Thursday, September 1, 2016

Say Farewell to Summer with the Wind & Sea Festival

Summer may be coming to an end, but your Monmouth County Park System is ready to extend the fun with this year's annual Wind & Sea Festival. Held on Saturday, September 17 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth, the Wind & Sea Festival is a celebration of local shore-related fun.

Held along the calm and picturesque Sandy Hook Bay, the festival will offer plenty of family-friendly fun for all ages including:

  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
  • Seining
  • Sand Casting
  • Fishing and Crabbing
  • Sand Castle Building
  • Shelling
  • Kite Flying
  • Disc Golf
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Hula Dancing
  • And so much more!

Local organizations will be on hand to offer information about who they are and what they do for our community, as well as answer any questions you may have. This is a great opportunity to learn about the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, Clean Ocean Action, NY/NJ Baykeeper, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and many others.

New to the festival this year, visitors will be able to take advantage of some local shopping too! A variety Made in Monmouth vendors will be on hand selling their locally made items. Showcasing businesses strictly located in our beautiful county, Made in Monmouth has become a favorite tent at the ever popular Monmouth County Fair as well. You won't want to miss checking out their wares. 

Don't miss that chance to make the Wind & Sea Festival part of your goodbye to summer. Parking will be available at the Belford Ferry Terminal at 10 Harbor Way in Belford. From there, the Park System will provide shuttle buses to and from the event. And don't worry about bringing lunch, food vendors will be on site for you to purchase a delicious lunch or just a snack. 

For more information about this year's Wind & Sea Festival, visit us at

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Bucket List

Summer is here and it's the perfect season to spend time together as a family, having fun and making memories you'll treasure for years to come. At the Monmouth County Park System we work hard to give local families a place to enjoy a variety of activities. Add the parks to your summer attractions with this summertime in the parks bucket list:

  1. Hit the beach! The Jersey shore is known to be a great place for summertime fun in the sun. Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park in Long Branch is the perfect sandy spot for the entire family. During the summer months, this 38-acre park offers a snack bar, sheltered eating areas, volleyball area, outdoor showers and changing areas, guarded swimming and designated areas for surfing. Plus, there's a universally accessible playground as well as a skateplex. For full details on summer park access fees, click here.
  2. Discover the creatures that live in Sandy Hook Bay during our free, drop-in Summer Seining. Held at two locations this summer, families get a hands-on glimpse at the fish, crabs and other critters that live near the edge of the bay. Seining takes place from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Bayshore Waterfront Park through August 26. New this summer, you can also enjoy this popular free program at the Popamora Point section of the Henry Hudson Trail from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on July 19, July 21, August 2, August 4, August 23 and August 25. 
  3. Experience the excitement of our annual Monmouth County Fair from July 27-31. The Fair features thrilling rides, animal shows & exhibits, entertainment, 4-H shows and exhibits, home & garden demonstrations and competitions, Park System displays, FFA Farm Stand, Made in Monmouth tent, musical acts, crafters and commercial vendors, delicious food and so much more! 
  4. Go on a self-guided nature adventure with our Safari Backpacks! Available at three Park System locations, this is a terrific way to explore the park. Safari Backpacks are available at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Huber Woods Environmental Center and Deep Cut Gardens. Safari Backpacks are free to use, but you must leave a valid NJ driver's license with the docent.
  5. Go for a paddle! Put on your life jacket, grab some paddles, and hit the water. Boats are available at three Park System locations. At the Manasquan Reservoir you can rent a rowboat or kayak through the summer, as well as sailboats (pre-registration required). Kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are available at Turkey Swamp Park. And on select weekends visitors can rent canoes at Thompson Park; upcoming weekends include July 16 & 17 and July 30 & 31. For full details and pricing, click here
  6. Explore the nature of Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area with a Park System Naturalist on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. through August 30. During Tidal Tuesdays, families will learn exciting things about nature and our coastal habitats through exciting free activities such as meeting creatures that live in the water or creating crafts from found materials. 
  7. Experience the world of golf as you try a variety of non-traditional golf activities at Bel-Aire Golf Course. From 4-7 p.m. on July 17 and August 19, enjoy free fun during Golf Fore Fun by playing FootGolf, Snag Golf, putting games and more!
  8. Summer is the perfect time of year to spot the various types of butterflies that frequent our area. Go on a free Butterfly Walk with a Park System Naturalist to identify the butterflies found in our many fields. Click here for upcoming dates, times and locations. 
  9. Spend a night under the stars while camping at Turkey Swamp Park. With 64 campsites and three cabins, Turkey Swamp is the perfect place to enjoy a staycation the whole family will love. Campground amenities include wooded campsites, electrical service, water service, modern restrooms, fire rings for charcoal cooking and campfires, picnic tables, playgrounds and more. Make your reservation by calling 732-462-7286 after 11 a.m. daily.
  10. Step back in time with a visit to our two historic sites. Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel, is a living historical farm that allows visitors to experience life as it was in rural Monmouth County during the 1890s. Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold, is the perfect place to appreciate over 200 years of social, industrial and agricultural history as its reflected through five generations of the Waln family.
  11. Earn nature patches with our Nature Adventures Patch Collectors program. Once registered, you'll receive monthly emails (or letters) informing you of which upcoming programs you can attend and the ways to earn the eight mini patches. For full details, click here
  12. Cool off by taking a swim at the Fort Monmouth Recreation Area's large outdoor swimming pool. Open Swim times are available throughout the summer for families to come and relax; check out the July calendar. Daily rates are $7 per person or $20 per family of up to four people. Season passes are also available (click here). 
  13. Experience the beauty and nature of the Manasquan Reservoir with a Park System Naturalist led Boat Tour where you might spot turtles, egrets, herons, ospreys and perhaps a bald eagle. Cost is $6 per adult and $4 per child (12 and under). Tours are available this summer on weekends and holidays at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Wednesdays at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; and on the first Friday of August and September. For full details, click here
We hope you'll join us for these great activities in the parks this summer! Of course, this is a just a short list of so many things you can enjoy in your Monmouth County parks. Tell us what your favorite activity in the parks is in the comment section below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The New Sport Growing in Popularity: FootGolf

A combination of golf and soccer, FootGolf is the new sport taking off with a bang in our area. This family-friendly sport is played with a regulation #5 soccer ball. Laid out on a traditional golf course, players aim for a large 21-inch cup, trying to make it into the cup in the least number of kicks possible. It takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete a 9-hole FootGolf course.

The basic rules of FootGolf largely correspond to those of a traditional game of golf:
  • Wear golf appropriate apparel at all times.
  • Your ball must be easy to identify.
  • Review the score card and wait your turn. Make sure your kick will not interfere with other players. 
  • Kick your ball from a position behind the tee markers.
  • The ball must be played in a single movement. It is against the rules to push the ball with the top or bottom of your foot.
  • Wait to play until the ball has completely come to rest.
  • Play the ball where it lies. You may not move the ball except if the ball obstructs another player's kick.
  • The player farthest from the hole is the first to kick.
  • If the ball enters a hazard, retrieve and replace the ball within two steps from the closest point from where the ball entered the hazard, receiving a one stroke penalty.
  • Only between holes may the ball be picked up and cleaned.
The Monmouth County Park System currently offers two FootGolf courses. A 9-hole course is located at Bel-Aire Golf Course in Wall and an 18-hole course is available at Pine Brook Golf Course in Manalapan. Play is available daily at Pine Brook after 12 p.m. and throughout the day at Bel-Aire. Weather permitting, Bel-Aire Golf Course remains open year round.

Rates are as follows:
  • Bel-Aire 9-Hole Course - $7 for ages 12 and under; $10 for ages 13 and up
  • Pine Brook 18-Hole Course - $9 for ages 12 and under; $12 for ages 13 and up
  • Ball rentals are $2.50 each at either course 

FootGolf Outings and Birthday Parties are available at both courses. The cost is $15 per person at Bel-Aire and $20 per person at Pine Brook. The fee includes ball rentals, tee time reservations, and use of the golf center activity room. For outings and birthday parties, please call 732-462-9224, ext. 1#.

For full details on our FootGolf courses, click here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Spend a Night Under the Stars

There's something about being among nature, cooking dinner over a campfire, and sleeping under the stars that brings family and friends together. Did you know you can escape your hectic routine and enjoy the togetherness and serenity of camping right here in Monmouth County? Turkey Swamp Park, located on Georgia Road in Freehold, offers a picturesque location with a long list of amenities that will give you and your family a perfect staycation.

Arriving at Turkey Swamp Park, the surroundings will captivate. This 2,261-acre park is surrounded by primitive wilderness; much of the park is forested by pitch pine and oak tress with an understory of bracken fern, pepper bush, blueberry, and catbriar. Many of the animals and plants associated with the New Jersey Pine Barrens can be found in the park. You can discover the nature of the park with a walk, run or bike ride on one of over nine miles of trails.

Toward the center of the park you will find a gorgeous 17-acre lake. Perfect for fishing and boating, this is one of the most popular sections of the park. Dropping a line in the calm waters offers the chance to catch bass, catfish and bluegills. (Bait can be purchased from the Campground Office from April-November.) Boat rentals are available from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends from May 1 through June 19, and then daily until Labor Day, and again on weekends only from Labor Day through Columbus Day. Available boats include kayaks, rowboats, canoes and paddleboats. Boat rental prices are available here.

The campground area offers everything you need to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. The grounds feature wooded campsites, electrical service, water service (mid-April through mid-November), drinking water, modern restrooms with showers and laundry, dump station, fire rings, picnic tables, playgrounds, and vending machines. To make sure everyone's nights are peaceful, quiet hours have been set from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

Don't have a tent? Well that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the fun! Turkey Swamp Park has three cabins available for rent, one of which is ADA accessible. Each cabin has two rooms and feature a double bed and two bunk beds as well as lights and electrical outlets. Outside each cabin is a water spigot and picnic area with fire pit.

Call today (732-462-7286) to reserve your campsite! For more information on camping in beautiful Turkey Swamp Park, click here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Eagles at the Manasquan Reservoir

Photo by Dennis Ruffe
Location, location, location! Bald eagles instinctively know how important real estate is when choosing a nesting site. The Manasquan Reservoir provides a winning combination of all the essentials: a year round supply of food and plenty of large trees perfect for perching near open water and building a nest. The proof is in the numbers; twenty-two eaglets have been produced at the reservoir since 2002. This is impressive productivity over fourteen breeding seasons.

Our first records of eagles at the reservoir began in early 2000. A male eagle arrived with a silver federal band on his left leg, followed by a female that summer; they formed a pair. Males and females look exactly the same, except females are larger. This size difference can only be seen when the pair are side by side. Often when a new pair forms, their first year they will build a practice nest that does not produce eaglets. It was not until February 2002 that the pair produced their first successful clutch of eggs resulting in two eaglets. From 2002-2004, this duo successfully raised a total of seven offspring.

Tragedy struck the pair in February 2005. She laid two eggs but died egg bound (the third egg was inside her). Although it is true that eagles mate for life, if something happens to one, the surviving eagle will find another. This male did not stay alone for long. Around the same time, a new female was seen in the area. The original male and new female quickly formed a pair.

This new female was young, between four and five years old. We knew her age because she still had darker immature feathers mixed in her signature white head a tail. She bore two bands: one silver and one green. The silver is from the federal government, the green from New Jersey. The identifying numbers “A85” on the green band were captured in 2011 through an expert photograph, a number that traced her back to a nest in Galloway Township where she was banded in May 2001.

Two-thousand seven was a big year. The pair produced their first eaglet, they fostered an additional eaglet from Maryland, and it was the first time eaglets were banded at the Manasquan Reservoir by New Jersey’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Maryland orphan had fallen out of its nest during a nor’easter and broke its leg. By the time it had healed, the parents had abandoned the nest and it needed a new home. It was placed in the nest at the reservoir, which only had one eaglet; both successfully fledged.

Evidence of a new male was discovered by avid eagle photographers. We have pictures of the first male with the silver band through 2007, followed by pictures of another male starting in 2009 with no leg band. There is a gap in our photo history. Sometime in 2008 a new male paired with the female. We do not know what happened to the first male.

Fifteen more eagles hatched between 2008 and 2014. During that period, the nest was blown down three times due to strong winds and hurricanes. In 2009, the nest was dismantled soon after the young birds had fledged. Their parents continued to take care of them. Later hurricanes – Irene in August 2011 and Sandy in October 2012 – took down the nest. However, in each situation the eaglets had grown and left the area. Each event the adults rebuilt their nest in time for the next season.

During 2015 the eagles moved off property. They incubated but the nest failed with no eaglets produced. Even with the move, the Manasquan Reservoir was their territory.

We have been delighted to see them return to nest on the shores of the Manasquan Reservoir this year. The nest is on a man-made nest constructed by the NJ Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2012, just days before Hurricane Sandy because the existing nest was supported primarily by a dead limb. It was considered a 50/50 chance they would accept the constructed nest. For three years they did not touch the construction nest and built in different trees. Finally they decided to use it this year. Incubation began in early February.

Sadly, on March 4 the eagles abandoned their eggs after 28 days of incubation. Possible reasons for this are: egg predation (which could be by a great horned owl, for example) or outside interference (by either humans being too close to the nest or by another adult eagle). We suspect interference by another adult eagle. We have determined that our female is still here, photos taken by Dennis Ruffe on March 11 identify her by the leg bands. We have yet to positively identify if the same male is still here.

For more information on our resident bald eagles, please visit the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center on Georgia Tavern Road in Howell. Please do not approach the nest; a nest can fail with disturbance, including people trying to get too close.