Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother Nature, Morristown, and the Revolutionary War Soldier

Great Swamp Watershed Association and Morristown NHP partner to tell the story of George Washington’s Jockey Hollow Encampment of 1779-80.

The headwaters of Primrose Brook, one
of the 5 major streams of the Great
Swamp Watershed, rises inside the
Jockey Hollow Unit of Morristown
National Historical Parl.
Most Americans remember the plight of ill-equipped Revolutionary War soldiers at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Encampment during the harsh winter of 1777-1778. As young children, we learn the story of patriots who starved, froze, and, marched without shoes; and those imagined scenes stick with us for the rest of our lives.
Fewer realize that an even worse season of snow and bone-chilling wind awaited those same troops only two year later.  In 1779-80, while General George Washington pondered the British stronghold in New York City, he needed a place to camp the bulk of his Continental Army.  He chose Jockey Hollow for his encampment—an area of land situated between Mendham and Morristown in New Jersey—and it was there that his men began digging in for what would become the coldest winter on record.
Despite the prospect of bad weather, the landscape in and around Jockey Hollow offered several advantages.  The surrounding hills were militarily defensible.  Proximity to the British and land routes in out of New York offered a perfect base for observation and spy missions.  And an abundance of natural resources—clean water, wood cover, and fuel—meant a better chance for soldiers to survive winter’s oncoming wrath.
While more than 1.2 million Americans visit the national park at Valley Forge each year, only 300,000 or so visit Morristown National Historical Park annually.  It was at Jockey Hollow that Washington’s troops honed their ability to endure, and it was this trait of the soldiery that became one of the keystone strategies that ultimately won the nation’s independence.  How unfortunate is it that more of us—especially those of us living nearby—are so unfamiliar with this story of persistence, dedication, and patriotism?
The Great Swamp Watershed Association and Morristown National Historical Park will work together this June to spread the word about these heroes from our past. And part of the retelling of that story will focus on how a Revolutionary-era soldier’s relationship with the outdoors helped him and his comrades survive to march and fight.
On Sunday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, join representatives from both partner groups for Jockey Hollow Explorers: Water and the Revolutionary War.  Start the morning with a stroll through the history and the natural history of the Jockey Hollow encampment.  You will learn more about how soldiers used natural resources—especially water—at the site and what condition those resources are in today.
Following the hike, meet a National Park Service interpreter for some hands-on activities.  Water, in the 18th century, served not only in cooking and washing but also as a source of power, as a highway, a moat and even a dump.  Learn about the role of water in daily life in the 18th century as well as the role of oceans and rivers in the American Revolution. Join the Park ranger in a role-playing game in which the adults represent England and the kids become the Patriots using waterways to defend their homeland.
This is a free event is open to all who wish to attend.  Online registration in advance of attendance is strongly encouraged.  Register by visiting the Great Swamp Watershed Association at GreatSwamp.org.  To register via telephone, please call and leave a message at 973-538-3500 x22.
The Jockey Hollow Unit of Morristown National Historical Park is located at approximately 600 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown, NJ.
For more information about Morristown National Historical Park, please visit www.NPS.gov/morr.  For more information about the Great Swamp Watershed Association, please visit GreatSwamp.org.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo Contest Focuses In On Preservation Success Story in Great Swamp

Great Swamp Watershed Association will host first public event at 113-acre Primrose Farm on June 8.

Great Swamp Watershed Association board members and
staff hike Harding's newly preserved Primrose Farm
property, January 2013.
Morris County boasts a brand new destination for those who love the outdoors.

Primrose Farm, a 113-acre tract of wetlands, fields, and forest in Harding Township, was once slated to become a 13-lot residential subdivision.  After years of advocacy work by a coalition of non-profit and community partners, and the application of more than $9 million in municipal, county, and state funding, the property was successfully preserved as open space in December 2012. Now, under the auspices of its current owners at Harding Land Trust, the site will remain wild—providing vital habitat for endangered species like the Indiana bat, and a large area of porous land capable of recharging local groundwater supplies and the nearby Passaic River.

Primrose Farm is also open to the public for hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor recreational activities.

The first organized public use of the site will take place on June 8, 2013, when the Great Swamp Watershed Association holds The Essence of Primrose, a special photo contest aimed at capturing the quintessential spirit of the newly preserved property.

Photographers of all ages and skill levels are invited to visit Primrose Farm any time between 10:00 a.m. June 8, and 10:00 a.m. June 9 in search of one photograph that they think best represents “the essence” of this diverse and beautiful landscape.  Naturalists and professional photographers will be on hand between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on June 8 to help contestants tour the property and provide photography tips.

Following the photography period, contestants will have 7 days to sort and process their work before submitting a single photo for contest consideration. The deadline for submission is 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 16, 2013.

A jury consisting of professional photographers, naturalists, and others selected by the Great Swamp Watershed Association will judge each work and announce winners in three different age group categories on June 25, 2013.

Winning photographers will receive a special prize from Mpix.com. Winning photographs will be professionally printed by Madison PhotoPlus (Madison, NJ), framed by The Image Maker (Mendham, NJ), and publicly exhibited for one month at Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge.

In anticipation of June’s photo
contest, the Great Swamp
Watershed Association and
its volunteers built this public
access trail at Primrose Farm
in Harding on May 17. This
is the first official trail to appear
at the site since its preservation
in December 2012. Photo by
Great Swamp Watershed
Association, 2013.
“I am proud to say that, back in 2008, we were the first community stakeholder to recognize the intrinsic natural value of Primrose Farm,” said Sally Rubin, executive director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association. “We were excited when Harding Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and other partners answered our call to preserve this special place; we were eager to contribute to its purchase and protection; and, now, we are thrilled to be the first to introduce it to the public through this special photo contest.”

The Great Swamp Watershed Association contributed $200,000 to the purchase of Primrose Farm through New Jersey’s Green Acres program, and recently engaged a group of volunteers to build the first access trail onto the property (see photo). The organization will continue to assist the Harding Land Trust with future maintenance projects.

Groups contributing to the initial Primrose Farm preservation effort included the Great Swamp Watershed Association, the Harding Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, the Harding Open Space Trust, the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund, and the Morris County Municipal Utilities Association.

For more information about the photo contest (including a complete schedule of events, rules, and photo submission guidelines) please visit GreatSwamp.org online or call 973-538-3500 x22. To be eligible to compete, all photographers must check in with the Great Swamp Watershed Association at Primrose Farm—located at approximately 15 Brook Drive, South, Harding, NJ—between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Visit GreatSwamp.org for a registration form. Registration is free; however, voluntary donations to the Great Swamp Watershed Association are gratefully accepted.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Local Organizations, Businesses Unite To Produce The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt

Far-ranging geography game promotes awareness of nature, culture, history in northern New Jersey.

Morristown, NJ—On May 11, starting at 9:00 a.m., 18 area organizations and businesses will work together to present The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt—a free, outdoor event created by the Great Swamp Watershed Association, and designed to promote greater public awareness of some of the most significant natural, cultural, and historical locations found in northern New Jersey.

Part game and part celebration, The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt takes participants on a 40-mile adventure through the state’s Great Swamp Watershed region. This is the place where the mighty Passaic River rises, where George Washington’s troops survived the coldest winter of the Revolutionary War, where the U.S. government created the first federally-designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi, and where many seriously injured wild birds have found sanctuary and healing.

Scavengers spend a fun-filled day hunting down special tokens from more than 15 sites of interest throughout the watershed.  Featured locations include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park, Morris County Park Commission’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Education Center at Lord Stirling Park, New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, The Raptor Trust, Harding Land Trust’s Primrose Farms, the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Conservation Management Area, the Friends of the Great Swamp’s Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center, Millington Gorge, Meyersville Café, and the Rolling Knolls Superfund site.

“What a great event,” said Jenny Gaus-Myers, superintendent of environmental education at the Morris County Park Commission.  “We love being part of the scavenger hunt and introducing lots of new visitors to our center and the wonders of the Great Swamp Watershed.”

Cathy Schrein, manager of Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Science Department, echoed Gaus-Myers’s sentiment, adding: “Events like The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt and the Somerset County Environmental Education Center’s Swamp Search are such fun ways for the public to learn more about their immediate environment and to enjoy the outdoors.”

Geocaching enthusiasts will experience twice the fun at The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt by logging special caches that have been carefully hidden at each location by members of Northern New Jersey Cachers (NNJC.org)—one of the nation’s most respected geocaching organizations.

“NNJC has partnered with GSWA for a number of years, from boardwalk construction and kiosk building, to presenting a spooky Halloween hike,” said John Neale, president of NNJC.  “Like geocaching, The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt is another great example of getting folks together to enjoy the outdoors and learn about their local parks.”

At 4:00 p.m., scavengers will gather at Loantaka Brook Reservation’s Kitchell Pond Pavilion (Morris Township) where they will be treated to a free picnic barbeque and will be able to exchange the tokens they collect for an opportunity to win one of several top-notch prizes.

This year’s prizes include premium outdoor gear and gift certificates to notable area restaurants donated by event sponsors at Investors Bank of Madison, Morris Tap and Grill in Randolph, Meyersville Café in Long Hill Township, and Shanghai Jazz Restaurant and Bar in Madison.  Additional prizes and giveaways will be supplied by Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Madison, Smarties Candy Company of Union Township, and other event partners.

“We want people to know that there is so much out there to see and learn in the Great Swamp,” said Liz Adinaro, head of marketing and media for Morris Tap and Grill.  “We believe in supporting our community, as the community gives back to us by visiting our restaurant.”

Food for the Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt Picnic will be donated by event sponsors at Whole Foods Market Rose City Madison, and Costco East Hanover.  Grills and buffet tables will be staffed by the Great Swamp Watershed Association and Northern New Jersey Cachers.

Scavenger hunters who choose to join the afternoon picnic are welcome to contribute a covered side dish to share with the rest of the group.  Drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and an additional healthy main dish will be offered free of charge while supplies last.

Visit GreatSwamp.org or call 973-538-3500 x22 for more complete information about The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt, including start time and location, a basic description of rules, and picnic details.  Online registration is free and recommended.  Donations in support of the event are sincerely appreciated and may be made at time of registration or during the event at Kitchell Pond Pavilion.