Tag: Lower Raritan Watershed

World Vegan Day in the Lower Raritan: The Greener Grass on the Other Side

Article by Angely Melendez, written as part of the Rutgers Spring Semester 2020 Environmental Communications course

November 1, 2020 is World Vegan Day. Want to celebrate? See below for a listing of the many vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the Lower Raritan Watershed to choose from!

Plant Based Restaurants in the Lower Raritan Watershed

WatchungMexico Grillhttps://www.mexicogrillnj.com/
BridgewaterCavahttps://order.cava.com/stores/70/menu
New BrunswickVeganizedhttp://veganizedfoods.com/
South AmboyHibachi Expresshttps://www.hibachiexpressandsushi.com/
East BrunswickSweetberryhttps://www.sweetberrybowls.com/eastbrunswick
UnionKiller Veganhttps://killervegan.com/
MatawanVegan Treehttps://www.vegantreematawan.com/
Old BridgeThai Thai Cuisinehttp://thaithaistirling.com/
MonroePersis Indian Grillhttp://persismonroe.com/menu/
EnglishtownSawanhttps://www.sawanmarlboronj.com/#menu
MarlboroOver Easy Kitchenhttps://www.overeasykitchen.com/
MillstoneThe Chozhashttps://thechozhas.com/

Reasons to go Vegan or Vegetarian

Ask someone just 20 years ago if they’d go vegetarian or vegan and they’d say no, you’re crazy. Meat has always been a staple within American cuisine and continues to be so, but even in the last 3 years there has been a 600% increase in Americans who consider themselves vegan. A staggering percentage, to say the least, but although those numbers are great, that’s still only 6% of American consumers in 2017 (“Veganism is at an All-Time High: Is it A Fleeting Fad or The New Norm?” 2018).

For the meat eaters out there that are still unsure of what the excitement is all about, I want to introduce World Vegan Day. This day visits us every November 1, and introduces the idea of the ever so popular diets: vegetarianism and veganism. Maybe the possibility of seeing what the hub-bub is all about intrigues you, and if that’s the case, then this is the day for you. See the map above for a route around the Lower Raritan River with stops all along it at plant based restaurants or others that feature plant based options.

So, what can these diets offer you? A slew of things, actually. One of the big factors to go plant-based is due to health. According to Harvard Medical School, a vegetarian diet offers some wonderful benefits and takes out some of the harmful negatives, “… As a result, [making them] likely to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI), all of which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.”

Besides personal gains, you’d also be doing the Earth (and our Lower Raritan Watershed) a huge solid. A big sign of inefficiency within agriculture lies within the raising of animals for their meat. About 70% of grain and cereals grown in the U.S. are fed to farm animals. Keeping that in mind, 16lbs of grain goes into producing 1lb of meat. And since demand for meat is so high, these farms continue to expand, knocking down natural ecosystems for the production of corn. Instead of using all those resources and high amounts of energy to produce that little amount of consumable meat, it could instead be used for humans.

So, come out to the Lower Raritan River during World Vegan Day, check out what local vegan and vegetarian restaurants have on offer, and learn why the grass is greener on the other side!

Effective communication about the environment is critical to raising awareness and influencing the public’s response and concern about the environment. The course Environmental Communication (11:374:325), taught by Dr. Mary Nucci of the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, focuses on improving student’s writing and speaking skills while introducing students to using communication as a tool for environmental change. Students not only spend time in class being exposed to content about environmental communication, but also meet with communicators from a range of local environmental organizations to understand the issues they face in communicating about the environment. In 2019 and 2020, the course applied their knowledge to creating blogs for their “client,” the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP). Under the guidance of LRWP Founder, Dr. Heather Fenyk, students in the course researched topics about water quality and recreation along the Raritan. Throughout 2020 the LRWP will share student work on our website.

Aerial Tour of the Raritan Basin

One of many Raritan River-adjacent landfills/Superfund sites at-risk of flood impacts
Photo by Alison M. Jones, No Water No Life – taken during a LightHawk flight, April 2019

On Tuesday May 12, 5:30-6:30 pm join Heather Fenyk with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Alison M. Jones with No Water No Life, and Joe Mish (aka Winter Bear Rising) author of the LRWP series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” for a virtual tour of the Raritan Basin.

During this hour long tour Heather, Alison and Joe will share and discuss images taken during a LightHawk flight on April 2019. With many thanks to LightHawk, Inc. for the experience – we look forward to sharing some the experience with you.

This was a very special flight. We expect it to be a very special conversation.

Registration required.

Endangered Species of the Watershed Illustration Curriculum for grades 3-8

By Akansha Khurana

The Watershed Illustration Curriculum was developed to raise awareness about the endangered species of New Jersey, especially the flora and fauna of the Lower Raritan Watershed. Every species in the curriculum, from the Bald Eagle to the Closed Bottled Gentian, is in immediate danger due to human activities. These human activities are responsible for loss of species habitat due to habitat fragmentation and deforestation, over-exploitation of resources, disturbances, disease, introduction of invasive species, pollution and climate change. The survival of every species of wildlife is critical to preserving our state’s rich biodiversity and unique natural history. Unlike other natural threats, man-made threats are threats that we can prevent by changing our behavior.

These curriculum guides combine art and science to help students develop their creativity and artistic skills, while advancing their knowledge of the endangered species and plants that are in close proximity to them. By focusing on art, we also try to make the connection to the environment a personal experience. To save wildlife requires positive action. It requires changes in lifestyle and way of thinking.

Bald_Eagle

Blue_Spotted_Salamander

Bug_Life

Closed_Bottle_Gentian

Indiana_Bat

Red_Milkweed

Red_Tailed_Hawk

Short_Eared_Owl

Timber_Rattlesnake

As humans, we have the ability to understand the consequences of our actions, both present and past. We are capable of learning more about the effects our actions have on the world around us and how changes in those actions could help to alter future events. By examining how human activities have adversely impacted life on earth, we can take steps to reverse past damages and prevent future damage.

Thank you for learning about the special wildlife in the Lower Raritan, and how you can help protect them!

Your Health and COVID-19: Four Illness-Fighting Benefits of Getting Outdoors

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.”  -G.M. Trevelyan

The silver lining in COVID-19-related time off from work and school? More hours to get outside.

Time out-of-doors yields illness-fighting benefits (a few are listed below). Check out the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership’s map of open space in the Lower Raritan or find a park map for your area, lace up your shoes, and head outdoors. Getting outside may be just what the doctor ordered.

1. Breathe fresh air. Although the viruses that cause flu and colds are more common in the winter months, the circulated air in closed environments is the main cause of illness. Windows are closed, germs are recycled through air vents, and the general tendency in cooler months is to stay indoors. The thing is, the more time spent inside, the more you risk exposure. In fresh outdoor air the chance for spreading infection is reduced.

2. Strengthen the immune system. Time outside gives you an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. Increased time outside is associated with stronger autoimmune systems, and a resistance to allergies. Studies have shown that children in rural areas, or who are active outside, have the best overall health.

3. Engage in physical exercise. Time outside is associated with greater physical activity, and physical activity gives your immune system a power surge for a full 24 hours. A stronger immune system leads to less illness and less use of antibiotics.

4. Shift your perspective. Time outside can be a welcome break from the technology-focus of our 21st century lives. Get out for a wildlife hike and watch the birds and other critters – many of them are in full throttle nest building this time of the year. Taking a break out-of-doors, connecting with local ecology, is great for your mental health!

Open Space in the Lower Raritan Watershed

CANCELLED – Tour of Bayshore Recycling

Our friends at Bayshore Recycling are still recovering from the December 16 six-alarm fire that devastated parts of their plant. While their Recycling Class A paper, plastics and metal facility was not affected, they have asked that we reschedule our tour for later in the year.

We will include notice of reschedule in our newsletter.

This is your chance to follow the recycling journey with your own eyes, observing how what’s left at the end of your driveway is sorted, prepped and packaged to get it ready for the next phase of reuse. Gary Sondermeyer, VP of Operations at Bayshore Recycling, will explain it all with this behind-the-scenes tour.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the importance of recycling, the convenience and drawbacks of single-stream recycling, and how it’s all done. You’ll also leave with some first-hand do’s and don’ts.

#LookForTheRiver, Jersey Water Works Opening Plenary Speech

On December 13, 2019 LRWP collaborator and coLAB Arts co-producer and Director of Education John Keller delivered the opening plenary to the 2019 Jersey Water Works annual statewide summit at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick, NJ. John talked about the intersection of art, and our work in the watershed. He gave lots of examples of our collaborative effort these past 5 years. With thanks to John for allowing the LRWP to share his words.

Good Morning Everyone,

Uh, oh. I have to be that first person who annoyingly chastises you for being lack luster in your morning greeting. Think of it this way. It is Friday! You are coming to have a great time at this symposium, learn lots of stuff, have some good conversations, have la meal and still be out by 2:30! And as long as you don’t have a boss who is a party pooper it’s highly unlikely that any of us are going to go back to the office for just a few measly afternoon hours so that means found time! Maybe you’ll stop by your favorite independent coffee shop and have a nice afternoon latte in your favorite reusable cup. Then go over to the local day-spa maybe get a message or a nice facial (as long as it doesn’t have any microplastics in it), then meet up with some friends or family for a movie afterwards, but you will bring your own refillable BPA free water bottle because you are a little dehydrated from the latte, message, and facial and don’t want to pay $12 for a bottle of water at the theater. Then you will get out of the movie and think to yourself… wow that was a pretty good day.

So, let’s start this over.

Good morning everyone!

My name is John Keller and I have titled this presentation. 5 years of art in 9 minutes.

I am the director of education and outreach for a non-profit arts organization called coLAB Arts. You can find us on all the social media stuff as @colabarts.

I am here to tell you a story. The story is how an arts organization found itself motivated and inspired to facilitate conversations around our watersheds, and our relationship to water.

First, a little background. What is coLAB Arts and how does our mission drive us to collaborate with non-arts based social advocacy organizations, government institutions, and community groups?

Our mission is quite simply an equation. We engaged artists, advocates, and communities to created transformative new art-work. For us transformation must be three things. It must be sustainable, positive, and community focused. We work in areas as diverse as juvenile justice reform, transgender rights, domestic violence prevention, and dignity for our immigrant neighbors.

But this one is about water. So here we go.

In 2015, myself and two coLAB Arts’ board members attended a watershed education workshop with the then recently formed Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP). After the workshop we adopted a local stream and found what so many find in our urban areas: a stream in need of some love. We asked ourselves what we ask ourselves whenever engaging with a new advocacy concern:

How does the artist engage in this space?

What are the core issues that the advocacy partners are wrestling with? What are the historic contexts? What are the socio-political barriers to equity, diversity, inclusion, Justice and Access that the arts might help dismantle? Who are the communities not yet at the table? What are the questions not being asked? What are the ways artists can influence and augment research? – quantitative and qualitative data gathering. What are the complex ideas that artists can infuse into the conversation to make advocacy and even infrastructure better?

When LRWP heard these questions. And challenged us with some of their own for us to ponder. It was kismet. We began working together. Two organizations, arts and science. We formed a working group of artists, landscape architects, community organizers, and civic scientists, to wrestle with arts-based interventions to our natural and built environments. Early recognition from the American Architectural Foundation and their Sustainable Cities Design Academy gave us the opportunity generate bold ideas around on how the arts can drive sustainable changes to complex structural challenges.

We centered on a seemingly simple idea to drive the story of the work. It is the idea that the river is both a physical entity in our landscape, but it is also a powerful metaphor in our daily lives. It is all around us. It does not just exist in the physical limitations of the banks of a body of water, but it exists in our storm water systems, in the run-off from our homes, in our sprinklers, our faucets, in our dreams for quality of life, in our stories of migration, and our desperation in times of crisis. We began asking ourselves as well as the artists and communities brought into the work to #LookForTheRiver in all things.

We began work in earnest. Going alongside the LRWP on stream clean ups. Participating in macro invertebrate trainings, touring spaces and landscapes that maybe weren’t the most obvious places of water stewardship. We began engaging professional artists through programs like our National Endowment for the Arts funded residencies where we partner an artist with a non-arts based organization and task each with creating an engaged arts project that facilitates a conversation with community that generates new works of art inspired by some big problem or question that advocacy org is wrestling with. The model of that residency which now has multiple artists with a diverse group of organizations is successful in no small part to LRWP piloting that program our first year. Our Watershed Helping Hands Sculpture Project on display in the lobby is one such example of one of the community based art engagement programs that resulted from that artist residency.

Once the communities have been engaged and you have built a critical mass of participation. You have to think next steps.

At the end of the day we are an arts organization and the greatest way to partner with artists is to provide opportunities for them to create bold artistic gestures.

Our work has been both conceptual and literal.

We have used the process of cleanups, data collection and public access as our points of inspiration to create works that both reuse found materials as well as engage with artists from diverse backgrounds and disciplines such as sculptural work, dance, theater, and mixed media.

To integrate both professional arts creation with community arts creation. Recognizing that while not everything can be called great art, great art can come from anywhere. We balance the ethereal of the performative with the substance of created artifacts; both a natural growth from a new communal education on watershed health and quality and the provocation of a call to action.

When this happens a new kind of reality might be possible. Where if we truly look for the river in all of the aspects of our lives. We begin to question why is it absent? And we see our spaces built in essence to do whatever they can to keep the river out. To blot it out from our landscape…

But when you create the potential for new vision we can inspire ourselves, our planners, and political leaders to reintegrate the river into our lives; into our built cities, and our story telling. Accepting the river back becomes our way of solving infrastructure problems. Like a new art and history based greenway connecting public spaces through the heart of an urban area, or an art and green infrastructure concept project which includes a two-story sculpture work that becomes a wayfinding landmark, urban beautification, and a five thousand gallon cistern to keep water run-off from reaching the storm water system in times of flooding.

When empowering communities to create art that allows them to connect with both their environmental and social justice history we can make space to dream about ways in which we can work with our built communities to remember the landscape of our past. And find new ways to interact with it.

The arts are in incredible communicative tool. But the first act of social justice is to listen. Our creations cannot come before we first strive to listen with the intention of learning. Artists and water experts need to engage in this process together. When the artist is involved in the process – not just brought in at the end to slap some paint on a wall, not just asked to develop the PR or marketing strategy, rather allowing the artist to be in response to this listening process.

In 2019 we began an oral history archive which is about capturing those stories. Balancing the narratives. We research and collect the stories perhaps lost, perhaps suppressed, perhaps forgotten, around one very simple idea: Water is everywhere, and water is important to everyone.  And then doing what we do… make are that is in response and helps us all frame a greener future.

NFWF Funding – South River Restoration and Resiliency

Many thanks, and huge congrats, to LRWP Board Member Johnny Quispe for coordinating grant development for support through NFWF’s 2019 Coastal Resilience Fund.

It was announced earlier this week that $249,639 in National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) funds will go to develop the “South River Ecosystem Restoration and Flood Resiliency Enhancement Project (NJ)”.

More specifically, these monies will support Princeton Hydro and other watershed partners to:

“Conduct an ecosystem restoration site assessment and design for 165 acres of tidal marshes and transitional forest in New Jersey’s Raritan River Watershed. Project will result in an engineering plan with a permit-ready design to reduce coastal inundation and erosion along about 2.5 miles of shoreline for neighboring flood-prone communities and enhance breeding and foraging habitat for 10 state-listed threatened and endangered avian species.”

More information on the specific awards can be found here:

https://www.nfwf.org/coastalresilience/Documents/2019grantslate.pdf

Meet LRWP Board Member Doriann Kerber!

Interview by April Callahan, Rutgers Raritan Scholar

Doriann Kerber is Councilwoman for the Borough of Milltown, NJ, and serves as Treasurer for the Middlesex County Water Resources Association. She is also active with Jersey Water Works, and with the Milltown and East Brunswick Green Teams. She took time out of her busy schedule for an interview about Green Infrastructure outreach in the watershed, and her vision for improving environmental education to benefit the health of our watershed communities.

Doriann Kerber receiving the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative 2019 Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Stewardship” for the Lower Raritan.

AC: Where are you from in the Lower Raritan Watershed? In your time here, how have you engaged in and explored the area?

DK: I am from Milltown and we have a sub-watershed, Lawrence Brook Watershed, that I enjoy exploring. In 2014 I volunteered to be on the Middlesex Water Resources Association and I heard about the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. I feel strongly about cleaning up the waterways just like anyone else in my town, and feel that we should all take part in caring for our waterways. I got involved with the LRWP to do just that.

AC: What, in your opinion, are the primary issues that need to be addressed in the watershed?

DK: Continuous cleanups are important for all areas of the watershed. Every town in the watershed should have annual clean-ups! And education/outreach is so important. We need folks to understand that the land use choices they make, that their consumption and disposal choices affect their water and environment. If they want cleaner water and a better quality of life, then they need to make good choices and help take care of our waterways.

AC: What is your vision for the LRWP?

DK: I will be assisting with cleanups, but also helping with outreach events. I want the organization to get more media coverage, more speaking engagements, and attract more people from all walks of life to enjoy bicycling, walking, our natural spaces.

AC: I understand you are training with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to deliver Green Infrastructure outreach for area municipalities. Can you tell me more about that?

DK: Rutgers Cooperative Extension offers a “Green Infrastructure Champion” training Program, which I went through. This training allows me to be able to assess green infrastructure in towns and municipalities. For example, I met with the General Manager of the Brunswick Square Mall to discuss stormwater management improvements that will also make the area more attractive. I have training to assist four different groups: resident, commercial, government and nonprofit. In addition to working in Milltown and East Brunswick I can work throughout Middlesex County and the Lower Raritan Watershed.

AC: What do you see as the most important actions Town Council members can take in their home communities to improve overall watershed health?

DK: Environmental education and outreach is so important. We need Town Councils to show how everybody plays a part in improving watershed health, and give them the tools and know-how to make a difference. It’s not just the town, or the water treatment center, or the wastewater treatment center that is responsible for water management. Everybody plays a role!

AC: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

DK: I think the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership has really grown in the last four years. I want it to be recognized throughout the county and throughout the state, and hope that the work we do will get more people involved in their local watersheds.

May 30 Raritan River Pathogen Monitoring Results

Many thanks to our great team of volunteers who dedicated their Thursday to sampling for fecal coliform and enterococci at six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River.

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. 
Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

Site NameTime Enterococcus (CFU)
Riverside Park (40.54067, -74.51219)9:51TNTC
Rutgers Boathouse (40.48826, -74.43384)10:32 TNTC
Edison Boathouse (40.48769, -74.38409)11:09TNTC
Ken Buchannan Waterfront Park(40.47483, -74.35586)11:47TNTC
South Amboy Waterfront Park (40.48334, -74.2698)12:3027
2nd Street Park (49.50007, -74.27719)1:03120

Huge thanks to our partners EARTH Center of Middlesex County and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. We are still working to develop a platform for data reporting and sharing, but for now see our program overview for more information on the sites and our monitoring efforts.

Monitoring at Riverside Park in Piscataway 5.30.2019.
Photo by Jim Hearty

Please note that while we follow quality control measures, the real-time nature of data delivery means that EPA has not reviewed, and these are not technically quality controlled.

June 8 BioBlitz at Elmwood Cemetery!

Registration is now live for the June 8 BioBlitz at Elmwood Cemetery!

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 Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (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 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. Our expert scientists will be stationed at various locations at Elmwood Cemetery to help participants engage in unique research. These scientists are our “team leaders.” We use teams to help organize the science and logistics so that we get as accurate a count as possible of the biodiversity of the area.

Our Expert Scientists:

  • Brionna Primiani (mammals), Wildlife Specialist with New Jersey Wildlife Services
  • Chuck Sedor (fish), New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
  • Michele Bakacs (plants), Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County
  • Trisha Nichols (insects), Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion
  • Von Scully (aquatic invertebrates) NJ Watershed Ambassadors
  • Laurie Gneiding (birds), NJDEP Ornithologist/Ecologist; NJ Audubon Society
  • Randy Hemminghaus (fungi), The New Jersey Mycological Association

For more information, and to register, see our BioBlitz events page!

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