Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Everglades of Central Jersey

Well, the marketing people weren't called in when they named Dismal Swamp in Central New Jersey. The Dismal Swamp Conservation Area is anything but dismal, in the same way that the "Pine Barrens" are not barren.

David Wheeler, Director of Operations for Edison Wetlands Association, (EWA) did several posts on the G.R. Dodge Foundation blog on protecting the Dismal Swamp.

Known as the “Everglades of Central Jersey,” the 1,240-acre Dismal Swamp Conservation Area is the largest natural area remaining in northern Middlesex County, spanning portions of Edison, Metuchen and South Plainfield. EWA is leading a number of coalitions to preserve, restore, promote, and transform this natural oasis from a long-overlooked area in one of New Jersey’s most overdeveloped regions into a nature sanctuary treasured by the public and immensely valuable to wildlife. EWA’s vision, leadership and collaboration resulted in the creation of the Dismal Swamp State Preservation Commission in 2009, with EWA’s Bob Spiegel continuing to strengthen this state oversight as Chair of the Commission.

The Dismal Swamp serves as a natural oasis holding United States Environmental Protection Agency Federal Priority Wetlands. The Dismal Swamp is home to over 180 species of birds, and two dozen species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles, as well as a dozen threatened and endangered species, such as the American bittern, bald eagle, and spotted turtle. The Dismal Swamp also provides natural flood control and wildlife habitat, while its forests produce oxygen, and its wetlands clean and purify water

Beaver-cut tree along the Bound Brook

EWA has worked since then to preserve many other key Dismal Swamp properties, partnering with groups like NY-NJ Baykeeper and New Jersey Audubon Society, and agencies like the Middlesex County Freeholders and the NY/NJ Port Authority to save over 800 acres in Edison and nearly 100 acres in South Plainfield from over development.

EWA is also working on a number of trails projects to expand opportunities for hiking, birding, and wildlife viewing in the area.
  • In 2011 the Middlesex Greenway just opened the newest leg of its trail connecting hikers and bicyclists from Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, and Edison with Metuchen’s portion of the Dismal Swamp. EWA continues to work with elected officials and the Edison Greenways Group to extend the greenway into the heart of South Plainfield’s Dismal Swamp.

David Wheeler is the author of Wild New Jersey. David also posted on the restoration of the Raritan River

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