A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. At a BioBlitz, scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get a snapshot of an area’s biodiversity.
On June 8 the LRWP and partners including the Americorps Watershed Ambassadors Program, New Brunswick Environmental Commission, North Brunswick Environmental Commission and Elmwood Cemetery will host a day long BioBlitz of Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick.
Elmwood Cemetery is a special forested habitat refuge nestled between the urban New and North Brunswick communities. The Cemetery was established in 1868 as a “Victorian Garden Cemetery” during the rural cemetery movement, and to this day all of Elmwood’s lanes and paths are lined with evergreens and flowering native trees. Cemetery managers are building on this legacy of careful planning and land protections to secure Arboretum accreditation, which will allow them to further advance the planting, study, and conservation of woody plants and trees in the area.
Our May 12 BioBlitz will include public talks by expert naturalists about local natural history, and a chance for the public to work with these experts in an active survey of mammals, fish, plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates, birds and fungi.
Join LRWP Board Member Professor David Tulloch as he leads our second “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams” walking tour of 2019!
Professor Tulloch will help us connect the old constructed landscapes of the canal at Duke Island County Park through a new greenway that has been developed along the Raritan and crosses over into the Duke Farms properties.
Many area residents are likely familiar with individual pieces of these recreation spaces. Fewer have made the walk to connect them all. That’s what we’ll do from 9-11 AM on Saturday May 18.
The LRWP April meeting will be held from 10-noon in the Middlesex County Planning Offices at 75 Bayard Street, New Brunswick, NJ – 5th floor mid-size conference room.
We look forward to a special presentations by Raíces Cultural Center co-founder Nicole Wines. Nicole will speak on “EcoCulture as Innovation.”
Parking is validated for those parking on floors 5 and higher in the RWJ Wellness Parking Deck located at 95 Paterson Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Be sure to bring your ticket to the meeting for validation.
Join us on Sunday March 24, 2PM at the Highland Park Public Library to learn about Mill Brook – a Tributary of the Raritan River.
LRWP Streamkeeper, Highland Park resident and Rutgers Environmental Steward Susan Edmunds will present on her internship work with the LRWP, through which she documented the history of this waterway that runs through Edison and Highland Park. Following Susan’s presentation, Rutgers Graduate Student Jillian Dorsey (Landscape Architecture) will present findings from her thesis research on Mill Brook, highlighting steps property owners can take to protect their urban streams.
Sponsored by the LRWP, Highland Park Historical Commission, Highland Park Environmental Commission, Native Plant Society of NJ – Highland Park Chapter.
Please contact Heather Fenyk for more information: hfenyk AT lowerraritanwatershed DOT org
Rain barrels collect and store rainwater from roofs, improving stream health by reducing the amount of water and pollutants that reach local waterways. The water captured by rain barrels has many beneficial uses. Residents can use water from the rain barrels to water lawns and gardens, save money on water bills and reduce stress on wells.
Rain barrels are a great way for homeowners to help protect their water supply by controlling residential storm water runoff.
At this session participants will learn how using a rain barrel can contribute to improving our water resources and will be instructed on how to build, install and maintain their own rain barrel to take home. Materials will be provided.
This workshop will be held in the Jankowski Community Center: 1 Olive Street, Perth Amboy, NJ 08861 from 6-8:30pm.
Our presenter is AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador Jennifer Helminski, serving New Jersey’s Watershed Management Area 7 (hosted by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation).
Registration is limited.
For more information please contact Watershed Ambassador Jennifer Helminski: firstname.lastname@example.org
Article and photos by “Voices of the Watershed” Contributor Joe Mish
Long before President Eisenhower signed the interstate highway bill into law in 1956, The Atlantic, Central and Pacific flyways served as major superhighways for migrating birds.
The primary exit ramps for these super flyways are the rivers which radiate out along the north-south migration routes to distribute the migrating birds far and wide.
New Jersey sits directly on the Atlantic flyway, bounded by the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean. Within the state’s interior flows the Raritan River, the longest inland river in the state which serves as a major migratory off ramp.
The confluence of the North and South Branches may then be considered the prime visitors center and rest area, as birds funnel down the Raritan to disperse inland.
Look at a colored distribution map in any bird book and discover that many species are specific to defined regions.
You might not expect to see a rufous hummingbird from the northern Pacific coast, sipping nectar in central New Jersey. However, in 2012, a rufous hummer showed up in our midst and stayed the winter, surviving by the kindness of human intervention. Marlene Scocco reached out to this wayward hummer providing food and shelter, causing a stir in the birding community which gratefully documented this migratory anomaly.
Checking the records for rare hummingbird visitors to New Jersey, other hummer species like the calliope and green violet eared were also documented.
How these birds end up on the east coast is pure speculation. The point is they do and they are here for you to discover.
Feathered visitors from faraway places to the Raritan valley are not just limited to hummingbirds. In 1963 I was handed a small owl taken from a guard tower in the Raritan arsenal. It died shortly after. I mentioned this to a friend’s dad who was an avid bird watcher. Told him it was a boreal owl. He smiled and assured me it was probably a saw whet owl. We ended up at the Newark Museum and showed it to the curator, Irving H. Black. Confusion ensued and experts from across the country were consulted. The experts concluded the bird was indeed a boreal owl. It set a new record for the southernmost sighting in the US. The boreal owl, briefly known as the Richardson owl, is a fulltime resident of the coniferous forests of the arctic region. The owl is preserved as a study skin at the Newark museum.
The visitors keep coming. In mid March of this year I noticed an inconsistency in the color pattern of a flock of grazing geese, as I drove by. The geese blended together in one giant mosaic, painted with repetitive splashes of black, white and brown. I pulled over and focused on the colors that didn’t belong.
I was looking at a white fronted goose, another bird that was obviously unfamiliar with distribution maps found in bird books.
The white fronted goose is rarely seen east of the Mississippi river, the main artery of the central flyway. To see a white fronted goose in central NJ is therefore an unexpected surprise and evidence that nature has a tendency to violate scientific generalizations.
The following week, a Canada goose with an orange and white collar marked OHOX was observed along rt 22. It also had a metal band on its left leg. While editing images, I was shocked to see the goose standing next to it also wore a leg band. Reporting this goose to the USGS bird banding website I was provided with a certificate noting that the goose was a female, banded as a flightless gosling near Varennes, Quebec, Canada on the Fourth of July, 2016.
Adding to the distinguished list of local visitors was the osprey I observed April 7, 2016, just upstream of the confluence of the North and South branch. The osprey had a blue plastic band on its left leg, with stacked letters, DV, visible on one of the images taken. Again, making a report to the USGS banding website, a certificate soon arrived, stating the osprey was born on a bulkhead in Portland, Maine and banded on July 27, 2011. To report a banded bird, visit the USGS bird banding website, email@example.com
The spring migration is now in full swing. And along with colorful warblers, ruby throated hummingbirds, woodcock and osprey, come the errant travelers.
Diverging from their evolutionary migration patterns, these intrepid winged visitors explode the myth that, “birds of a feather stick together”.
Migrating birds that nest in our region, along with birds just passing through, are now appearing along our waterways. The confluence that forms the Raritan River is the staging area that hosts a feathered extravaganza of unimaginable variety.
Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. See more articles and photos at winterbearrising.wordpress.com.
Thirty years ago, my husband and I moved into a house down at the end of a quiet street in Highland Park. Beside the house, in a low area, ran a little stream, nameless as far as I knew. I imagined making a garden beside it until I saw the muddy water that rushed through after heavy rains, rooting out vegetation, clawing away at the stream banks, and depositing all manner of storm debris. I came to think of the stream as nothing but a source of problems. Years went by. I sought advice from various experts and made some progress in resolving some problems, though others remained.
Eventually, in the Rutgers Environmental Stewardship program, I learned that the problems of urban streams are predictable and can, at least in theory, be mitigated. I learned that, with active community involvement, even large rivers have been significantly restored. The RES program led me to the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and a plan to document the stream that I now knew was called Mill Brook.
I took pictures and made lists of storm sewer outfalls, eroded portions of stream banks, retaining walls in various states of disrepair, and multiple types of litter, wondering how this information about predictable problems might be useful. Increasingly, my attention was caught by the magnificently tall trees in the Mill Brook stream corridor, the bird song high above me, the calming gurgle of the water at my feet, and the sense of being far away while actually only a few yards from the hubbub of one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. I have learned that Mill Brook has been a source of much happiness for others, too, over the years.
I composed this Story Map Mill Brook: Portrait of an Urban Stream to invite you, the reader, to experience for yourself this valuable natural resource that runs like a ribbon through our community. I hope that a virtuous circle may arise in which the value of Mill Brook is acknowledged in our communities so that we willingly do what it takes to resolve problems created by developments that include our own homes. In return, Mill Brook will increase in value to us because it is a healthier natural resource and because we will have the satisfaction of caring for it.
The LRWP is often asked to identify top environmental issues facing our Central Jersey watershed communities, and every year we develop a “Top 10” list of concerns. Through 2019 we will feature one concern a month on our website, exploring that issue (and potential solutions) in more detail. This month we consider the problems caused by culverting, piping, developing over or otherwise “hiding” our streams, and provide strategies through which we can find them again.
The Lower Raritan Watershed is full of ghost streams. Entrepreneurs, town councils, industry, and home owners have long buried streams to develop their land and businesses, to expand their towns, to build their homes, and to address public health concerns. The result is centuries of piping, culverting, construction, and development that have hidden the vast majority of streams and rivers in our urban landscape.
The impact of “hiding” so many of our streams is devastating. Lower Raritan communities are alienated from our waterways and historic ecologies, habitats are degraded, water quality is compromised, and stormwater runoff and flooding intensify. Not only in the Lower Raritan, but throughout the United States and globally, these impacts are most acutely felt in areas with low socioeconomic status and vulnerable populations. In the face of climate change and increased precipitation and runoff, these communities bear disproportionate risk and adaptive burden.
We know that healthy, open streams play an important role in stormwater management. In a healthy stream, stormwater gets absorbed and gradually released by soil and plants. An open stream not only slows and controls stormwater surge, it also provides habitat for wildlife, and provides the aesthetic benefits of cool spaces and greenery.
Streams, especially small ones, also play an important role in improving water quality. A healthy stream ecosystem can remove excess nutrients, sediment, and other contaminants from water before it flows into our Rivers, Bays or Oceans. Recent research by the Environmental Protection Agency found that nitrates—nutrients that can become pollutants—travel on average 18 times further in buried urban streams than they do in open streams before they are taken out of the water column. This means that in areas with many buried streams like the Lower Raritan Watershed, larger water bodies including Raritan River and Raritan Bay receive more pollutants than if the waterways upstream were open and healthy and serving to filter pollutants as stormwater runoff travels its course.
Of course the best first action with respect to keeping streams healthy is to avoid culverting, piping, constructing over or otherwise developing them. However, in already heavily developed areas like the Lower Raritan Watershed, much damage has already been done. In some of our Lower Raritan towns more than 50% of surfaces are paved over, including all waterways that were in evidence on maps from the 1800s.
Walk down most any of our main streets and you are likely to “walk on water” without any awareness of what is beneath your feet. If you pay careful attention however, as students did during our 2018 summer camp, you can hear the streams and trace their course, even if you cannot actually see them. Learning about our landscape, and “finding” our hidden streams is the next best action to take in protecting them.
Learning to decipher our landscape, and trying to “find” our hidden streams are central to the LRWP’s new #lookfortheriver campaign.
The LRWP is building the #lookfortheriver campaign to bring attention to the problems of “hiding” or disappearing our streams, and to identify ways of finding them again. In addition to teaching folks about the landscape in fun ways, this involves collecting stories by volunteers and contributors who take the time observe and document their area streams, and who highlight the great benefits of landscape connectivity. Joe Mish’s most recent February essay is a great example: Along the South Branch Connected. Margo Persin’s year of blog post’s about Ambrose Brook is another.
#lookfortheriver activities include our newly launched “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams: Walking Tours of the Lower Raritan Watershed,” to be led by Rutgers Professor and LRWP Board Member David Tulloch. These walks will look at landscape connections to our waterways and what this means. The series kicks off on Sunday March 16 close to the Rutgers campus, with exploration of the connections between Buell Brook and the Raritan, connecting Johnson Park and the historic Raritan Landing with the Eco Preserve.
#lookfortheriver includes working with volunteers to understand how our landscape works, where it doesn’t, and how to fix the problems we observe. Susan Edmunds’s research into the history of Mill Brook, and her careful study and documentation of the stream (see her online Storymap Mill Brook: A Portrait of an Urban Stream) lends tremendous insight into landscape functions of a relatively forgotten stream. Susan will present on this project in at the Highland Park public library on Sunday March 24. Joining Susan will be Rutgers student Jillian Dorsey, who will highlight findings from her thesis research on Mill Brook that shows how property owners can protect their urban streams. We hope these efforts will further mobilize municipal action to restore local streams, and that they will inspire homeowners in proper maintenance of waterway-adjacent homes. In fact, this work has already inspired the Highland Park Council to partner with the LRWP for a multi-site clean-up of Mill Brook, scheduled for Sunday May 12 – please save the date!
The legacy of development, culverting and piping that has hidden our streams exacerbates flooding and pollution transfer. It has disconnected us from our waterways and from our land. This is disastrous for our communities, but we are learning new ways “find” our streams again and fix these problems. Join us in online to discussions, at meetings, or for our “Hidden Streams Walking Tours”. Or simply start exploring the watershed on your own. Give close attention to landscape cues – the sound of rushing water in a storm sewer, collections of sediment and debris in low lying areas, and dense growth of trees and weeds. In this way we connect to our landscape and waterways, imagine their past, and can begin to plan for a future of “finding” and restoring them.
Please plan to join the LRWP and Middlesex County Division of Parks on Sunday February 3, 10-noon for a winter clean-up of the Jamesburg Park Conservation Area in Helmetta!
This beautiful area is in the Manalapan Brook subwatershed. We will be cleaning the roadsides along Helmetta Boulevard, Port Street and Washington Street. Meet at the Helme Mill Park parking lot (directions below).
Driving Directions to Helme Mill Park parking lot:
From Route 130:
• Turn East onto Davidsons Mill Road
• Turn left onto Cranbury/South River Road (County Road)
• Turn right at the traffic light onto Helmetta Blvd
• Slow your speed as you enter the town of Helmetta
• Turn right onto Maple Avenue
• Park will be on your right hand side
From Route 18:
• Take the exit for County Route 615 South
• Turn right onto Main St (CR 615)
• Continue onto Manalapan Road (CR 615)
• Continue onto Main Street (CR 615)
• Turn right onto Maple Street
• Park will be on your left
From the NJ Turnpike:
• Take Exit 9 for Route 18(New Brunswick/East Brunswick)
• Keep left at the fork, follow signs for NJ-18 S
• Follow directions from Route 18 above From 287
• Take exit 1B for US 1 South towards Trenton
• Take exit for Route 18 South
• Follow directions from Route 18 above