handle it. I’m a Jersey Girl through and through. I would’ve been very happy to stay in my house on Irving Street for the rest of my life.

Where else can you be at an awesome beach and then the mountains within a two hour drive

Rutt's Hut

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

in the same state? Have the best REAL Italian and REAL Portuguese cooking in the same city? I can go fly fishing in Walpack or grab a cheese steak at Seaside Heights. You want a great deep fried hot dog? I know the place. Oh, and I don’t pump my own gas.

Some people see Newark Airport and the Turnpike. Me? I see important places that played key roles in the birth of our nation. We are tough. If you are from Jersey, you need to be tough to fight off all the stupid stereotypes from those horrible television shows which I will not name.

So will I travel? Sure. But I will always come home to my New Jersey.