Monday, October 31, 2011

Learn About Road Salt Alternatives Before Winter Is Here To Stay

On Thursday, November 10, Great Swamp Watershed Association and United Water will present a special workshop on environmentally sensitive snow and ice removal practices for the approaching winter season. The Winter Roads Maintenance Workshop will provide tailored information for an audience of landscapers; apartment, condo, office, and campus maintenance crews; snow plowing contractors; municipal public works departments and others engaging in moderate to large-scale snow removal activities during winter months. Homeowners are also encouraged to attend to pick up tips on environmentally sound de-icing techniques for their own properties.

“We look forward to helping GSWA educate attendees about new snow and ice management techniques that will increase efficiency, save money, and reduce their impact on water quality,” said United Water Vice President for External Affairs Edmund M. DeVeaux.

The goal of the workshop is to raise awareness about year-round pollution from road salt and other winter road treatments.  Scientific study has demonstrated that road salt is the most abundant water pollutant found in our area.  Water quality testing performed by GSWA experts along Morris County’s Loantaka Brook between 2005 and 2007 illustrates the larger problem facing the 55 square mile Great Swamp Watershed.  The study concluded that local wintertime de-icing regimes along roads, adjacent to parking lots, and in the vicinity of large housing and office complexes introduced sodium and chloride contamination into the stream at levels that would cause chronic toxicity in stream water throughout the year.  The enduring presence of road salt is attributable to its ability to be retained in the soil for a long period of time, gradually leaching into groundwater supplies.

For more information about GSWA’s Loantaka Brook study, please see the following web page:

GSWA research on road salt prompted the organization to produce a similar workshop in 2009.  More than 40 participants from local municipal public works departments attended that event. The Nov. 10 workshop will build on the success of this original program by extending information about salt alternatives to a new audience that also engages heavily in snow and ice removal activities.

During the workshop, presenters will lay out the environmental effects of sodium and chloride on water quality, and provide information about alternatives to traditional road salt.  Some of the alternatives covered will include the use of pre-wetted salts and brine. Presenters also will spend time reviewing the equipment needed to make and use brine.

The Winter Roads Maintenance Workshop will take place on Thursday, November 10, 2011, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., at GSWA’s offices located at 568 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown, NJ. Admission is free, but advanced registration is appreciated.

Please register online at or call 973-539-3500 x22.  A continental breakfast will be served.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Geocaching: This Outdoor Game Might Become Your Next Passion

Learn geocaching basics at a workshop presented by Great Swamp Watershed Association and Northern New Jersey Cachers

You played Hide-And-Go-Seek and Capture The Flag as a kid, right? You did your fair share of scavenger hunts too. Now that you are grown up, and maybe have a family of your own, it’s time to up the ante a little bit, don’t you think?  It’s time to get outside and do a little geocaching!

Never heard of geocaching before? Well, it’s a game—a real-world, global treasure hunting game where the players use GPS devices (a navigation tool or GPS-enabled smartphone) to locate special containers hidden outdoors at special locations. 

Geocaches—the containers and objects you set out to find when you go geocaching—come in many different forms.  Traditionally, your coordinates will lead you to a container holding a log book where you record the date and time of your visit for posterity. Sometimes you will find an item that you can take as a keepsake, provided you leave another item of equal or greater value. Sometimes, finding one geocache gives you coordinates or clues for finding another, or points you toward an environmental landmark like an old tree or a bird’s nesting box.  Whatever turns up at your destination, it’s a good bet that the natural beauty you have seen and experienced on your way is what the game is all about.

Like all games, geocaching has rules.  The first two—recording your visit in a log book and only taking a geocached item when you can replace it with something else—were mentioned earlier.  Other rules include not putting yourself or others in danger, respecting local laws and property rights, and, minimizing your impact on the environment.

Before you start geocaching, you will want to make sure you are familiar with all its rules.  You will also want to make sure you know how to get out and enjoy our natural world without disturbing it.

If this sounds like a lot to consider for a simple treasure-hunting game, never fear!  Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) and Northern New Jersey Cachers (NNJC) have you covered.  The two nonprofit groups are teaming up on Saturday, November 5, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to teach you all the basics of geocaching—from selecting your equipment to maintaining the health and beauty of all the wild and scenic natural areas you visit.  This Introduction to Geocaching Workshop is open to all ages and skill levels, and will begin at GSWA’s office at 568 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown, NJ. After a quick class introducing you to basic geocaching concepts, the workshop will travel to GSWA’s Conservation Management Area (CMA) at 1 Tiger Lily Lane in Morristown.  The CMA—with its 53 acres of undeveloped fields, streams, and woodlands—is a perfect venue for testing out your newly acquired geocaching skills, and there are already several geocaches hidden there for you to find and enjoy. Please note that you do not need your own GPS device in order to participate. And, all the walking or hiking we do outdoors will be on easy, level terrain, so people of all ages will be comfortable, especially kids!

Advanced registration is required for participation in the geocaching workshop. GSWA asks all those who are not yet members of the organization to contribute $10 per person to help offset expenses.  Register online at or call GSWA’s event hotline at 973-538-3500 x22.  Please remember to bring your boots or hiking shoes to the workshop—it’s been really wet the past two months! Please also remember to dress appropriately for the weather, and bring your own reusable water bottles and snacks for the outdoor portion of the program.

Get outside and enjoy the natural world! Give geocaching a try on November 5!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bears In The Back Yard

The recent spate of bear sightings in Harding, NJ—one of the ten towns within the Great Swamp Watershed—put us in mind of a story one of our volunteers wrote for our last print newsletter.  In that piece, our volunteer, Jim Northrop, spins a tale about an imaginary encounter with a mother bear during one of his visits to GSWA's offices on Tempe Wick Road in Morristown.  As the fantasy unfolds, Jim takes the opportunity to relay some important information and insights about the ever-increasing frequency of interaction between bears and people in our region.

The story—which was inspired by a real-life bear encounter here at GSWA's offices over the summer—is reprinted here for you to read.  We hope you enjoy it!


Meet The New Neighbors
by Jim Northrop 


I am a GSWA volunteer.  Last week we had an early evening meeting.  It was hot and sticky; dusk had come as the meeting adjourned.  As I walked out of the GSWA building toward my car, I noticed a large black object up the hill near the woods.  O. M. G. ----- it was a large black bear sniffing her way toward our garbage cans.  I remembered that the night before, we had been guests here at a GSWA volunteer appreciation party.  Pizza was the main culinary attraction, and discarded pizza boxes (holding a few bits of uneaten pizza crust) would have smelled good even to me!

I froze, and the bear cautiously came closer.  I know that black bears are fast runners, even though they are the largest land mammal in New Jersey —in fact, I am told they can overtake a running deer when they want to.  I did not want to give the bear any cause for attacking me.  I stood frozen and still.

A few steps later the bear stopped, looked at me and said, “I smell pizza.  Can we share?”  

By this time I was the only volunteer around—the others had gone home.  I wished for someone else there who could assure me that the heat had not made me crazy.  Could this really be a talking bear?!!

Then I heard the bear speak again.

“I have two cubs with me, and my job is to teach them how to live off the land.  They know about berries and small succulent plants, but they have never heard of pizza.  I’m going to call them over.  Please do not spoil their lesson by yelling at them or throwing something at us.”

 I did not have to be told twice.  I knew that a mother black bear will get very violent, if necessary, to protect her young cubs.  So, I just stood there quietly and watched.  Oh, how I wished I had brought a camera!

Ten minutes later, they had shredded the pizza boxes and feasted on every last crust they could find.  The mother bear looked over at me and saw that I was not a threat, so she began a conversation.

“I’m new to these parts,” she said.  “I grew up in Sussex County, but recently there’s been so much residential development up there.  A lot of new bears have moved in too.  I had to find a new home.  I had to go where the people had not yet thought to guard their garbage from curious, hungry animals like me.  So, here I am, and I am loving it!”  

Remembering that a black bear’s choice of home range is largely determined by the types and availability of food, I wondered what she liked to eat when no pizza crusts were handy.

“Well,” she said, “most of the time I eat plants—especially their berries, fruit and nuts—but, I also like insects.  You know, finding an ant hill is really a treat.”

“I also like mice and other small mammals, and delicacies like the white-tailed deer carcass I found the other day.”

“I do not come across those tasty bits very often, but I am not choosy—any fresh roadkill will do just fine.  But, I am getting a bit spoiled from so much food.  You humans call it garbage, but I think it’s great!“

“My cubs have begun to associate garbage with people—not that they want to actually eat people, but if they smell humans around they assume that some tasty ‘garbage’ is nearby.”

“Sometimes this creates a problem.  When my cubs approach, people get frightened.  They think the cubs will try to make them their meal.  You see, sometimes bears are completely misunderstood.”

I felt sorry for the bear and her cubs.  After all, humans also get into trouble by misunderstanding the intentions of others.

“I am sorry you can’t be spared this grief,” I said, “but you should know that there are conservationists around who want to end the misunderstanding between people and bears.  They get other people to stop leaving their food and garbage around outside as ‘bait’.  In fact, in New Jersey, people can be punished with a fine for feeding the bears.”

“That’s very kind,” she said with a smile, “except that educating will mean no more pizza!”

“My favorite food is not really pizza, anyway.  I love finding a good-sized beehive.  You see, my fur is bee proof, and the occasional sting on the nose is well worth the sweet honey I usually find inside.”

About then, I noticed a very large shadow moving toward us from the woods.  The black bear noticed it, too, and told me that it was her mate coming from another part of the woods.  He was coming to investigate all the commotion.

The appearance of the second bear did not surprise me much.  You see, I had read once that black bears have a remarkable sense of smell, and that they have been known to smell a source of food more than two miles away.  They are also known for their good hearing and can see very well; although, they are said to be a bit near-sighted.  Their ability to see in color helps them forage for those fruits and berries they like so much.

As her mate approached, my new friend said, “I have to go.”

“My mate gets very upset when we do not save some good food for him, and my cubs and I have licked this area clean!”

As she turned to leave, I waved her a goodbye and wished her family a safe journey.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Photos From A Watershed Event: GSWA's 30th Anniversary Gala

Great Swamp Watershed Association's 30th Anniversary Gala, held on Thursday, October 13 at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown, NJ, drew more than 300 people out in support of the organization and local environmental issues.  Here are some photos from this very special evening.  If you attended the gala and took photos that you would like to share here, please contact GSWA's Director of Communications & Membership Steve Reynolds at or call 973-538-3500 x21.

Thank you to all who joined us at the 2011 gala and all those who supported the event but could not attend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gala Event Honors 30 Years Of Service To Local Environment

A Watershed Event—the aptly named gala event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA)—drew more than 300 people to Morristown’s Westin Governor Morris Hotel last Thursday to support the health and beauty of the local environment.

Guests from throughout the region and all walks of life gathered together to honor Abigail Fair and Julia Somers, two local environmental heroes whose tireless efforts have helped preserve the integrity of water and land within the 55-square-mile Great Swamp Watershed over the past three decades.  In 1981, Ms. Fair, better known as Abbie, founded the Great Swamp Watershed Committee, a group that would eventually become the GSWA. Known throughout the region for her 22 years of service to the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), Abbie also coordinated the Freshwater Wetlands Campaign which paved the way for passage of New Jersey’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act of 1987. Ms. Somers served as the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s first professional executive director, a position she held for 16 years, from 1992 to 2006.  Today, she serves as Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition where she works to protect, enhance, and restore the lands and waters of northwest New Jersey’s entire Highlands region.

The evening kicked off in high gear as revelers gathered along the hotel’s second-floor mezzanine for cocktails and a performance by the local acoustic rock band Faded Genes.  For those looking for a bit of friendly competition, GSWA elegantly arrayed items from a 120-lot silent auction outside the dining room for all to peruse.  Guests swapped bids on everything from stays at luxury accommodations in Donegal, Ireland and Montana’s Big Sky Resort, to works of art created by local artists and private tours of Great Swamp’s remotest corners.  By evening’s end, the auction generated a substantial amount of financial support for GSWA’s ongoing environmental education, stewardship and advocacy programming.

Dinner was a grand, two-hour affair punctuated by remarks from GSWA’s current Executive Director Sally Rubin, Gala Chair David Budd, and the Chairman of GSWA’s Board of Trustees Ben Wolkowitz.  An army of servers distributed course after course of the evening meal to tables sponsored by event underwriters, including Pfizer, Chrysalis Pharma Partners, Merck Consumer Care, Novartis, Peapack-Glastone Bank, and United Water.  

As the feast proceeded, Ms. Rubin expressed her deep gratitude to the assembled guests.

“As I stand here and look out over all of you who have turned out tonight, I feel myself choking up a little,” Rubin said, “It’s wonderful to know that so many of you care about the Great Swamp and the important work done by this small organization.”

A delectable dessert course and reflections from guests of honor Abbie Fair and Julia Somers capped off the evening.  After receiving a framed print of the gala’s signature photograph—a great blue heron from Great Swamp captured in flight by photographer Ari Kaufman—Ms. Somers thanked all those in attendance.

“It is wonderful to see so many people come out for the Watershed Association, and for Abbie and me,” Julia remarked. “It is very humbling to be recognized for something I never did alone.  I know I could never have accomplished anything without broad support from folks who feel just as strongly as I do about the importance of protecting the watershed.”

Following the event, Ms. Fair offered the most compelling summary of the festivities.  In an email to members of GSWA’s staff she wrote:

The crowded room at the gala was a great testament to the work GSWA has done and continues to do to protect the Great Swamp Refuge and its watershed. Working for clean water is essential to the future.

As the celebration drew to a close—after the last speech had been delivered and the last silent auction prize claimed—the future of clean water in New Jersey was a little more secure.  Proceeds from ticket and auction purchases had exceeded all expectations, and, in the words of Gala Chair David Budd, the larger-than-expected turnout “…represented undeniable evidence that all those who live, work, and play in our region value the service done by Great Swamp Watershed Association.”  All proceeds from the gala will be used to support GSWA’s environmental education, stewardship, and advocacy work within and beyond the boundaries of the Great Swamp Watershed.

Profound thanks go out to all those who contributed to the success of A Watershed Event.  The Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers of GSWA look forward to seeing you at next year’s gala!