Friday, April 20, 2012

Sustainable Jersey for Sustainable Communities

by GSWA's Director of Education & Outreach Hazel England

Sustainable Jersey is a program that rewards New Jersey towns engaging in actions and practices leading to a more sustainable community.  Municipalities taking part initially register their intent to try and attain Sustainable Community status, form a Green Team, and begin undertaking and documenting their actions.  A municipality may be awarded bronze or silver level Sustainable Community status at the annual NJ League of Municipalities Conference, provided that the specific sustainability actions they have taken have been verified and tallied using a special state-wide points system.  Apart from creating more livable communities, Sustainable Jersey certification provides positive public recognition and more funding opportunities for new sustainability projects.

Several towns around the Great Swamp watershed have followed up their intent to pursue certification by attaining either a bronze or a silver certification.  Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) has partnered with several of these municipalities by becoming a member of the Green Teams they have created, and by aiding with water conservation or education-related activities.  The table below shows where communities are regarding certification status.

Most recently, GSWA presented at water education programs that Chatham Township conducted for its residents.  GSWA was a panel member in a water conservation education event.  On March 10, 2012, Chatham Township also co-sponsored a GSWA rain garden workshop and educational program that showcased how rain gardens can effectively manage stormwater within a property by slowing its flow into streams and water treatment plants.

Some of the other actions we have taken in other towns and municipalities include co-sponsoring public sustainability discussions and movie events, appearing at green fairs with important watershed information, and presenting informative education programs on non-point-source pollution, waste reduction, and water conservation techniques.

Why not check out how your own town is trying to become a more sustainable community? Maybe GSWA can help you improve the places where you live, work, and play.  Give us a call at 973-538-3500!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Swamptails Hit the Spot!

Here's a special Great Swamp Watershed Association thank you to everyone who joined us for Gators and Lilypads at George & Martha's in Morristown last night. We had a blast! Hope you did too. See you next time!

Our sincere thanks to George & Martha's for providing an excellent venue, some very creative cocktails, and great food!

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Video: Why Is New Jerey's Weather Changing?

by Steve Reynolds. Director of Communications & Membership, Great Swamp Watershed Association

We don't expect climate change to make things warmer as if we're going up an escalator. It's much more like you're going on a hiking trail to the top of a peak, but that path has ups and downs as you try and get there. Don't lose sight of the long-term picture.

Over the last year or so, it seems as though we New Jerseyians just cannot catch a break when it comes to weather. In December 2010 Snowmageddon blanketed our state in white. In 2011, flooding from Hurricane Irene washed out roads and homes statewide, and an unusual late-October snowstorm pulled down trees and wreaked havoc with our power infrastructure. In these early months of 2012, we have seen our warmest March ever and our fourth warmest winter on record. As I write this piece, wildfires touched off by unusually dry conditions rage in the Pine Barrens, in the Meadowlands, and elsewhere. What exactly is going on with all this bizarre weather?

That is one of the questions the Great Swamp Watershed Association asked guest speaker Professor Anthony Broccoli, director of the Rutgers Center for Environmental Prediction, in advance of his visit to the organization's headquarters in Morristown on April 10, 2012. When he arrived to give his presentation as part of GSWA's popular Breakfast Briefing speaker series, he helped us better understand the issue by re-imagining our question.

Setting a more scientific tone, he asked our audience of 28 people, "What types of extreme weather may be plausibly associated with climate change and which may not?" The answer was much more complicated than any of us could have imagined.

Among all of the different manifestations of weather he proceeded to describe--temperature and precipitation extremes, heat and drought, tornadoes and thunderstorm, hurricanes and heavy rains, and snowstorms--the associations varied widely. For events like extreme heat and drought, the links to global climate change were quite strong. For events like hurricanes and freak snowstorms, the links were harder to distinguish.

Why was it so hard to come up with clearly definitive answers? The reasons are manifold. For intance, where tornadoes are concerned, a relative lack of observational data complicates the establishment of trends. And, in the case of snowstorms, the alignment of conditions needed to produce a significant event is much more unpredictable.

GSWA recorded Professor Broccoli's presentation and posted on our YouTube channel at We invite you to watch the video and draw your own conclusions about our recent spate of extreme weather and its relationship to global climate change.

Viewers will want to make special note of all the examples of New Jersey weather phenomena Professor Broccoli uses throughout his talk. The richness of this state-specific content--the weather observations, photos, and more--will pique the interest of any New Jerseyian.

The video is embedded below. As you watch, please turn up the volume. Audio quality is complicated by our presentation space.

If you would like to download the slideshow Professor Broccoli presented, please click here or visit[Flat].pdf. Slides are in PDF format.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt, May 19

The Great Swamp Watershed Association is proud to inaugurate a new event this May that will spotlight amazing sites of natural, cultural, and historic interest found throughout the 55-square-mile Great Swamp watershed. The first Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt will be held on Saturday, May 19, 2012, and its goal is to help you enjoy a day outdoors and take you to places you might not know about, or have not thought about visiting before.

How will it work? Well, from 9 a.m. to noon on May 19, you, your family, and friends will stop by our home base at  Loantaka Brook Reservation's Kitchell Pond Pavilion. There you will pick up a set of clues designed to take you on a journey of discovery through our region. Along the way, you will choose where you want to go and what questions you will answer to prove that you've been there.

Scavenge as much or as little as you want throughout the day. This will be your time to explore! But, whatever you do, remember to return to Loantaka Brook Reservation at 4:00 p.m. where we will celebrate your odyssey with refreshments. While you relax, we will tally up everyone's scavenger hunt results. Special prizes await our highest-scoring scavengers, and, who knows, there just might be one or two more surprises in store!

The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt is suitable for people of all ages and all skill levels.

GSWA is partnering with Morris County Park CommissionSomerset County Park Commission,Morristown National Historical ParkGreat Swamp National Wildlife RefugeFriends of Great Swamp National Wildlife RefugeThe Raptor TrustNew Jersey Audubon Society, and Harding Land Trust, so there will be lots of fun and exciting places to visit.
Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt Partners
Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt Partners

This is shaping up to be one of northern New Jersey's can't-miss events of spring 2012! So remember, save May 19 on your calendars for GSWA's inaugural Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt.
You need to get in this game!
Thanks to our Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt underwriters PSEG and PNC Bank!

All are invited to participate in this FREE event; however, if you do plan to attend, please register online at GSWA's website. Advanced registration helps us better organize our activities, and allows us to contact you if plans change.

What: The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt

Date: Saturday, May 19, 2012

Times: Pick up clues—between 9:00 a.m. & Noon, Hunt—between 9:00 a.m. & 4:00 p.m., Rewards & Relaxation—between 4:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m.

Where: Start & End at Kitchell Pond Pavilion, 75 Kitchell Road, Morristown, NJ, but Scavenger Hunt locations will be spread throughout the 55-square-mile Great Swamp Watershed.

Registration: Participation in the Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt is FREE of charge. Please let us know if you plan to attend by completing the registration form below.

More Information: Call GSWA at 973-538-3500 x22 for event updates, including scheduling and venue changes. Please listen to the recorded message on the hotline for any change or cancellation notices. All events are subject to change or cancellation without advanced notice; however, we will try to notify registered participants of any changes via email or telephone (if contact information is provided).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Springtime Is Volunteer Time!

March at the Great Swamp Watershed Association was all about volunteering and working outside this year. On Sunday, March 18, Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm worked with the Morris County Park Commission and the Americorp NJ Watershed Ambassadors to lead more than 20 volunteers through cleanup activities at a new inside Loantaka Brook Reservation (Morris Township). After three hours of hard work, the nonnative plants are out and the natives are in along this short stretch of Loantaka Brook near Seaton Hackney Stables.

On Saturday, March 24, Director of Outreach and Education Hazel England, who also doubles as our land steward, led another large group of volunteers through trail maintenance tasks at our 53-acre Conservation Management Area (CMA) in Harding Township. Bridges were built, trails were mulched, and weeds were pulled. After all this hard work our CMA is ready for springtime visitors, so remember to pay us a visit at 1 Tiger Lily Lane.

Want to get the scoop on what really happened during our March volunteer days? Check out these two recent updates from our two volunteer group leaders, Laura and Hazel.

GSWA’s Annual Stream Cleanup & Enhancement by Laura Kelm

You might remember previous Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) stream cleanups at Kitchell Pond where our volunteers collected trash from the grounds of Loantaka Brook Reservation. The good news is that our gatherings there have made a real difference! This year there was minimal trash around the pond, so we decided to change our work site and the focus of our event.

GSWA worked with Geoff Knapp from the Morris County Park Commission and Stephanie Queirolo, the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador for the region, to plan this year’s volunteer work. On March 18th, 21 volunteers converged on Loantaka Brook Reservation’s South Street Recreation Area to refresh and enhance the stream bank along Loantaka Brook. Many of the participants were new to GSWA, including several students from Passaic County Community College.

Located next to Seton Hackney Stables, the area we focused on sheltered many invasive plant species and nuisance vines that were overtaking nearby trees and reducing local biodiversity. Using clippers and lots of manpower, the volunteers removed the vines and invasive plants and planted 15 native trees in their place.

The native trees that we planted will provide wildlife habitat, and their deep roots will help to stabilize the bank of Loantaka Brook. The plant material we removed from the site was collected by the Morris County Park Commission to be turned into mulch. We got much more accomplished than we had planned, but there is still more to be done to rid the entire area of invasive plants. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped out, and we hope to see you at future cleanups!

Check out photos from the Loantaka Brook volunteer day below or on GSWA's Flickr page!

Volunteer Workday At The Conservation Management Area by Hazel England

Twenty-three people from near and far enjoyed the warm March weather and early blooming trout lilies and spicebush, while readying the GSWA CMA for spring.  After the hurricanes and flooding of August, and the freak snows in October, the trails were in need of some TLC. Our volunteers spread wood mulch over paths leading a third of a mile away from the CMA entrance to the Silver Brook boardwalk bridge. This will allow hikers access without muddying up their boots quite so much.

Students from Passaic County College helped us clear introduced, non-native plant species away from several hundred small native shrubs. This will give our native plants time to establish themselves successfully without competing with invasives for light or nutrients. Because the CMA has a 28-acre fence around it to exclude deer, we have found that removing invasives and replanting native plants has allowed the forest understory to flourish.

Ten volunteers from the REI’s retail store in East Hanover—easily identified by their bright orange volunteer shirts—helped us construct a temporary bridge crossing that will join the CMA’s existing trail system with lands conserved by our neighbors at the Harding Land Trust. In the coming year, new trails will be created on HLT lands that will expand the total number of trail miles visitors can access. When all is said and done, a hike that begins at the CMA gate off of Tiger Lily Lane and concludes on HLT property along Harter Road will cover almost 2.5 miles of ground. 

Thanks to all who volunteered their time!  GSWA will having more weekend volunteer days as we manage the property and restore it to a functioning floodplain forest. Our next scheduled volunteer workday takes place on June 16. Register online at

Check out photos from the CMA volunteer day below or on GSWA's Flickr page!

Please join us at a future volunteer event!