Boat Building at the LRWP Boat Shop

By LRWP Raritan Scholar Intern Jonathan Sim

Interior of the LRWP’s Boat House,
located at 101 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park

Boat building is one of several programs hosted by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. Located at 101 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, New Jersey, the once vacant autobody shop is now transformed into a lively home for woodworking projects that are primarily focused on canoe and paddle building intended for use. Here, two sessions a week take place, one on Wednesday from 6 – 8PM and another on Saturday from 9 – 11AM. The LRWP requires that participants attend a one hour safety training session held from 8-9AM on the final Saturday of the month. Anyone from the ages of 15 and up are able to sign up and participate in these free sessions to gain woodworking skills and have fun doing so. See our events page to register!

Derek (on right), the captain of the US Paralympics team and Brian (on left), an experienced rower can often be seen leading the sessions. Both have experience with woodworking and using the kinds of boats they create. This offers a unique experience for volunteers, where they learn not only how to build specific parts, but why these parts are essential to the structural integrity and general functions of the boat.
A volunteer from a Wednesday session working with Brian for measurements.
Sometimes, work can be enjoyed outdoors, weather permitting.

Woodworking does not stop at Wednesdays, as the Saturday morning sessions continue the previous work where it is lead by Colin and Amber. Both have found the opportunity to lead the boat builds online, where from knowing Derek, were able to showcase their passion and talents. Beyond just woodworking, Colin and Amber have remarked that the whole experience has given them “more appreciation for our local watershed”, as building and using the boats have offered chances to become closer to the waters.

Colin sanding some of the many pieces needed for the canoe.

Colin is a long-time resident of Highland Park who always wanted a place dedicated to woodworking growing up. Since finding that opportunity in the boat build sessions, he has taken initiatives in the project by cutting out templates of canoe pieces from his home with AutoCAD software and running many of the machines to create or finalize pieces.

A boat template cut out by Colin laid out, next to a nearly complete canoe.
Amber (middle) overseeing and assisting volunteers from the Women’s Paddle build session.

Amber is in charge of the Women’s Paddle build sessions, where she leads a team of women to create personal, individualized paddles from scratch. This involves cutting out the pieces, putting them together, and then sanding them off as a final touch.

Every paddle is unique and fits to the user’s preference.
High school volunteers putting together scarf joints, a more stable connection between two pieces of wood in order to lengthen it.

The help of volunteers make the project possible and overall makes for a low stress, interesting learning experience for those that want to get into woodworking or possibly want to find a new hobby. Throughout the sessions as the project becomes increasingly more complete, volunteers get to learn new methods and participate in different activities, whether that be trying out a new tool or moving on from one task to another, never keeping it dull.

April’s Green Veil Lays Across the Landscape

Article and photos by Joe Mish

Virginia blue bells grow in profusion wherever they may be found, and appear as a fluffy blue blanket hovering above the ground. Delicate spring beauties dot the short grass along the flood plain and present a spectrum of white to pink flower petals lined with dark pink pinstripes. Each flower is so individual, it begs investigation and comparison.

The green veil of April is laid upon the earth to cover the landscape, washed clean and left bare by the cold wind and melting snow jettisoned during winter’s hasty retreat. The blanket of winter’s white cover cloth is now torn asunder into a patchwork of pale fragments scattered across the land. A mosaic of green tints emerge and expand as April distances itself from winter. 

April’s arrival comes just ten days after winter’s meteorological conclusion to make the first full month of spring a mixed bag of weather. Snow squalls, frost, bright sun, cold rain and a sampling of temperatures from freezing to torrid, make April unpredictable; except for its unassailable promise to pave the final path to summer with an explosion of colorful blooms. 

Spring’s arrival is heralded in by the last gasp of winter’s fury, whose blustery breath escaped March to shake April’s greenery and ghost it with flakes of vanishing snow. 

April’s struggle with the remnants of winter weather is aided by the sunlight, which now dominates the darkness, to give confidence to a profusion of life waiting to emerge from the gravid earth. The path of the earth’s orbit and tilt, makes the sun appear to ride higher above the horizon to shrink shadows and warm the earth. The increasing daylength triggers a cascade of chemical change in all life on earth, to direct behavior in animals and rapid growth in plants. 

As April progresses, the translucent, pale green veil, weaves itself into a thick verdant blanket of coarse yarn as grasses and leaves emerge and unfold to partner with the sun, converting light into nutrients and clouds of life sustaining oxygen. 

As seen from the perspective of a celestial theater seat, a time lapsed image of spring appears alive as it moves north, leaving a thick green carpet in its wake. Rivers, appearing as long shimmering threads of blue and silver, decorate the green tapestry as if by artistic design. The bright thread appears and disappears, as generous stitches, roughly sewn into a green cloth, penetrate and emerge along a torn seam. 

Descending into the greenery, the broken silver-blue thread becomes a gentle flowing river, the sun reflecting off the rippling surface. Beneath the shallow water along the bank, tightly furled spikes of yellow pond lily emerge from the mud with encouragement of the bright sunlight, in preparation for next month’s floral debut.

A cloud of muddy water among the expanse of the submerged spikes betrayed the presence of a muskrat. The rat’s trail led ashore leaving an obvious mud-stained path across the matted down fresh green grass. The path ended at a large patch of mugwort, an invasive plant impervious to control, and a bane to gardeners. Likely a female, the muskrat gathered greens for bedding to line her bank den and food to wean her kits.

Beyond the mugwort, in the shade of the river birch and swamp maple, grew a variety of native plants typically found in moist woods along more pristine waterways. Trout lilies and trillium were scattered about, familiar to early season fishermen and the few who gather spring greens like fiddlehead ferns and dandelions.

Trout lilies have distinctive mottled green spear shape leaf with a yellow flower on a single stalk.
Trillium is an associate of trout lily and said to have four varieties recognized in New Jersey.

Like the yellow trout lily, trillium is a short plant just a few inches high and easily recognized by its three petaled flower. The most common color I have seen is a deep rich burgundy, and appears more as an errant jewel, carelessly lost by a passerby.

Mayapple grows in enmass as groundcover in moist woods where groups of jack-in-the- pulpit appear ready to preach a sermon. 

The native wildflowers which appear briefly in early spring are collectively known as ‘spring ephemerals’. These delicate beauties sprout out of the cold ground in a resurrection inconsistent with expectation, to lend an air of magic to their presence.  

The spring ephemerals hide among April’s green veil and whisper the arrival of spring and a promise of summer to anyone who seeks the solace of wild places and open space. They whisper just once, and then they are gone. 

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

Stormwater Competitive Grants and Resilience/Stormwater Utility Feasibility Technical Assistance Grants

Purpose of Funding
The NJDEP is offering Stormwater Competitive Grants and Resilience/Stormwater Utility Feasibility Technical Assistance Grants to all Tier A municipalities in the state. These grants are designed to modernize stormwater management systems and to provide technical assistance to municipal, county and utility authorities to plan to become more resilient, including conducting feasibility studies for forming stormwater utilities and resilience planning for local governments working to identify strategies to better manage the impacts of stormwater.

Stormwater Competitive Grants and Resilience/Stormwater Utility Feasibility Technical Assistance Grants

Application Deadline
September 14 for the Stormwater Competitive Grant Program.

September 23 for the Technical Assistance and Stormwater Resilience Planning for Ida-affected communities.

Source of Funding
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP)

Statutory Citation
P.L. 117-1 American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

For More Information or to Request an Application, Contact or

What’s in Your Water?

On March 3 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and our Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County partners hosted an online lunchtime information sharing session. This is a video of that event. It highlights:

-the data we are collecting

-why it matters

-how you can get involved!

NJDEP Outside, Together! Survey

The Department of Environmental Protection is launching an online survey to identify how to best enhance and expand outdoor recreation and open space opportunities that focus on the needs of overburdened communities as part of the Outside, Together! initiative.

The survey results will help the DEP develop an action plan and funding priorities to expand high-quality open space and recreational opportunities in New Jersey. The plan will further equity and environmental justice, enhance climate resilience and sustainability, identify investments in ecotourism, as well as promote technology, stewardship and the conservation and restoration of biodiversity. The online survey is being administered by The Trust for Public Land on behalf of the DEP. Survey responses will be accepted from Feb. 22 to March 22.

The survey is available in English, Spanish, and by request, other languages commonly spoken by New Jersey residents and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Winter’s Off Ramp

Article and photos by Joe Mish

A woodcock on its journey north to New England, stops to rest and dine in a snow free drainage along the South Branch of the Raritan River. The woodcock’s journey to its northern breeding ground was triggered by the increasing daylength. An odd collection of left over parts makes the woodcock a feathered spectacle to ponder. Short legs, long bill and perfect camouflage. A woodcock will often flush when almost stepped upon. Its erratic flight and strange mating ritual draw in birders and female woodcock to hopefully be impressed by the males’ aerial acrobatics. 

March is Winter’s off ramp, and each day, by attrition, the darkness of winter fights the increasing daylight to a standstill, but only for a moment. In a scripted celestial movement, called the vernal equinox, the earth curtseys to its stationary solar partner, to show respect for both ethereal combatants before allowing the light to dominate the darkness.

The ebb and flow of light is continuous and only by poetic license do the two stand opposed. They are really one entity, measured as day length based on sunrise and sunset. The stability of the change or, periodicity, of daylength is used by all life on earth as a reference to evolve physiologically and to predict future events.

The ability to recognize patterns and predict future outcome is the key to survival. From sporting events to weather, political campaigns and animal migration, prediction dominates everything we do and reflects our need to see the future to ensure our security and safety.

Daylength is one of a constellation of indicators which sound the call to action. Migration of birds and marine life are dramatic examples of long distance travel from wintering to breeding grounds. An osprey named ‘Lady’ traveled over six thousand miles, each year, for 24 years from Loch of the Lowes in Scotland to West Africa and back. Lady’s light receptor organs, which evolved from the generational exposure to seasonal light change, triggered chemical changes in her body to prompt her journey.

Closer to home, an osprey born on a bulkhead in Portland, Maine, was observed in Branchburg on its journey north, from South America, in early April a few years ago.
Increasing daylength prompts early nesters like great horned owls and eagles to bond with their mate, begin nest construction and eventually incubate eggs.
A lamprey migration up the South Branch of the Raritan in June provides an alternate menu item for eagles gathering prey to feed hungry nestlings.

Shad and alewives were a major fishery on the Raritan River in early colonial times, their migration blocked by mills and dams, killed the local economy. As dams are removed the shad, along with juvenile striped bass from the Hudson canyon, follow their ancient migratory patterns up the Raritan River.

Even the smallest of amphibians like the spotted salamanders will migrate short distances, usually across roads to vernal ponds. This spectacle takes place in late winter and early spring, and are joined by several species of frogs in a grand meet and greet fertilization extravaganza.
Each year about March nineteenth, I visit a natural drainage where there might be found a migrating woodcock. An oddly constructed native gamebird who seeks soft ground around springs and seeps to feast almost exclusively on earthworms.

Native people in the arctic regions traditionally rely on the migrating wildfowl, like eider, for food. While the relationship between humans and migratory birds and animals is a long tradition, it has somewhat changed from a survival event to that of observing birds as a passive outdoor activity. Migratory flocks sometimes include species not native to the region, a great addition to a birders’ ‘life list’.

One dramatic migratory event witnessed in the spring, in New Jersey, is the exact timing of the red knot migration to the horseshoe crab spawn on Delaware bay.

A red knot is a sandpiper which migrates nine thousand miles from the tip of South America to the Arctic breeding grounds. The birds will fly for days without eating in anticipation of feasting on millions of horseshoe crab eggs produced when the crabs come ashore to spawn. An ancient relationship developed over the centuries, on which the survival of the red knot hangs by the thinnest of threads. 

The change in daylength captured by the eye, acts on the pituitary and pineal glands to stimulate the sex organs, and begin the migration. One red knot was found to be 21 years old and theoretically made the nine thousand journey nineteen times for a grand total of 189 thousand miles!

Set aside a moment on March 20th, 2023 at 5:24 pm, to recognize the impact between the choreography of celestial bodies in space and the existence of life on earth. Be amazed at how life has adapted in a long moment of equilibrium in a universe marked by chaos and change.

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

Winter Abbreviated

Article and photos by Joe Mish

A flightless great horned owl, born in the dead of winter, now thrives in the late February sun, surrounded by maroon tree buds which began to emerge around the time the owl eggs were being incubated.

Imagine a door with twelve windowpanes, each frame a portal into a month of the year, and every time you turn away and look back, the scene changes. Some views, in a series of glances, stand out out more than others, and from that subjective perspective we link an emotion to an image that is different from anyone else’s interpretation. 

This perfectly describes how the impression of each month and season is characterized in our mind. 

The image of each month has been generalized to create a static image to establish its collective reputation. December is always dark and snowy, July is always hot and dry, while February is portrayed as a full month of winter, a time of hibernation, deep snow and howling wind. February becomes an abbreviated but intense survival test where only the strong survive. Sometimes February’s visit is tempered with warm weather and no measurable snow. So, having been visited by February each year of our life, what image appears in our mind when we think of February?

Reality is that each month demonstrates a flexibility in the character it portrays and together with the rest of the cast, summarizes that season’s show. A back up actor follows the same script, while using nuance, expression, and timing to elicit audience reaction. A Broadway play is always a different experience with a new lead actor.

Our impression of the month, yet to unfold, is really artistic expression. Each person who peers through the portal of February sees that view differently. Barely tolerable to some, this mid-winter month represents a never ending imprisonment in darkness and cold. Stripping away the emotion, February delivers a full hour and seven minutes of daylength in just twenty-eight days to flood the earth with light and shrink the long shadows that grew in the low winter sun.

The bright light of sunshine forces the darkness into retreat to make legible an early promissory note, guaranteeing the arrival of spring twenty days after February’s departure.

The leafless gray brown stands of trees, as seen in the distance as muted vertical brush strokes, now wear a dark maroon veil as color seeps from emerging buds to signal change is in the air. The increasing daylength promotes the flow of energy in the form of sugary sap to awaken the buds and give them their burnished blush. Freezing nights halt the flow of sap which resumes when the daytime temperature rises above freezing. Ice shrouded fine tree branches hanging just above the surface of the river are often broken during strong winds and by large shards of ice and debris carried downstream by raging flood waters. The broken ends drip with concentrated sugary sap and form long icicles during the cold night to provide a passing paddler with a sweet icy energy boosting treat.

Among the treetops, bald eagles and great horned owls are incubating eggs or brooding hatched chicks. Winter is now well aware its days are numbered when new life appears despite the inexhaustible supply of cold, snow and ice that remain in winter’s armory. Live eagle cams make it possible to watch a brooding eagle, covered with snow, faithfully await an early morning exchange with its partner. Both parents share brooding, feeding and incubating responsibility as they defy the threat of winter’s oppressive cold that stands opposed to emerging life.

Bird migration is well underway in February to brighten the stark frozen landscape, soon to be liberated by planetary position and tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. Brilliant colored warblers and waterfowl are the first to journey north to summer breeding grounds. Blue and green wing teal, ring neck ducks mingle with winter holdovers who are herded short distances by the vagary of unfavorable local weather. Small flocks of boldly colored male warblers light up the dull landscape and foliage as bright as a string of multicolored miniature lights hidden within the branches of a Christmas tree.

February fights a losing battle as the walls of a depleted winter fortress begins to crumble and the month surrenders days in frustration to become the shortest month of the year.

Though February is devoted completely to winter, it cannot conceal the increasing daylength nor suppress the awakening of life that begins before winter can exit the stage.

A male ring- necked duck in full breeding plumage, rests on a local pond during early migration north to traditional breeding grounds. Migration may be early or delayed, depending on the variable weather conditions each winter brings. 

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

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