Friday, November 16, 2012

Rest and Be Thankful?

Okay, but consider volunteering at our Conservation Management Area (CMA) on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) will be more thankful!

GSWA will hold a post-hurricane clean up and workday at its Conservation Management Area (CMA) on Sunday, November 25, 2012.

The workday will run 9:30 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

The CMA is located at 1 Tiger Lily Lane in Harding, although many GPS systems place the location in Morristown.

There are tasks for all—from brush cleanup to moving chainsawed logs off the trail, to boardwalk repairs and fencing renovations—in the wake of Sandy's unwelcome redesign of the property.

We will have work gloves, simple tools, and snacks but if there are any chainsaw experts out there we could use their EXPERT help.

All those intersted in helping out are asked to email GSWA's Director of Outreach and Education Hazel England (hazele[at] with their availability.  Please provide some indication of the type of tasks you prefer—light-duty or heavy-duty. It's also helpful to let Hazel know how many other volunteers you plan to bring with you.

Anyone who has NOT volunteered for us in the past will need to read and sign a volunteer release form, so please RSVP if you are thinking about attending.

Coffee and donuts will be available starting at 9:00 a.m.

This is your chance to get away from family after the long Thanksgiving holiday, or an opportunity to bring all those relatives together to work as a team to help recover and restore the public trails at the CMA.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Putting Lessons into Learning...

Inspired by her attendance at a couple of GSWA teacher education workshop, Great Swamp Watershed Association member and Madison Borough resident Nancy Kuster recently incorporated some of the water education activities she learned into her class at the Sundance School in North Plainfield.  Kuster is a second grade teacher with 15 years of experience, and also serves as a facilitator for Awakening the Dreamer—a non-profit organization that helps people co-create a just, thriving, and sustainable world.  Thanks to her GSWA workshop experiences and a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, she was able to continue her sustainability education by enrolling in The Cloud Institute’s New Jersey Learns program. Now, she is teaming up with GSWA to develop more ideas for sustainability lessons that she can introduce to her students.

Kuster is developing her new curriculum by introducing year-long, integrated units on sustainability into her daily curriculum.  As she conducts these lessons, she asks her students to think about cycles and systems, including decomposition, product, and water cycles. Along the way, her children have learned that the water cycle is much more than just precipitation and evaporation.  And they have come to understand where their household water comes from and where it goes once they are finished with it.

"Second graders don't typically spend a lot of time thinking about resources and pollution issues," Kuster said, "but they are definitely capable of understanding that we have limited fresh water, and that we need to start taking care of our environment."

After a presentation on water use and the bigger water picture, Kuster's students used their artistic talents and language skills to make a mural explaining the water cycle as they understood it.  They also enjoyed a presentation about non-point source pollution and learned how to clean up after themselves.

In the days and weeks to come, each child in Kuster's second grade classroom will be writing their own "Journey of a Drop"—a story aimed at describing a water drop's long trip from sky to earth and back again.  What a fantastic program our teacher workshops have inspired!

If you are an educator or know one, encourage them to attend one of the three teacher workshops GSWA is offering this academic year. Visit our workshop page at for more information and registration.

Getting Past Hurricane Sandy

All of us at GSWA hope this note finds you safe and recovering as quickly as possible from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.

Storm damage has taken a tremendous toll on the organization's projects and operations. The continuing power outage at our offices in Jockey Hollow prevents staff from accessing valuable work resources, and has interrupted the regular fall event schedule. Most notably delayed is the introduction of our new State of the Streams report for the Great Swamp Watershed. Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm was to present initial findings from this remarkable new report at a November 13 Breakfast Briefing. This event will be rescheduled for a later date, and the complete report will be released in December.

Damage sustained by GSWA's conservation infrastructure is more troubling. High winds and tree falls not only took out power lines in Jockey Hollow, they also wiped out much of the recently expanded deer exclosure at 568 Tempe Wick Road. The exclosure demonstrates what understory regeneration can look like when invasives are removed and native understory is replenished in the absence of deer; a step essential for improving local biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

The forest restoration clock suffered similar setbacks at GSWA's Conservation Management Area (CMA) in Harding Township. Damage to the deer exclosure at the CMA is so extensive that months of volunteer work may be required to close all of the newly opened gaps in the perimeter fence.

Several large trees also fell across various portions of the CMA newly expanded trail system. These obstructions must be removed before the area becomes fully accessible, and new trails will need to be blazed around those tree falls that are too big to shift. The post-storm health of hundreds of saplings and other new native shrubs our volunteers added to the CMA this summer and fall remains uncertain. A survey of these young plant beds will take place over the coming days and weeks and the deer fence will need to be repaired.

The following email sent on November 5 by CMA first-responder and GSWA Board Member John Neale vividly describes the devastation encountered while moving from the front gate of the CMA to the back where GSWA land opens onto our adjoining property. (This email has been edited for clarity.)

I drove to the CMA today, and was detoured a few times, as there are still closed roads, trees and poles still in the roadway.

Supplies from the Spooky Swamp Walk were unscathed, and I took some time to sort them out.

Now the bad news:

The CMA has a lot of damage; the deer fence is down in a number of locations [thanks to] large blow-downs. There are a number of trees blown across the trails as well. I cleared what I could but it's overwhelming.

There are a number of trees blocking the CMA cedar by the new benches is down too.

A very large tree on the bank of the [S]ilver [B]rook came down across the brook towards the trail...After you cross [the brook], there is a large blow-down across the trail.

Going straight along the boards from the bridge just, as you take a left turn and go straight, [there is] a very large tree [blown down and the deer] fence is totally down there too. 

[At] the back of the property, the fence was taken out by another very large tree.

The fence is down along the mosquito ditch [thanks to] another tree, [this one is] not far up from the [maintenance]shed.  

These are just a few I [mention], there are more down throughout the property.

I walked the [adjacent] property which also has damage, but [is] not as bad...there are a number of large blow-downs with 8-foot root balls just along the trail which we can get around, [and] then the trail on right side has two very large trees blocking the trail [which will] need to be removed. 

There are also some hangers and leaners across these trails too. It's a shame to see so many trees in this condition.

I hope everyone is getting through this OK.


Our sentiments echo John's: All of us at GSWA hope you are getting through this okay. We also hope that once your own needs have been met you will consider lending your time and your resources to help us rebuild what we all worked so hard to create. Please consider making a small extra donation to GSWA right now, or as you prepare to make your year-end gift. And please consider lending a hand at an upcoming volunteer event. We have a lot of repairs to make and could use all the hands we can get.

Updates on recovery efforts and rebuilding events will be published as they become available.  Please stay tuned and stay safe!

The Spooky Great Swamp

Great Swamp Watershed Association held its first Halloween-themed outdoor event this year, and what an event it was! With lots of help from volunteers and our partners at Northern New Jersey Cachers (NNJC), the Conservation Management Area in Harding was transformed into a "spooky swamp" for two nights of fun and fright-filled night hikes.

More than 120 ghosts, goblins, witches, and other assorted characters turned up at the CMA on Friday, October 26, to have their pants scared off. Saturday's crowd of 130 or more geocaching enthusiasts was even larger!

Even as Hurricane Sandy loomed over the horizon, both nights provided near-perfect conditions with a near-full moon shining through breaks in a dark and cloudy night sky. A 1.4 mile loop of trail was decked out in scary decorations, and some excellent volunteer actors turned up the fear factor by portraying an array of creepy and monstrous swamp denizens. GSWA Board Member and NNJC President John Neale credited longtime GSWA volunteer Blaine Rothauser with the spookiest performance both evenings.  Blaine embodied the role of the "Creepy Swamp Man" who cried out at passers-by from a strategically placed tree stand in the forest.  "All of his great lines—'Get out of my swamp,' and 'Go back to your condos and Starbucks'—made us all appreciate his work," Neale said of Rothauser.

Several other members of the GSWA community helped out with this spectacular event too.  Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm and volunteer Paul Kelm donned thigh waders and became swamp trolls.  They hid in the water under one of the bridge crossings and waited to spook unwary hikers.  Member Ginny Beutnagel , her husband, and her son dressed in black and hid alongside the trail to startle folks.  GSWA member Cathie Coultas ran the refreshment table in full costume! Members Wes Boyce, Steve Gruber, and Ann Campbell helped with setup and registration.  (Special thanks to Wes for adding decorative touches to the interior of the CMA's Port-o-John!)  GSWA Director of Education and Outreach Hazel England and her husband Emile DeVito served as tour guides for the evening along with Steve Gruber, John Neale, and volunteer Kluane Ershow.  The Spooky Swamp Walk also marked the beginning of a new partnership between GSWA and the Pingry School in Martinsville.  Twenty-two Pingry students and teachers assisted with trail maintenance and decorating. They spread trail mulch with great enthusiasm, artistically swagged bushes with faux spider webbing, and expertly carved many beautiful pumpkins as part of a school-wide community service day. Our sincerest thanks to you all!

We also must thanks several generous donors for their support of the Spooky Swamp Walk.  Cathie Coultas and Lois Wolkowitz generously supplied our refreshments and table decorations on Friday night.  In addition to his tour-de-force performance as the "Creepy Swamp Man," Blaine Rothauser supplied an array of lights and cadaverous trail decorations. The Romero family also donated decorations.  Three Meadows Farm in Bedminster Township generously donated the hay bales, corn stalks, pumpkins, and mums that added some fall ambiance to the registration tables and waiting area. Stop by their farm stand at 1130 Burnt Mills Road in Bedminster to say thanks, and pick up some fresh eggs, produce, pumpkins, and mums while you are there!

Extra special thanks goes out the NNJC post-hike cleanup crew organized by John Neale. The crew did GSWA a great service by sticking around and cleaning up all the decorations on Saturday night before Hurricane Sandy got a chance to blow them away.

What a special night! Are you game for a repeat of the Spooky Swamp Walk in 2013? Let us know so we can start planning now.   We’d especially love your expert Halloween set-up help and creativity  to make next year’s event spooktacular!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Post-Sandy Changes to GSWA's Fall Event Schedule

All of us here at the Great Swamp Watershed Association hope this note finds you well and recovering as quickly as possible from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.

You may or may not be aware that the organization's office building on Tempe Wick Road in Morristown is still without power, as are several staff members' homes. While the staff is doing its best to keep operations running from their various remote locations, we remain unable to host indoor events. This situation has forced us to cancel or reschedule several upcoming programs. Changes to our November and December 2012 programming schedule are noted below.

November 7 Event — 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. — Canceled, to be rescheduled
We apologize for any inconvenience, and plan to reschedule this gathering after power has been restored and the staff is able to regroup. Questions? Please write to Executive Director Sally Rubin.

November 13 Breakfast Briefing: State of the Streams — 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. — Canceled, to be rescheduled
The full State of the Streams report informing this talk will be released in December 2012. The Breakfast Briefing presentation will be rescheduled for a future date. Please review GSWA's website or upcoming eNewsletters for a new time and date.

November 18 Volunteer Stream Assesment Training — 9:00 a.m. to Noon — Will run as scheduled
This event, originally scheduled for Sunday, October 21, will run as planned on the revised date of Sunday, November 18. Please visit for a registration form and additional information.

November 28 Reduce Your Use: Inside Edition — 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. — Canceled, to be rescheduled
This Water-friendly Homes event will be rescheduled for a future date.

December 5 Breakfast Breifing: The Economic Impact of Climate Change in NJ — 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. — Rescheduled!
This Breakfast Briefing event has been rescheduled for Thursday, December 13 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. For more information, or to register for this revised date, please visit

***UPDATE 11/21/2012***
November 28 Teacher Workshop: Project WET — 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. — Canceled, to be rescheduled
Please contact Director of Outreach and Education Hazel England at hazele[at] for rescheduling information.

For additional information about any of these scheduling changes, please send an email to events[at]