by Michele S. Byers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
In the race to save New Jersey’s remaining open and natural lands, it’s easy to forget that this state we’re in already has an abundance of amazing public lands that belong to us all. Public lands include many familiar places; national wildlife refuges, state and county parks, and local trails and wildlife management areas. So why not celebrate National Public Lands Day on Sept. 26 and check out our own New Jersey natural treasures.
National Public Lands Day began in 1994 to organize volunteers to care for the lands taxpayers have purchased. Stewardship of public lands is often lacking and even when effective, there is just no substitute for a group of dedicated volunteers.
Event sponsors, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), is dedicated to educating Americans about critical environmental and natural resources issues and the need for shared stewardship of public lands; to improve public lands for outdoor recreation; and to build partnerships that will enhance public lands going forward. Learn more about them at www.neefusa.org.
So far, their track record has been pretty impressive! In the first year, National Public Lands Day involved just three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. By 2008, more than 120,000 volunteers were at work in every state. Eight federal agencies and a host of state, county and local lands participated – a total of more than 1,800 locations nationwide!
Check out one of the nine registered sites in New Jersey:
- Atlantic County Park at Lenape West in Mays Landing – contact Karen Zindell, Atlantic County Division of Parks and Recreation, at (609) 625-7000 x5378.
- Cherry Hill Township Trails at Croft Farm – on Saturday, October 10; contact Lew Gorman III, Cherry Hill Township, at (856) 397-1649.
- Fort Dix – contact Roger Smith, U.S. Army, at (609) 562-2040, or visit http://fortdixenvironmental.blogspot.com.
- Jockey Hollow Top Preserve in Morris Township – contact William Foelsch, Morris Township Department of Parks & Recreation, at (973) 326-7371.
- Pine Hill Scout Reservation Service Weekend – contact Lew Gorman III, Southern New Jersey Boy Scout Council Conservation Committee Chairman, at (703) 358-1911.
- Stephens State Park in Hackettstown – contact James Newquist, N.J. State Division of Parks & Forestry, at (908) 852-3790.
- Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association in Pennington – contact Maryann Polefka at (609) 737-7592.
- Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex County – on Sunday, September 27; contact Marie Springer, Friends of the Wallkill River Wildlife Refuge, at (201) 660-8880 or visit http://www.friendsofwallkillrivernwr.org.
- Williamstown Middle School in Williamstown, Gloucester County – contact Janet Mead of Community of Caring Gardens at (856) 629-7444.
Volunteer at one of these sites; all you need is sturdy footwear, bottled water and sun protection! And you might want to bring a camera too because you’ll want to record the fun!
For more information, visit http://www.publiclandsday.org. The deadline for land managers to register additional sites is Sept. 12, so check the website to see if other work sites become available. And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.
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