Monday, May 2, 2016

Programs and Events at the Pequest Trout Hatchery

The Pequest Trout Hatchery is open seven days a week through October. Take a self-guided tour of the hatchery facility, explore the outdoors on the trails or enjoy for a FREE program! Guided trail hikes, beginner fishing classes, fly fishing classes, bird walks and talks, fish talks and amphibian programs - there's something for everyone! All programs require registration.

 Look what is scheduled so far for May.

First Saturday Hike
Saturday, May 7
9:00 a.m.
Join Wildlife Conservation Corps member and member of the NJ Woodland Stewards Program, John Hooven in a two-mile guided hike on our trail system. Explore animal tracks and evidence and immerse yourself in a variety of different habitats as you explore the Pequest Wildlife Management Area. Open to anyone able to walk 2 miles on moderate trails.

First Saturday Hike
Saturday, May 7
12:00 p.m.
Join Wildlife Conservation Corps member and member of the NJ Woodland Stewards Program, John Hooven in a two-mile guided hike on our trail system. Explore animal tracks and evidence and immerse yourself in a variety of different habitats as you explore the Pequest Wildlife Management Area. Open to anyone able to walk 2 miles on moderate trails.

Take Mom Fishing
Saturday, May 7
10:30 a.m.
Help mom learn the basics of fishing in this hands-on session. Topics will include fish biology and identification, casting techniques, equipment, knot tying and more. Discussions will be followed by an actual trout fishing experience in our Education Pond. This program is geared for ages 8 years and above. Younger children are welcome to participate with direct adult assistance. All equipment is provided for the program. You supply the nightcrawlers. We recommend that at least one adult per family has a fishing license, so come a few minutes early and buy yours at the front desk when you sign in.

Hunter Education
Saturday, May 14
8:00 a.m.
Beat the fall rush and get ready for hunting by taking your Hunter Education class at the hatchery. You must have your completed homework with you at the class and be pre-registered. To register for your class go to After you pass the class, stop by the front desk and buy your hunting license. Youth hunting licenses are free!

Fly Fishing with Streamers
Saturday, May 14
10:00 a.m.
In this course, Wildlife Conservation Corps volunteers Pierre Benoist and Jim Flatley will discuss reading a trout stream, basic knots, fishing streamers and a review of streamer patterns. After the morning discussion, students will get to test their new knowledge on the Education Pond. This program is the second in a series of seven fly fishing/tying classes. Students completing all seven classes will receive a course completion certificate. Those unable to attend all sessions or not wishing to earn a certificate may pick and choose the classes to attend. Students should bring their own equipment if available. Open to anyone 10 years old and above.

All About Bluebirds
Saturday, May 21
1:00 p.m.
Join us and get the scoop on bluebirds! Volunteer Leo Hollein will present his fabulous slide show with fun facts and cool info! Program includes a walk to check out nest boxes! This presentation will cover all aspects of bluebird breeding as well as discussing their nest box competitors and predators. Open to all ages.

Leo is a long time member of NJ Audubon and The Friends of the Great Swamp. He has authored several articles on bluebirds for NJ Audubon magazine and for over 10 years he has coordinated the monitoring of the 140 box bluebird trail in the Great Swamp.

Warbler Walk
Saturday, May 28
9:30 a.m.
Wildlife Conservation Corps volunteer and member of the NJ Bluebird Society, Frank Budney, will lead this discussion and walk as you roam the grounds searching out warblers. Discussion will include why warblers migrate and where they go and where they are from. You will learn to look at distinguishing marks that will help you identify birds in the field and their habitat requirements. Please bring binoculars and a birding field guide if you have one. Open to anyone aged 10 years and above.

Saturday, May 28
1:00 p.m.
Division employee, Russ Dodge will lead this program on sturgeon. Russ will cover the unique physical and living characteristics of sturgeon and paddlefish, as well as the commercial value of sturgeon (caviar). Most sturgeon species in the US closed to commercial and recreational fishing. Open to all ages.

World of Amphibians
Sunday, May 29
2:00 p.m.
Join us as we learn about the world of amphibians. In this program for adults young and old, we will discover where amphibians came from, how they grow up, and their importance in the ecosystem. Amphibians were some of the first animals in history to move onto land, but they still rely on water for major parts of their life cycle. They are key species in their environments not only because they eat bugs and are eaten by top predators, but they also tell us how healthy their environment is. Then, once we learn all of these amazing things about amphibians, we'll go meet some in person at Pequest's own muck pond! Please bring nets if you have them and boots that can get wet.

Presented by Allegra Mitchell, Wildlife Conservation Corps. Allegra completed a Bachelor's degree in Conservation Biology and a Master's degree in Biology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her Master's degree work on amphibian locomotor performance as it relates to habitat preference is being published in the scientific journal, Functional Ecology. She has led and assisted in multiple research projects on herpetofauna and other groups of species, both domestically and abroad. Allegra also educated her fellow students in herpetology as a teaching assistant at her university. She now shares her knowledge of amphibians through symposia presentations and through volunteering with educational programs in her home state of New Jersey. She is passionate about amphibian conservation and carries this mission with her as she begins her career in wildlife biology.

For the full program schedule visit

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Before They Are Endangered

A recent article from the Press of Atlantic City, reminds us that protecting New Jersey's snakes, birds, frogs and other animals and plants BEFORE they are endangered is really the goal of conservationists.

In that article, the focus is on effort in the far-from-barren NJ Pinelands. The post online includes a video and follows Emile DeVito, an expert on endangered species in the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, who studies the rarest plants and animals.

Those species include the Pickering’s morning glory and the iconic Pine Barrens tree frog.

The Pickering's morning glory is not currently listed in NJ and so its rarity makes it the kind of species that needs attention (and will not get as much federal or state funding support) so that it is not overlooked and it moves to a threatened or endangered status.

Current limited range for the Pine Barrens treefrog

The Pine Barrens treefrog is another kind of species case study. In 1979, iy was listed as an endangered species in New Jersey due to its restricted range, declining population, habitat loss, and pollution of breeding ponds. But conservation efforts moved the treefrog population to a point that it is currently considered stable.

New Jersey serves as a stronghold for this species throughout its entire range. In areas of suitable habitat, they may seem abundant. However, protection of this species is warranted, as quality habitat is limited to specialized Pine Barrens ecosystems patchily distributed throughout its range.

 Flower of Stylisma pickeringii Pickering's Dawnflower or Pickering's Morning Glory, near Batsto, New Jersey.
via Wikimedia
Conservationists have long known that addressing species in decline before they reach the the stages of being threatened or endangered is the real goal.

As members of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Audubon and the NJDEP track species, they can identify important habitat for that species.

For example, the docile pine snake can be tracked using implanted transmitters that allow us to discover winter dens and nesting sites.

Pine snake moving across sandy soil

We have more than 80 species of wildlife from mammals to birds to insects in New Jersey that are considered endangered or threatened. (See list at There are also dozens of plants that are in danger that probably get less attention than the "sexier" wildlifr.

Some habitats that need protectionare less than intuitive spaces. For example, Ryan Rebozo, director of conservation science at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, says that the edges of roads in the Pinelands could replace some lost open areas, such as those lost by dousing fires that naturally create suitable habitat. But too often road departments are mowing these areas at inopportune times when some rare plants are flowering. He estimates that 11,000 acres of road edges could be suitable habitat for some of our rare plants, such as the the Pine Barrens gentian, which needs direct sunlight and flowers later in the fall when mowing is common.

Pine Barrens gentian in Wharton State Forest
Thomas Kornack, licensed under a Creative Commons License

As important as education and information, such as this post, can be, it alone isn’t going to save species. People, especially volunteers and the general public, need to take action.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day in New Jersey

Earth Day - Friday, April 22 - is a great way to show appreciation for the Earth. This one special day is more important than ever because learning about the environmental dangers that face our home is ever increasingly crucial to the planet's and our own well being.

Via we get these 6 suggestions for ways to celebrate Earth Day around Monmouth County, NJ.

What's happening in your area?  Add a comment to this post!

The Bayshore Waterfront Park at Port Monmouth is a great way to learn about marine life and beach restoration. You and your family can tour the park and witness the wildlife that dwells on the beach. You can even participate in an interactive show and tell program.
Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown offers a beautiful landscape of vast gardens that you can walk through and enjoy. It's here that you can learn the tricks of the trade so that you can improve your home garden, and make your thumb a little greener. For family fun, Deep Cut Gardens offers scavenger hunts on its 54 acres.
Huber Woods Environmental Center in Locust offers a variety of activities that would be perfect for Earth Day. Your little ones can learn more about the Lenape tribe, the natives who used to dwell in the area before it was settled by European colonists. They can play Native American instruments, try basket weaving and participate in the maize game.
The Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, located in Howell, is hosting an event called "Celebrate Earth Hour" on March 19th at 8 p.m. This no-flashlight event offers games, night hikes, crafts and treats for you and your whole family. At the end of this event, participants are encouraged to enjoy the vast sky that will be better observed because of the lack of light pollution.
Thompson Park in Lincroft encourages getting dirty. What they mean is that children should run around outside and enjoy the flora and fauna. This 667 acre park offers various activities that are perfect for you and your family including tennis courts and winding paths that are great for hikes.
Turkey Swamp Park, located in Freehold, is a great place to take the family for the weekend. This park features a 2,261 acre wooded park that is perfect for camping. Build a fire, go fishing and enjoy the beautiful sight of nature with your family. You can even go swimming in the 17-acre lake.

Double Trouble State Park

I am a big fan of the Pinelands (AKA The Pine Barrens) and as the weather warms up, you might want to visit some of the state parks that are in that area.

The property that makes up Double Trouble State Park was purchased by New Jersey in 1964. Besides recreational opportunities, it afforded a way to help protect the Cedar Creek watershed.

The Double Trouble Historic District was placed on the State Register of Historic Places in 1977 and on the National Register in 1978.

This park, located in Lacey and Berkeley Townships, offers visitors a great place for a simple walk, bicycling and horseback riding on the easy trails and sand roads throughout the park. The Double Trouble Historic District has a self-guided, marked 1.5-mile loop nature trail and several miles of unmarked paths along sand service roads. Nature trail guides are available at the trailhead next to the cranberry packing house and at the park information building.

There is no entrance fee.

Cedar Creek offers canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Cedar Creek from Bamber Lake to Barnegat Bay runs approximately 9 miles.

There are 8,500 acres in this Pine Barrens ecosystem which was once the site of cranberry bogs. Going back to the Civil War, Atlantic white cedar swamps were cleared and converted into cranberry bogs and into the early 20th century, the Double Trouble Company ran one of our state's largest cranberry operations.

Cranberry harvest at Double Trouble State Park - photo by George Mar

You can take tours of the historic Double Trouble Village which was associated with cranberry agriculture as well as earlier Atlantic white cedar logging and milling.

The interesting name of the area supposedly comes from a time when beavers and muskrats were gnawing holes in a dam on the mill pond. On a day when two leaks were discovered simultaneously at the site, a worker is said to have exclaimed "There's double trouble."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Great Falls Today

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the history of the Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson. Today, I'm looking at what is there today.

It is a natural wonder, but it is only 15 miles from downtown Manhattan and surrounded by a very urban and troubled city.

It is New Jersey's newest national park - officially the Great Falls National Historic Park.

We know it for the 77-foot falls that is so often photographed with its arched iron bridge and historic redbrick mill buildings that were once powered by the falls and its raceway system.

The smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton about Paterson's founding father has made Paterson a place to visit if the story intrigues you and you want to dig deeper. The connection between the musical's story and Alexander Hamilton's economic legacy began not in New York City but at Paterson's Great Falls.

Hamilton chose the site of the Great Falls to propel his brainchild, a "national manufactory," Paterson was America's first planned industrial city. In 1791 the Society for the Establishing Usefull Manufactures (S.U.M) was incorporated.

The Great Falls is the east coast's second largest waterfall. Everyone knows #1 - Niagara Falls - and the hope was that New Jersey could pull some tourists to our Great Falls and the surrounding Paterson historic district.

But, just like other natural areas like forests and beaches, and historic areas and wildlife species, the Great Falls needs protection.

The area was named a National Natural Landmark in 1967, a National Historic Landmark District in 1976, And getting a national historic park designation in 2009 helps, but it is not enough.

Last fall, Paterson's Planning Board approved a 156-unit apartment complex atop the ridge overlooking the historic district and falls. Huh? Doesn't that destroy the very thing that you want to promote?

Perhaps the tourism dollars from the park have not come or have not come quickly. Selling land and having construction done is fast and easy money, but will a dangerous half-life to the future.

Short-term tax ratables versus long-term planning and a revitalized Paterson is much more difficult and will take much longer - but will have a much longer and lasting impact on the city, area and state.

Cultural Center at the park

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Paterson's Great Falls History

Distant view of Passaic Falls.
Distant view of Passaic Falls. by New York Public Library, on Flickr
It was founding father Alexander Hamilton - the current subject of a hip-hop Broadway musical bearing his name - who first imagined how the Great Falls could power industrial development. Hamilton visited the falls in 1778, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, and shared his vision with George Washington and General Lafayette.

After the war, as U.S. treasury secretary, Hamilton selected Paterson to become the nation's first planned industrial city. The water-powered mills produced silk, locomotives and guns, including the first Colt .45 pistols.

Paterson enjoys a distinguished history as one of this nation's earliest industrial centers. It owes its existence to the far reaching vision of one of America's most important founders, and a shaper of our modern governmental and financial institutions, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton envisioned Paterson, with its water power provided by the Great Falls of the Passaic River, as America's counterpart and response to the industrial revolution occurring in England during the same period.

The history of the City of Paterson includes its beginnings as the ambitious project of Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.) in 1792 at the Great Falls, the early development of water power systems for industrial use, and the various types of manufacturing that occurred in the District's mills into the 20th Century. These included cotton fabrics, railroad locomotives, textile machinery, jute, and silk spinning, weaving, and dyeing, among many others.

The Great Falls also represents compelling stories of the lives of immigrants who labored in the mills, those who owned and operated manufacturing concerns and became wealthy, and the quest of laborers and the labor movement for better working conditions and pay. Immigrants still settle today in Paterson to pursue their versions of Hamilton's vision, creating a diverse and vibrant culture.

Samuel Colt was an early Paterson business owner? From 1836 until 1842, his gun mill produced about 5,000 guns. A lack of government contracts was a major factor in his failure in Paterson. He later achieved success in his hometown of Hartford, Conn., with the outbreak of the Mexican-American War.

Waterfalls and ancient geology, engineering landmarks and the economic birth of a new nation - these are just a few of the things you will discover on your visit to the City of Paterson and the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

Interesting slideshow of vintage Paterson postcards and audio about preserving the city's heritage from The New York Times.