The LRWP and Middlesex County Parks are co-hosting a clean-up in Piscataway’s Johnson Park on Saturday January 21.
We will meet at 1030 River Road in Piscataway in the lobby of the County Parks Headquarters Office. There will be signs up to direct folks to the office where there will be a table set up with sign-in forms, trail maps for County open space areas, etc.
Volunteers should dress for the weather, and be prepared to be outdoors. Middlesex County will provide gloves and garbage bags. Parking and bathrooms are on-site.
Everything will have died back off the forest floor at this time of the year so it’s a great time to remove refuse – please let us know if you can make it.
You are cordially invited to join us for our 3rd annual Watershed Sculpture Project Opening at RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center in New Brunswick Tuesday, December 6, 2015 from 7:000 pm- 9:00pm!
Tickets are $25. Enjoy a meet-and-greet with the artists, light refreshments, and more!
To purchase advance tickets. All proceeds benefit the Watershed Sculpture Project.
2016 Watershed Sculpture Project Themes
In Spring 2016 the LRWP and coLAB Arts worked with Sarah Grunstein’s Highland Park High School sculpture class, using interdisciplinary strategies to match in school art and science curricula with Next Generation Science Standards for innovative project based learning. At our gallery opening we will showcase student work.
HPHS Student work created from trash gathered during stream clean-ups
Also on display will be new commissioned pieces that incorporate the theme of “frames” into sculptures that frame the landscape and can be installed semi permanently along the Raritan River Waterfront at Boyd Park in New Brunswick, and photograph prints from the Raritan River Basin series by No Water No Life‘s Alison M. Jones.
We will discuss the Watershed Sculpture Project in the context of Environmental Health and Community Wellness, focusing on how public art installations along the Raritan River might prompt visitors to interact in more positive ways with New Jersey’s largest major waterway.
About the Watershed Sculpture Project
The Watershed Sculpture Project is the result of a partnership between coLAB Arts and the LRWP. Our organizations seek to create awareness of the maturing visual arts scene in the Lower Raritan Watershed as well as the need for community involvement to restore its health. coLAB Arts and LRWP coordinate volunteer clean-ups of area streams and from the refuse collected we identify objects to give to commissioned artists who then create original sculptures for public display.
With thanks to Johnson & Johnson, the Highland Park Educational Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Wellness & Fitness Center for their support for this project.
Except as noted, article and photos by Joe Mish
A Siberian tiger, out of place in modern times in New Jersey, comfortably rests on the frozen snow in sub zero temperatures, intensified by a strong northwest wind. Conditions that would turn exposed flesh beet red in an instant, didn’t phase this big cat as it appeared oblivious to the deadly weather; as if not bound by the laws of Nature.
It was a bitter cold day as Bert and I drove the Warner Bros Jungle Habitat trails to check on the open ranging wildlife that occupied the windswept mountains and valleys of the northern New Jersey wildlife park. Inside the warm Chevrolet truck, converted into a veterinary mobile unit, the heater was turned up high, while warm coffee steamed the windshield. Most animals escaped the polar wind hiding behind natural windbreaks and temporary shelters placed around the park.
As we drove past the tiger compound, near the highest point of the park, here was this tiger, a cat we affectionately named, ‘Bobtail’, lying down exposed to the full force of the wind. Bearing an ever present grin, for which the big cats are known, Bobtail appeared content, oblivious to the deadly arctic blast. He remained motionless and stared into the brutal wind that must have escaped from the 10th circle of Dante’s frozen hell, showing no signs of discomfort. He may as well have been enjoying a cool breeze on a warm summer’s day.
This image of Bobtail lying in the snow captures for me the essence of the tiger. Well documented accounts of tigers hunting humans in India, and their magical ability to make kill after kill and avoid inescapable traps, have elevated the tiger to supernatural status.
This is an animal believed to exist in the spirit world as a cunning killer with the ability to transform into flesh and bone and back again at will. The tiger has a reputation of defying natural law that limits all other living things; Bobtail was doing nothing to dispel that myth on this cold day.
The poem, “Tyger”, by William Blake, written in 1794, so well captures the visceral reaction I had to the tigers, I memorized the poem. Here are a few lines that chill my blood.
In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
While here is photographic proof of a tiger living in New Jersey, an anomaly for sure, it is not hard to imagine a time when big cats stalked our land. I wondered every time I passed the tiger compound, how humans ever survived these Paleolithic predators. Perhaps it was the predators’ evolved intelligence that raised the level of human creativity in a Darwinian dance played to a deadly tune.
Evidence of saber tooth cats and jaguars, among other prehistoric creatures, were found in a limestone cave in southeastern PA near Pottstown and trace back to the cretaceous period about 100 to 66 million years ago. The cave was located in a now forgotten town named Port Kennedy, which is part of Valley Forge National Park.
Evidence of sabre-tooth cats of the late cretaceous period discussed in this 1993 article. Additionally fossil remains have been found in the Cutter Clay works near Raritan Bay and along the shore across Raritan Bay in Union Beach.
NJ was unrecognizable in terms of geography and climate with glaciers terminating at the Watchung Mountains and our rivers not yet formed. The Hudson River at one time was thought to have emptied into the lower Raritan watershed at Bound Brook.
As the sea level rose and fell over the eons, it formed clay banks along the Raritan and its bay where dinosaur fossils and tracks have been found. To date, I am not aware of any prehistoric cat trackways or fossils being discovered in NJ. Though surely, when southern NJ was above water, it would be reasonable to expect prehistoric cats, whose remains were found in the Port Kennedy Cave, to have roamed our land.
In more modern times the eastern mountain lion did stalk the shores of the Raritan and in fact a bounty was offered and the last local cat killed in the Sourland Mountains in the early 19th century. Officially, the last New Jersey mountain lions were killed in the southern most counties about that same time.
Rumors of mountain lions persist in several north east states, though no hard evidence has been uncovered in NJ. Given the fact that people have been known to illegally harbor large cats in less than secure enclosures, anything is possible.
Today, New Jersey has a healthy population of bobcats, primarily in the northwest part of the state. The retreating glaciers left a boulder strewn, mountainous landscape with plenty of nooks and crannies, ideal habitat for these elusive felines. Occasionally bobcats are captured on hunters’ trail cameras to give us evidence of their presence as they are rarely ever seen even where they are plentiful.
This very rare photo of a bobcat was taken in Warren County, NJ. New Jersey has a healthy bobcat population along with other wildlife thought not to exist within our borders. This cat is really a sabre-tooth tiger distilled down to miniature with all the accumulated intelligence and instincts required for survival in any geologic iteration of New Jersey. Photo by Nancy Mayer
Still the thought of saber-tooth cats, tigers and jaguars ranging across the state becomes more than just imaginary when you see the gleam in your pet cat’s eye. It is as if the prehistoric felines have been distilled down to their essence in the form of modern day cats that dominate many of our homes.
“The Man-Eaters of Kumaon”, by Col Jim Corbett, published in 1944, deals with the man eating tigers of India in the early 20th century. Please read the last chapter, “Just Tigers” before you begin the book as it puts the tiger in perspective and talks about photography vs hunting and concern for their the conservation even at that time. The first hand account of the almost supernatural ability of tigers to avoid being killed or captured while hunting humans, reveals an intellectual battle where man doesn’t always dominate nature.
By William Blake
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
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.
Article by Dorothy Lee, Rutgers University Sophomore and LRWP Summer Soils Intern
LRWP intern Dorothy Lee, presenting at Rutgers (photo by Heather Fenyk)
This summer I had the opportunity to intern for the LRWP doing soils and civic science research. My job was to conduct initial research into how the LRWP could develop a civic science soil monitoring program to better understand soils functions for an urban watershed level. Urban areas can benefit from soil mapping exercises because urban soils are a concern for food supply, drinking water, stormwater control as well as aesthetics and recreation. Particular issues of urban soils are related to impervious surfaces, erosion, land filling and land leveling, surface removal, contamination, sedimentation and severe compaction. The benefits of working with civic scientists to aid in research means that data can be collected efficiently and in a timely manner while simultaneously connecting the community to their environment.
The LRWP’s specific interests as they relate to soil include soil enrichment for stormwater retention and for bionutrient food availability. After researching these issues, I worked with LRWP President Heather Fenyk and Professor Stephanie Murphy, Director of the Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, to identify ways that the LRWP could begin to engage the Lower Raritan Watershed community in soils research. A few of the actions we thought could orient conversation for future soil-health-oriented civic science studies include: having area civic scientists work to identify “new” bacterial phyla, linking soil health improvement goals to impervious cover remediation actions planned at the municipal level, and evaluating rain gardens as a management strategy to increase soil C, optimize soil N cycling processes, and reduce leaching and gaseous emission losses of nitrogen.
The LRWP is also beginning to develop a plan to communicate the benefits of composting for soil enrichment. This relates directly to my work at Rutgers with a new club, RU Compost. Compost is an efficient way to reduce our food waste, cycle nutrients back into our soils, and create more awareness and education opportunities to the public. At Rutgers our club is working to implement composting in our dining halls and students centers, and we are also working on building a compost demonstration for the Spring semester in the Lower Raritan Watershed. Look for us in the spring!
Photos and article by Michele Bakacs, Environmental and Resource Management Agent, Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
Through a relatively new program sponsored by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, citizens throughout the Lower Raritan Watershed are working to help people discover the hidden natural world flowing through their communities. These citizens are part of the Rutgers Environmental Steward program and their projects range from conducting stream habitat assessments to developing middle school illustration lessons highlighting the flora and fauna of the watershed.
The goal of the Rutgers Environmental Steward program is to help citizens understand the science behind pressing environmental issues and help create positive environmental change in their communities. Susan Edmunds from Highland Park is one such Environmental Steward working on assessing the health of Mill Brook, a tributary of the Lower Raritan River.
“My goal is to bring an awareness of the Mill Brook to the community so we can work to protect it and use it as an asset. I have realized the most important thing to do is just talk to people about the brook. So many people just don’t know it is there. It would be nice to be able to take a stroll along the brook in some of the already existing parks.”
One morning in September, we scramble down a steep ravine and climb down over branches to the brook. The brook is hidden behind chain link fences, railroad overpasses, and overgrown vegetation. Once you are there you can’t believe how beautiful it is. We are transported to a natural world where the gurgling stream winds its way past towering locusts and silver maple canopy trees, and through sandstone and shale outcrops. Of course we see garbage and dumping typical of every urban waterway- the stereotypical abandoned tire and shopping cart, down trees across the stream collecting trash showing you just how damaging plastic water bottles can be to our environment when not disposed of properly. But except for the occasional train coming by as a reminder, you can barely tell how close we are to houses, roads, and train tracks. There’s the sounds of birds, leaves blowing, shadows and sunlight peaking through the trees on the water. The brook is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by anyone who makes the effort to find it.
“The Environmental Stewards program was exactly what I hoped it would be in that I gave me a way to start getting involved with environmental protection in my community.”
Environmental Steward Susan Edmunds Assesses Mill Brook
Mapping Mill Brook is the project Susan chose for her Rutgers Environmental Steward internship. After attending about 60 hours of classes that start in January and run through June, Stewards complete an internship project of their choosing in order to become a certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards. The program welcomes non-scientists and links them with members of the academic community, government, and non-profits. The curriculum includes classes, field trips, and an internship. Once Susan is done mapping her section of Mill Brook she will summarize her findings for the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership who will use her work to prioritize sections of the Lower Raritan for monitoring, restoration, and clean up.
“Already this project has connected me with so many people who are just like me in that they want to clean up this stream. From this assessment I plan to create a presentation about the brook and its history. I am excited about the potential for a Friends of the Mill Brook group working together towards stream access. This assessment is just the beginning of my journey.”
During the assessment, Susan takes pictures of deteriorating culverts, tree snags that collect garbage and stormdrain outfalls- concrete pipes that empty the rainwater runoff from local roads into the stream. We walk into a steep ravine probably 25 feet high with sandstone and shale outcrops leading to a large culvert where the stream flows under the NJTransit’s train tracks. This ends today’s journey and we turn around to make our way back to civilization.
If you are like Susan, and looking to start your own journey helping to protect the local environment, then sign up for the 2017 Rutgers Environmental Stewards class. Classes start in January in 5 counties throughout the state including Middlesex County at the EARTH Center in South Brunswick, and Somerset County at Duke Farms. For more information contact Michele Bakacs, at 732-398-5274, email@example.com, or visit our website http://envirostewards.rutgers.edu/
Our October 18 meeting will include a follow-up discussion on Green Infrastructure management with CDM Smith and members of the JerseyWaterWorks Green Infrastructure sub-committee. For background please see the video/audio from our September webinar on the NYC GreenHUB tool, which will frame on-going discussions.
The meeting will be held from 9:30 – 11 am in the Middlesex County Planning Offices at 75 Bayard Street, New Brunswick, NJ – 5th floor mid-size conference room.
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.
For more information contact Heather: hfenyk AT lowerraritanwatershed DOT org
9:30 Welcome / Introductions
9:35 Recap September Meeting
9:40 Discussion RE: Asset Management for Green Infrastructure in the Lower Raritan Watershed
10:00 Identifying next steps for GI Asset Management in the LRW
10:20 LRWP Project Updates
-Water Quality Monitoring
-Project WADES / Watershed Sculpture Project
-Natural Assets Mapping
-Intern / Volunteer Projects
10:50 Upcoming Events
10:55 Partner Announcements
We have arranged a dial-in number for Jersey Water Works members:
Conference Code: 278926
Host Code: 8789
The Original Raritan River Festival was started by Pete Seeger and his fellow environmentalists 35 years ago – this annual event is a full day of family oriented events.
Please plan to join the LRWP and friends on Sunday September 25, 2016 from noon-6 pm in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park for this year’s Raritan River Festival!
Three stages will be running throughout the day, with other activities including the rubber duck race, cardboard canoe race , environmental activities and more. Food, vendors and beer garden on the grounds.
The LRWP and coLAB Arts will showcase sculptures created as part of the third annual “Watershed Sculpture Project.” Activities include hands-on art projects, milkweed seed pod preparation for pollinator gardens and more!
GPS Coordinates: N 40° 29′ 39.9192″, W 74° 26′ 15.9534″
From Route 1 :
• Take Route 18 North
• Pass through the first light at Paulus Boulevard
• STAY TO THE RIGHT after this light Follow signs towards New Brunswick Exits/Route 27
• Continue through two (2) traffic lights (DO NOT TURN AT THE SIGN FOR BOYD PARK)
• Pass under New Street
• Make the first right into the New Brunswick Landing – ENTRANCE IS BEFORE THE EXIT FOR ROUTE 27 NORTH/HIGHLAND PARK
From New Jersey Turnpike:
• Take the NJ Turnpike to Exit 9 (New Brunswick)
• Follow directions for Route 1
Join the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and COLAB ARTS for our 3rd annual Sculpture Project Clean-Up!
WHAT: LRWP and Colab Arts are teaming up Sunday the 11th from 10AM to 1PM to prepare for our 3rd Annual Sculpture project. In order to do so, we need your help to remove trash from streams and tributaries of the Raritan River. This is no ordinary clean-up! Items found will be given to local artists to be made into sculptures that will be displayed in New Brunswick.
WHERE: We will meet at 10AM at 16 Woodbridge Street, New Brunswick and from there head to Mile Run for the clean-up.
Gloves, trash bags and other supplies will be provided.
Contact Heather for more information: hfenyk AT lowerraritanwatershed DOT org
Call for Proposals
coLAB Arts and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership are seeking submissions for proposals for new works of found object sculpture using items of trash collected from the Lower Raritan Watershed (The Raritan River and its tributaries).
What is the Watershed Sculpture Project?
This project is the result of a partnership between coLAB Arts and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP). Our organizations seek to create awareness of the maturing visual arts scene in the Lower Raritan Watershed as well as the need for community involvement to restore local environmental health. coLAB Arts and LRWP coordinate volunteer clean-ups of area streams and from the refuse collected we identify objects to give to commissioned artists who then create original sculptures for public display.
2016 Commission Theme
In 2016 The Watershed Sculpture Project will work with the theme of “Frames.” We ask that all proposals incorporate this idea literally in the creation of a sculpture that frames the landscape and can be installed semi permanently along the Raritan River Waterfront at Boyd Park in New Brunswick. Additionally, we hope the work “frames” a conversation on how viewers can interact in more positive ways with New Jersey’s largest major waterway.
Sample image of framing landscape concept
2016 Commission Fee
Examples of previous year’s materials may be found here: http://www.colab-arts.org/watershedsculptureproject/ Materials sourced have included, plastic bottles, shopping carts, wood, children’s toys, broken ceramics and glass, etc. coLAB Arts and LRWP have stockpiled a small collection of usable materials from previous clean-ups but will also organize a 2016 clean-up toward the end of August 2016 based on interest from selected artists. Because of project goals we ask that artists be cognizant of making their projects entirely or almost entirely of collected clean-up items. In addition, we ask artists to consider not using toxic adhesives or paints.
September 25 – Raritan River Festival, Boyd Park
October 1 – “Watershed Moment” event Boyd Park
Winter – Fall 2017 Watershed Gallery, Wellness Plaza, New Brunswick
All sculptures will be displayed for two major events one week apart in Boyd Park in New Brunswick. Final sculptures should be constructed to survive in the park semi-permanently during the fall months. All work will then also have a year-long display at our permanent lobby-style gallery space in the Wellness Center Plaza in New Brunswick.
Boyd Park Waterfront in New Brunswick, NJ
Please submit a simple proposal idea by August 15 2016 to:
Director of Education and Outreach
Curator, Watershed Sculpture Project
(732) 718 – 7614
The LRWP has submitted the following letter in response to NOAA’s Invitation to Public Comment on their “Restoration Plan/ Environmental Assessment Draft (RP/EA) for the American Cyanamid Co. Superfund Site, Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, New Jersey”:
May 23, 2016
NOAA Restoration Center – Sandy Hook Office
JJ Howard National Marine Fisheries Science Center
74 Magruder Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732
RE: American Cyanamid Draft RP/EA
Dear Mr. Alderson –
The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership has reviewed NOAA’s proposed Restoration Plan/ Environmental Assessment (RP/EA) for the American Cyanamid Co. Superfund Site, Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, New Jersey and fully supports the proposal for primary and compensatory restoration activities.
The LRWP is New Jersey’s newest watershed association, formed in 2014 to address legacy contamination and current pollution in the Raritan River and the Lower Raritan Watershed. Our mission is to conserve, enhance and restore the natural resources of the New Jersey Watershed Management Area 9, the Lower Raritan Watershed. We believe that not only will removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River directly improve resources impacted by legacy contamination, it is our understanding that the proposed project will benefit a broad spectrum of the Raritan River’s ecology and will likewise enable other environmental and human use benefits. Significant ecological, environmental and human use benefits have in fact already been realized following recent removal of a series of dams (Robert Street, Nevius Street and Calco) on the lower portion of the Raritan River between the towns of Bridgewater and Bound Brook. Likewise, we expect that design of technical fish passage at the Island Farm Weir (located on the Raritan River) will advance multiple Lower Raritan Watershed stakeholder goals.
The LRWP is also aware that the removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River, as well as future modifications at the Island Farm Weir to include a technical fish passage at the Island Farm Weir on the Raritan River, will expand access to several thousand acres of non-tidal freshwater mid to upper reaches of the Raritan River’s major tributaries. Removal of Weston Mill Dam and the construction of a technical fish passage at Island Farm Weir will significantly enhance maturation and rearing habitat for striped bass, American shad, American eel, blueback herring, and alewife, and should significantly increase the abundance of anadromous and catadromous species, which will improve the ecological health of the Raritan River.
The LRWP’s only concerns with NOAA’s proposal are short term sediment transport impacts following dam removal. However, we are confident that NOAA’s plan to reduce potential environmental consequences is sound and further expect that the proposed projects will provide long term restorative benefits to water chemistry, specifically decreased water temperatures in formerly impounded sections, and increased dissolved oxygen concentrations. These changes will benefit riverine biota from the most basic food chain level up to the top predators for many years to come.
Enhancing fish populations in the Raritan River system is important for fresh and marine ecosystems. It is especially appropriate as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) lists the estuarine portion of the Raritan River as an important migratory pathway for anadromous alewife and blueback herring, species which NOAA lists as of special concern. The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership feels that the proposed projects could help to reverse declining population trends, and anadromous fish returning to spawn each spring in the Raritan River provide an attraction to the general public in the Raritan River Basin. The removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River and feasibility analysis and design of technical fish passage at the Island Farm Weir are important to the LRWP and we fully support the proposed projects.
Heather Fenyk, Ph.D., AICP/PP
President, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Interior, and the State of New Jersey invite public comment on a proposed plan.
The Draft RP/EA is available at the following website:
The public comment period on this plan ends June 10, 2016.
To request further information or an additional hard copy of this document or to submit your comments, please contact Carl Alderson at (732)371-0848, NOAA Restoration Center – Sandy Hook Office, JJ Howard National Marine Fisheries Science Center, 74 Magruder Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732 or by email at Carl.Alderson@noaa.gov. Please put “American Cyanamid Draft RP/EA” in the subject line.