The Bird and the Bug

This weekend I had a very frightening event happen at our home… thankfully with a very happy ending. I want to tell you that story to serve as a warning.

The tail-end of last week, an email was sent out from our homeowner’s association spraying would take place in an effort to try and kill as many spotted lanternflies as possible in the woods behind our building. On Friday evening a neighbor told me she saw a dead bird along the tree line and I immediately thought of the spraying that took place the previous day.

Spotted Lanternflies on a tree trunk (Source: NJ Department of Agriculture)

Sunday morning a young woodpecker flew into our building and fell with a hard thump on our deck. I ran out to find this tiny little bird on its back, its leg twitching. I quickly grabbed gloves and found a small box. I very carefully turned it upright, placed it in the box in the shade and kept it partially closed. I called Animal Control to review the steps I had taken and she confirmed I followed proper protocol. She said to let it be, as it could be quite awhile for it to come around if the hit was as hard as I suspected.

My husband and I regularly checked on it for hours. I called our town’s Animal Control Officer again and she thought by now it might need to be go to a rehabber, so she wanted to swing by and take a look at the bird and see what might be our next steps.

I picked up the box and went downstairs to wait outside. She quickly arrived to examine our little feathered friend. She carefully opened the box and began to examine the bird. Shockingly, he started to come around, hopped to her hand and flew away! We were both shocked! And thankful!

I am very grateful to Susan at Animal Control for her guidance and care. She told me it was her third bird call just that morning. My call, thankfully, had a happy ending. One, she was still monitoring, but looked promising. The third was on its way to a rehab facility and did not look good. The suspected issue with all three? Spraying for spotted lantern flies.

These bugs are an invasive species leaving damage everywhere they lay their eggs. However, when sprays are used, they do not just kill the spotted lanternfly; they kill all the other bugs. Then the birds eat those poisoned bugs and those birds die. Then you have a fox, racoon, or other animal eat the bird, and so on.

So obviously, sprays are causing a lot of damage. Instead, some are using fly glue/tape traps with the thought this would be less harmful. While this is somewhat correct, the Animal Control Officer shared with me it is because of these fly tape traps the third bird she responded to on Sunday will more than likely perish. Birds are getting stuck to the tape and as they attempt to get away, they are pulling out their feathers.

It has become such an issue, The Raptor Trust released the following statement on Facebook last week:

“We’re continuing to sound the alarm – the number of birds tragically caught in glue tape traps set out for Spotted Lanternfly remediation grows daily: more than 60 birds already this year.
This nuthatch had nearly ALL of its wing and tail feathers stuck, and one particularly nasty piece of glue tape caught an entire family of birds.

nuthatch stuck on lanternfly glue trap
This nuthatch had nearly ALL of its wing and tail feathers stuck, and one particularly nasty piece of glue tape caught an entire family of birds (source: Raptor Trust)


While the Spotted Lanternfly is of great concern in our area, the unintended consequences of this method of remediation far outweigh its effectiveness, and in some cases the bycatch victims are they very things that might prey upon the Lanternflies in the first place.
A wildlife-safe alternative is this “circle trap,” being used very effectively in Pennsylvania.
https://extension.psu.edu/how-to-build-a-new-style-spotted-lanternfly-circle-trap
If you must use the sticky tape traps (though we advise alternative methods), you can make them somewhat safer for birds and small mammals by wrapping a cover of small mesh wire over the tape at least an inch away from the tape. The wire mesh needs to be small enough to keep birds out, but the Lanternflies can still get in. Half inch “hardware cloth” is a good option.
If you find a bird caught in a glue trap, please bring it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.”

Of the 61 birds that have been stuck in glue tape and brought to Raptor Trust as of August 3rd, 15 have recovered and been released and 23 continue to receive care for their injuries. Sadly, the rest have died.

So how do you actually kill spotted lanternflies safely?

If you are in an area that has a large infestation of the dreaded spotted lanternfly, there are a few different ways you can get rid of them that are much safer than spraying poison or using glue traps.

Common Milkweed
Common Milkweed (Source: milkweed4monarchs.org)
  1. Smash them out! Just the plain’ old shoe-to-bug method. Just give them the old squish.
  2. Trap in water bottle. Many are finding success holding the mouth of an empty water bottle over them and when they try to fly away they are caught in the bottle. Yes, it is one at a time, but you can catch a bunch in one bottle and then toss it.
  3. Grab the shop vac. If you have a ton of them on the outside of your home, you can actually suck them all up in your shop vac and then pour water and Dawn dish soap in the reservoir to kill them.
  4. Insecticidal soap. This safe, effective, and low toxicity alternative to more toxic pesticides is a great natural way to control many undesirable insects, including the spotted lanternfly. You can either purchase it pre-made, or you can make your own at home. Penn State reports the following soaps work: Concern Insect Killing Soap C, Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap, and Safer Insect-Killing-Soap.
  5. Plant Milkweed. As the spotted lanternfly is not indigenous to the United States, Common Milkweed is poisonous to them. An added bonus to planting milkweed? It’s great for butterflies!
  6. Spray horticultural vinegar on weeds. A more potent type of common household vinegar, spraying horticultural vinegar will kill the spotted lanternflies. It will also kill the weeds (or whatever else you spray), so just be careful if you are spraying it near your zinnias or tomato plants.

Unfortunately, it seems like the spotted lanternfly is here for the long-term. We all need to play a part in its management and hopeful eradication. Unfortunately, dealing with an issue such as this doesn’t always have an easy answer. No matter what you use outside, from insect spray to fertilizer, think about how it will affect the environment and wildlife around you before you put a product to use.

National New Jersey Day

This week we celebrated National New Jersey Day. Yes, that’s right. There’s an official day to nationally celebrate New Jersey.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate New Jersey and I thought I would share some interesting facts about our awesome state, which officially became a state in 1776.

New Jersey State Seal
The New Jersey State Seal (source: state.nj.us)

First of all, we are known as “The Garden State” thanks to Abraham Browning. He bestowed the nickname in 1897, the state was full of garden and farmers, and agriculture was the predominant occupation at that time. While many joke it is better known as “The Mall State” now, if you head to the western part of the state, you will still see plenty of farmland.

The state’s seal was created by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere in 1777 and contains five symbols, each of which represents something about New Jersey. The helmet and the horse’s head crest represent New Jersey’s independence as a state. They also represent New Jersey’s status as one of the first states. In 1787 New Jersey was the third state to sign the U.S. Constitution. The woman holding a staff with a liberty cap on top is Liberty, who represents freedom. In ancient Rome, former Roman slaves saw a liberty cap as a badge of freedom. Liberty caps became popular again during the Revolutionary War. The woman on the right is the Roman goddess of grain, Ceres, and holds a cornucopia, filled with the many fruits and vegetables produced in New Jersey. The three plows on the shield symbolize the agricultural tradition of New Jersey. The state’s motto “Liberty and Prosperity” is written on the scroll.

The eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is native to northeastern North America and being so, was designated in 1992 as the State Fish of New Jersey. Based on results of a genetic-research study conducted in 2008 by NJDFW, it was been determined that wild book trout in New Jersey are descendants of the native species that colonized this area of the northeast following deglaciation about 12,000 years ago. It is an incredibly beautiful fish and my favorite fish of all marine life. It is also known as an “indicator species,” meaning brook trout only survive in the cleanest, most pure water. So if you see a brook trout in the water, known that is some of the cleanest waterway in the state.

The state tree is the Red Oak, a perfect choice for New Jersey because it is just like us. Tough, strong, and durable.

New Jersey is one of the top blueberry producers in the country and blueberries were the top crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. Farmers in the Garden State harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres last year.

Farmland on the way to Frenchtown

New Jersey played a pivotal role in our nation’s fight for independence from the British. More than 100 battles took place in New Jersey. In 1776, crossing the Delaware River into Trenton; George Washington fought with, and ultimately defeated the British forces. This was one of the first major victories in the Revolutionary War. Morristown National Historical Park 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. The park also maintains a museum & library collection related to the encampments & George Washington, as well as items relating to pre- and post-Revolutionary America.

We here in New Jersey have plenty to be proud of and love when it comes to our great state. For those who “think” they know us by what they see when they land at Newark Airport or some horrible television show about a bunch of idiots from New York and elsewhere, well, we know better.

Support for those who Support the Outdoors

Back in the freezing weather of January, I shared my goals for 2022. One of the most important goals outlined was to fight for our ever-dwindling open spaces in New Jersey. That includes fighting for those who share the love of the outdoors and educate others about the resource.

Enter the frustrating situation of the Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club.

Located in one of my favorite spots in New Jersey, Sunset Beach, Cape May, the Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club has been meeting and sharing their love of fishing and the outdoors since the mid-1940s. What started as a few friends meeting at a private home in the Philly-area has turned into a decades-old club that has officially met at Sunset Beach since the 1950s.

They function as a non-profit, providing camaraderie and community to a group of local anglers. They have a great little meeting space next to the miniature golf course at Sunset Beach. It sounds like a really wonderful group of anglers who enjoy the outdoors and telling fishing stories.

So what’s the problem? Glad you asked.

Their building is located on the grounds of a former brick plant. When the plant closed in 1982, the owners leased the land to the club. In 1999, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife purchased the land from the plant owners and added it to the adjacent Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area.

Sportsmen's Club Building inside black circle within former brick plant.
Sportsmen’s Club Building inside black circle within former brick plant. (Credit: Sportsmen’s Club’s Facebook page)

So they own the building, but they do not own the land underneath it. It is also worth mentioning they have paid taxes to Lower Township since 1957.

OK, so sounds like typical bureaucracy so far. Annoying, but not horrible… yet.

Well, here’s where it gets complicated. And frustrating.

The NJ Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter in February announcing plans to terminate the club’s lease agreement. The “Notice to Quit and Demand for Delivery of Possession of Premises” notes that if not followed, the state could file for eviction action. The letter outlined a list of reasons, which include “the sale of alcohol on a Wildlife Management Area without the prior written permission or other authorization from the (state), the club’s ‘interference’ with the National Coastal Wetlands Grant and the club’s use of the property being ‘inconsistent’ with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s mission.”

Yes, they drink the occasional beer at the end of a day fishing. Pardon me while I clutch my pearls. I really hope my Jersey sarcasm is coming through loud and clear.

Whether the state owns the land beneath the club remains in dispute, according to Chris Gillin-Schwartz, Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club’s attorney.

It is worth mentioning, letters have been sent on letterhead from The DEP, New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, and the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. Tremendous pressure has been put on Lower Township to not renew the liquor license the club has possessed (in good standing) since 1976. I applaud Lower Township for standing up to the state and renewing their license.

This is a club that has served the community and its membership since the 1940s. They currently have 160 members (over 50 of which are veterans) and are good stewards of the resource. I feel like there’s more going on than the state wishes to share.

Now in all fairness, I reached out to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Governor’s office. I received no response whatsoever. Not even a “no comment.” Total radio silence.

I promised my readership to fight for our great state and its wonderful resources. The Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club does the same. They work for their community and work to preserve the resource. I urge my readership to sign their online petition. I also urge you to reach out to the Governor’s office and let your voice be heard. Why the state is making a (literal) federal case out of a local fishing club is beyond me. I promise all of you to stay on this story and hope for a positive outcome.

Fish on.

New Jersey: The Cradle of Independence

When many think about Independence Day, they often think of places like Boston or Philadelphia. The truth is, New Jersey played an incredibly important role in the birth of our nation. There are plenty of great events throughout the long weekend of celebrate the holiday! Here are some of events that are taking place over the weekend.

Morristown National Historical Park

Morristown National Historical Park, where America survived, will celebrate our Declaration of Independence with July Fourth activities beginning at Noon on the park’s Washington’s Headquarters grounds, 30 Washington Place, with a “Warm-Up for the Declaration” followed by the reading of the Declaration.

The “Warm-Up” will feature a park ranger in period clothing entertaining the crowd and giving a “kids level” explanation of the Declaration. Eighteenth-century stories, jokes, and riddles are all part of the fun.

At 1pm, the “Public Reading of the Declaration of Independence” will commence. Attendees will be encouraged to cheer along with park rangers and re-enactors as they denounce tyranny and praise liberty. After the reading, attendees are welcome to participate in a mock salute called a feu de joie (musket salute).

Following the reading of the Declaration, the Ford Mansion will be open for self-guided tours with re-enactors in period dress, bringing life to the mansion once again.

Ford Mansion
Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Visitors are asked to bring water to drink and a chair or a blanket to sit on the ground and are reminded to dress appropriately for the weather, including wearing a hat and sunscreen. It is a rain-or-shine event. Due to limited parking, guests are encouraged to carpool or walk to the event.

All activities will occur at the Washington Headquarters area and are free. The Jockey Hollow Visitor Center and Wick House will be closed on July 4th, but Jockey Hollow’s roads, grounds, and trails will be open.

Cape May Coast Guard Sunset Parade

U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May; Sunday, July 3 at 7:40 p.m.

Sunset Parades are free military displays of marching troops and the Coast Guard Recruit Ceremonial Drill Team. The recruit regiment will march in the parade and strike the National Ensign from the parade field at sunset.

The gates to the training center will open at 6:30 p.m., and visitors are asked to be seated by 7:40 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to use this extra time for security screening, parking, and seating.

Avalon: Bay Atlantic Symphony Independence Day Concert

Avalon Community Center, 3001 Avalon Ave, Avalon; July 3 at 7 p.m.

This free symphony fills fast, so be sure to get there a bit early if you want a seat! Those who don’t have a seat can still watch in the standing room section. Come see a fantastic symphony play a patriotic set.

Princeton: Morven Museum & Garden Fourth of July Jubilee

55 Stockton Street, Princeton; July 4th — 12pm to 3pm

Check out Morven on Independence Day for their Fourth of July Jubilee, a free celebration of our American heritage at the home-turned-museum of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This year will will also feature the museum’s current exhibition, Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention in New Jersey, which features the original TelStar satellite and so many other technological innovations made right here in New Jersey that affected the entire world for generations.

Wall Township: Historic American Flag Collection at Allaire

Come celebrate the Fourth of July at Allaire! Allaire’s rare one-of-a-kind historic American flag collection on display this weekend only!

Your ticket includes admission (which by the way is only $5) to the Chapel to see Allaire’s unique and one-of-a-kind American flag collection on display this weekend ONLY! There will be over five historic flags on exhibition (rare and one of a kind!), the oldest flag dating back c. 1850 and authenticated by the Smithsonian Institute!

To visit the historic village, experience early 19th century industrial community life, and explore the village grounds EAST of the Mill Pond, a ticket for General Admission is from 11am-4pm.

In purchasing your General Admission Ticket, you will be able to see our historic trades in action including our blacksmiths and tinsmiths as well as tour our period homes to see how each class in the village lived. All of this in addition to other themed pop up tours and demonstrations are all available to you when you visit The Historic Village at Allaire! There are great events scheduled throughout the month, so it is definitely worth a visit!

Oxford: Celebration of Independence & Museum Day at Shippen Manor

Shippen Manor, 8 Belvidere Avenue, Oxford; July 3; 11am – 4pm

The newly formed United States Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright and sunny day. John Dunlap printed the Declaration (known as “Dunlap Broadsides”). There are twenty-four known copies, two of which are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. One of these was George Washington’s personal copy.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps of Hackettstown will begin our celebration with music from the era.

At 11:30 a.m., the Bachmann Players of Easton, PA will commemorate our celebration with readings and other activities that preceded the actual reading of the Declaration. The reading will begin promptly at 12 noon (the same time as the 1776 reading in Easton, PA).

Following the reading, the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps will entertain our visitors with colonial-era music until 1 p.m., when the museum will open for tours.

And plenty more!

Now let’s be honest; right now we are a divided country. There are probably many out there that don’t feel much like celebrating. I say not true.

Stick with me for a moment.

The founders of this great nation ensured the right for us to disagree with each other, and more importantly, to disagree with our government. To peacefully assemble and voice our concerns. This experiment in democracy has been challenged over the centuries. I use the following example:

The more populous and wealthy the United States have become, and the higher the position to which they have risen in the scale of national importance, with the greater confidence has it been maintained, on the one hand, that our institutions rest on a solid and permanent basis, and on the other, that they are destitute of inherent strength and cohesion, and that the time of explosion and disruption is rapidly approaching.

The previous quote is from New-York Daily Tribune, November 27, 1860.

We’ve been pushed and challenged before and we have survived. Sometimes bruised. But we are still here. I implore everyone to remember that we will do the same again.

Almost every community will have events this weekend, so I encourage you to get out and enjoy!

Get Out!

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of the surprisingly warm weather and took a ride to an area of Sussex County we’ve been wanting to explore for quite awhile.

I can’t tell you how happy we did.

If you aren’t a fan of the winter (like us), it is easy to just hibernate and wait for the weather to get above your age. When we heard the weather would be above freezing, we decided to make the effort to actually step outside. What we discovered is an area of Sussex County almost frozen in time with open space and houses that predate the Revolutionary War.

1977 map of New Jersey (source: Rutgers Special Collections)

We met someone who was quite knowledgeable about the area and owned an amazing home built in 1791. He freely shared information about the area and his ongoing effort to preserve as much of his property and the town’s history buildings. The town’s historical society works hard to preserve and educate on the area, from the time of the Lenapehoking to present day.

So why am I telling you all this and why am I not saying where we went? Simple. I want you to GET OUT! Grab a map (yes, a printed map) and take a ride. Is there an area in the state you’ve always wanted to visit? Plan a ride into your unknown. Visit the local historical society and ask questions. Patron their locally-owned shops and restaurants. Even consider joining their historical society (or at least make a donation).

I promise you; you’ll be happy you did!

Open Space Preserved in Princeton

There is a constant battle in New Jersey; preserving open space versus developing more ratables to collect taxes. It happens in every town in the state. Recently, there was some good news on the preservation front.

More than 150 acres in Princeton is now permanently protected, thanks to a partnership among several government agencies and nonprofits. The 153-acre property was purchased for $8.8 million from the Lanwin Development Corp. and the family of the late Bryce Thompson.

Princeton’s latest preservation project. (Credit: The Watershed Institute)

A partnership of organizations, the town of Princeton, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, Ridgeview Conservancy, The Watershed Institute, Mercer County, the state Green Acres Program, and New Jersey Conservation Foundation worked on the acquisition. Nearly $3 million in private donations were received. The land is now jointly owned by Princeton, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, The Watershed Institute, and the Ridgeview Conservancy.

The acquisition is part of an initiative called “Princeton’s Emerald Necklace” that aims to connect open spaces throughout the town and provide greater access to open space. This open space protects over 4,000 trees from deforestation that form part of a mature forest on this site.

New from Fish & Wildlife: The Wildlife Habitat Supporter Program

As I mentioned in my 2022 Goals post, I want to make sure to advocate for our open spaces. The NJ Fish and Wildlife has announced a new program to do just that; The Wildlife Habitat Supporter Program.

Wildlife Habitat Program

When I first saw this posted on social media, I was immediately excited to find a new way to help support our wildlife, open spaces, and native species. However, it didn’t take long for the cynic in me to wonder about a few things. Let’s face it. There isn’t a politician in New Jersey that doesn’t love the idea of a new fund to raid. It’s like breaking the piggy bank. I also wondered if there is a plan to share how the funds are used.

So I went straight to the source. I contacted New Jersey Fish and Wildlife directly and raised my concerns. Their answers:

“Funds donated to the Wildlife Habitat Supporter Program are deposited into a dedicated account used by the Division of Fish and Wildlife specifically for the management of New Jersey’s wildlife resources and enforcement of fish and wildlife regulations. As the program moves forward, we will definitely feature projects on the Division’s website and social media that benefit from the program”

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have another way to support our open spaces, native species, and regulation enforcement. I am definitely going to donate and I hope you will too!

2022 New Jersey Goals

As the calendar turns and we move ahead to 2022, most people make resolutions for the new year. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are usually all the same; lose weight, spend more time with the family, blah, blah, blah. While it may sound like semantics, I prefer to make goals.

According to Merriam-Webster, a goal is defined as, “the end toward which effort is directed.” A resolution (the third definition) is, “something that is resolved.” A goal is much more specific. A resolution is hardly exact.

Anyway…

My goal list here is specific to New Jersey. This is all about the effort I will direct to my own beloved state.

Search for Fossils

You may not realize it, but New Jersey offers a variety of opportunities to find fossils. Creatures that range from tiny cephalopods to huge wooly mammoths called New Jersey home. I have never found a fossil, but I will say I never really looked. My goal is to find one this year.

Hike the AT

No, I don’t expect to hide the entire Appalachian Trail, better known as the “AT.” I want to hike just the New Jersey portion of the Trail. The entire length of the AT traverses 14 states from Maine’s Mount Katahdin to Georgia’s Springer Mountain.

The New Jersey stretch of the Appalachian Trail is 74 miles long and begins at Abram S. Hewitt State Forest in the northern most point and runs west and south through Wawayanda State Park, High Point State Park, Stokes State Forest, ending at Worthington State Forest. Now, I do not expect, nor do I plan, to traverse the entire 74 miles in one clip. I will, however, develop a plan to break it down into several short single-day hikes. A great resource to help get started on this goal is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. This special organization is powered by a great group of volunteers that build, maintain, and protect public trails.

Fish a New Stream for the Heritage Brook Trout

Long before I knew the brook trout was the state fish, it was always my favorite species. The colors are amazing and they put up a wonderful fight. I absolutely love to fly fish in a stream and listen to the water rush downstream as I stand in the river.

The downside, sadly, is the most popular rivers in New Jersey are very well known and generally over-fished. An added frustration for me is that I see plenty of anglers fishing aggressively without a proper license. I regularly encourage those anglers to purchase their license. I explain those license dollars are put right back into the resource. Unfortunately, those anglers usually walk away laughing. It is personally frustrating.

So I want to find a new stream for fishing. But not just any old stream. I want to find a stream that gives me the opportunity to fish for the Heritage Brook Trout. According a study on brook trout genetics, wild populations of brook trout have unique genetic identities. Some Garden State brook trout populations are descendants from the original brook trout colonizers present after the last glacial ice sheet receded more than 10,000 years ago. The existence of these ancestral populations, dubbed heritage brook trout, is important for conservation efforts of this native species (learn more about brook trout genetics by reviewing the original 2008 article).

Advocate for my State’s Open Spaces

Mount Hope Park, Morris County, New Jersey
Mount Hope Park, Morris County

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am an advocate for the ecology and preservation of the Garden State’s open spaces. Places like the water that the heritage brook trout have liked for thousands of years are threatened on a daily basis due to pollution, encroachment, and other modern-day challenges. From protecting the red knot to attending Environmental Commission meetings on the local level, we all have a responsibility to make sure our natural resources are protected. I plan to continue to advocate and take a more active role to protect those special spots.

Attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart

In all my life, I am sad to say I have only attended mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, better known as Newark Cathedral, only once. If you have never been, it is a true piece of art built by the immigrants of Newark; many from the First Ward, the original Italian section of the city. Construction began in January 1898. While the Cathedral began holding mass in 1928, that labor of love was not completed until October 19, 1954. In 1974, the Cathedral was added to the New Jersey Historical Society. Two years later, it gained national recognition when it was listed as a National Historic Site.

On Wednesday, October 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II visited the United States. During the visit, Pope John Paul II conferred the title of Minor Basilica to Sacred Heart Cathedral, giving it its current name, Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I attended mass at the Cathedral the following Sunday.

This year I will attend mass at least once and sit in prayer and reflection, knowing the history and exceptional effort and craftsmanship that built that wonderfully artistic home of faith.

Head Back Down the Shore

The S. S. Atlantus, also known as the “concrete ship,” at Sunset Beach, Cape May

If you are from Jersey, you know that trek down the Garden State Parkway is known as “going down the shore.” It has been two years since my husband and I smelled the sea air or walked on a beach. It renews my soul and clears my mind. One of my favorite spots is Sunset Beach in Cape May. I love digging for Cape May diamonds and walking on the shoreline turning horseshoe crabs upright. After the last two years, I say it is important to head down the shore to replenish my soul.

Visit the Pine Barrens

The New Jersey Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands, is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem. It stretches across seven counties and is over 1.1 million acres. In 1978, Congress created the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) through the passage of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The Pinelands National Reserve is the first National Reserve in the United States. It is also home to the elusive Jersey Devil.

I am ashamed to admit, but this is another part of the state I have yet to experience in a meaningful way. I would like to plan a hike in the Pine Barrens and maybe get some fly fishing in as well!

Shoot More Film

A large majority of my hobbies are quite analog. I fly fish and tie flies. I crochet, spin yarn, felt, and weave. I really enjoy Geocaching. I also enjoy film photography. I regularly listen to a podcast called the Film Photography Project hosted by two guys from Jersey. Their entire gang of regular guests and commentators offer great advice for photographers at every level. Over the last two years, I have developed a terrible case of GAS (otherwise known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and am now the proud owner of a variety of film cameras. I plan to get out more and use them. With all my planned outings, I should have some wonderful opportunities to shoot more film!

Be Happy

Most importantly, I want to be happy. The last two years have been hard on all of us. For the most part we have been stuck in our homes. Maybe you lost your job, or worse, even lost a loved one. I shared the story of someone very dear to my husband and me, Dr. Michael Giuliano, who lost his life to the Coronavirus early in the pandemic when he continued to treat patients despite the risks.

It is time for all of us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and see our loved ones. New Jersey is a wonderful state and we are lucky to have so many different ways to enjoy it. So, get out and take a hike, go grab a ripper at Rutt’s Hut, or take a ride down the shore. Get back to living and be happy.

From the Garden State to the Warehouse State

As we all known, New Jersey is far more than Newark Airport, the Turnpike, and the oil storage tanks alongside it. From Sussex, to Warren, to Monmouth, there are certainly some beautiful areas to behold.

Unfortunately, as a state, we need to keep a watchful eye out for developers that want to pave over those wonderful open spaces. Over the last few years we have gone from the Mall State to the Warehouse State.

The most recent property under potential attack is Gaitway Farm in Monmouth County; New Jersey’s main training facility for the standardbred horses that race in the state. According to a report by NJ.com, the Manalapan Township Committee voted last week to allow development of warehouses and sports complexes on a 225-acre swath along Route 33; the current location of Gaitway Farm.

Gaitway Farm in Manalapan, New Jersey
Gaitway Farm in Manalapan, New Jersey (credit: Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media For NJ.com)

The Committee unanimously voted to adopt the Gaitway Area Redevelopment Plan, which amends local zoning to permit warehousing and indoor recreation southwest of the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Drive. The approved plan preserves 100 acres as open space. The rest will be developed for a variety of uses.

The town mayor and other officials stressed there are no plans to condemn the property and turn it over to a designated developer; a serious concern of area residents. According to town officials, the plan relies on the voluntary development or sale of the properties involved by their owners.

At this point, the wants of the current owners are somewhat unclear. According to Mayor Jack McNaboe, if the owners decide to sell, having a plan in place will help avoid a push for a heavier development plan.

“I’m all in favor of their staying a horse farm, but let’s face it, folks, I don’t see that happening,” McNaboe told the gathering. “I have to be realistic. Money does talk.”

“I have to be realistic. Money does talk.”

Wow. So that’s what we’ve come to as a society, especially in this state. Forget about open space, preserving farmland, or protecting our countryside. It all comes down to ratables.

I don’t know what disgusts me more. The unanimous vote for development or the lack of creativity in the ideas presented to preserve the space. Protecting open space is hard work. It takes out-of-the-box thinking. What about looking at developing a co-op with horse owners? What about a grant from the state? What about, oh I don’t know, maybe talking to the owners and find out what their plans are?

The approved redevelopment plan has a primary and secondary list of proposed uses. The primary uses include warehouses, manufacturing, fabrication, distribution facilities, and agriculture, to name a few. The secondary uses include signage, offices, sound walls, sewage treatment, and basketball courts (no more than four). Wow. warehouses, offices, sewage treatment, and basketball courts. Sounds awesome. Where do I sign up?

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of watching my beloved state get paved over for no real reason other than ratables and politicians saying they can.

So what can you do?

There are a lot of preservation organizations, watchdog groups, and other institutions to help advocate for preservation. Get involved. Attend your local town council meetings; especially zoning meetings, where all the changes take place. Question what is happening in your own backyard. Ask if there is a better way.

Once paradise is paved and the open space is gone, it rarely comes back.

Giving Tuesday in New Jersey

It is no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 has affected everyone in the Garden State. Some people lost their jobs. Some people lost their businesses. Some lost their lives.

Many non-profits in the state lost important funding from private donors, as so many were barely able to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.

Enter Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to help those who have helped so many throughout our state. I’ve highlighted a few of the great organizations I have supported and will continue to support to the best of my ability. They represent a cross-section of areas, from the arts, to food insecurity, to cultural support, and more.

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts

The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts is one of my favorite museums in the state. It was founded in 1970 by Agnes and Edgar Law Land and is located inside the building that was the first public library in Madison. The museum began with a display of the Land’s personal collection of 18th and 19th century artifacts representing the lives of the early immigrants to New Jersey. Since then, it has grown to an amazing permanent collection as well as special displays that are presented on a rotating basis. The best part is everything presented in the museum is associated with life and work in New Jersey.

Italian American One Voice Coalition

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am very proud of my Italian heritage. So is the Italian American One Voice Coalition. They work to protect and preserve the Italian-American culture. You see, our culture has made a major mistake over the years. We let the mob jokes roll off our back. In an effort to prove our allegiance to our new homeland, we Americanized our names and did not teach our language to our children. We were proud to be Americans. Those very values we have held for generations are no longer valued by many. As a result, people are looking to eliminate what is left of our heritage. The Italian American One Voice Coalition is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen. That we won’t be cast aside or ignored.

Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter

Sadly, over the last 18-plus months, victims of domestic violence have been victimized twice; once by their abuser and again by the system that is in place to protect them, as these victims have been kept hidden from the eyes of those agencies. With rumor of a new variant on the way and worries of another lockdown loom large, women may be desperate to escape their situation. The Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter has been on the front lines of aiding victims of domestic violence since 1978. JBWS is all about empowering victims to end the cycle of violence and gain control over their lives. The services include 24-hour helpline; safe house; counseling for adults, adolescents and children impacted by abuse; transitional living, including life skills education and more.

Salvation Army of New Jersey

Another issue the COVID pandemic brought to light is how many of our fellow New Jerseyans suffer from food insecurity; especially children and the aged. The Salvation Army of New Jersey offers food pantries, mobile feeding programs, and soup kitchens throughout the state to those in need.

Peters Valley School of Craft

Another organization I regularly highlight and support is Peters Valley School of Craft. For the last fifty-plus years, Peters Valley has enriched lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts, all nestled in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. If you have ever wanted to experience blacksmithing, weaving, or anything else, Peters Valley is the finest place in New Jersey to learn. They also have a wonderful gallery and gift area and present an amazing collection of artists every fall at a two-day event.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

While most people think New Jersey is nothing more than Newark Airport and the Turnpike, we all know better. Three of my favorite species, the heritage brook trout, the red knot, and the horseshoe crab, are all important parts of the biodiversity of New Jersey. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey works to protect that rich biodiversity. There are over 70 endangered and threatened species in New Jersey. Supporting the Conserve Wildlife Foundation helps protect all the different animals and mammals that swim, walk, and fly in the Garden State.

And Many, Many More

These are just a few of the many different non-profits that need help in New Jersey. They all do important work and it requires money for them to continue to do their important work. Everyone has something they are passionate about. My two passions are protection of open spaces and access to fine and performing arts, especially in public education. Find what fuels you and become an ally. If you aren’t in a position to donate funds, consider donating food to your local food pantry, clothes to a local shelter, or volunteer with an organization that feeds your soul and does good in your community. If you aren’t sure about the history of a specific organization, check them out on Charity Navigator. You’ll be able to see how they spend their donations as well as their history. You can also look at Community Foundation of New Jersey. This is a well-regarded organization that helps to manage the financial aspect of many different funds, scholarships, and organizations in a legal and ethical manner.

So get ready to give!