Monday, August 31, 2015

Autumn is Approaching

As children prepare to head back to school, signs of autumn are just around the corner. This is the perfect time to start planning for fantastic fall activities for you and your family. With over 500 programs available this fall, the Park System is the perfect place to experience nature, get active, and discover a new hobby or fine tune one you already enjoy.

Check out just a few of our upcoming autumn activities:
  • Still have a little one home with you and looking for something new and exciting to do? Check out Fine Arts for 4 & 5 year olds or our Toddler Hiking Series.
  • Give the entire family a treat after school! Our After School Ice Cream Boat Tours take you on an exploration the Manasquan Reservoir and the nature that surrounds it. Afterwards, we'll return to shore and enjoy a tasty ice cream sundae.
  • If your child (age 4-9) loves horses, you won't want to miss Fun with Horses. Participants learn about horse grooming and go for a short ride.
  • Looking to get fit this fall? Aerostep will help you burn calories and build muscle through a combination of cardiovascular and strength training. 
  • Delve into your artistic side. Upcoming adult arts & crafts classes include Evening Watercolor Workshop and Sculpture Class.
  • Autumn is the perfect season to learn a new sport! The Park System's golf courses offer lessons for a wide variety of ages and abilities. Check them out here.  
And you certainly won't want to miss our upcoming family-friendly special events!
  • The Wind & Sea Festival on Saturday, September 19 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. celebrates the wonderful bayside shore of Monmouth County. Held at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth, visitors of all ages will love the free activities that include arts & crafts, kayaking, crabbing, fishing, story time, seining, kite flying and much more! You'll also have the opportunity to meet representatives from organizations like Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, NY-NJ Baykeeper, Clean Ocean Action, Navesink Maritime Heritage Museum, and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary out of Sandy Hook. Please note that parking for this event will be at the Belford Ferry Terminal; shuttle buses will transport your family to the event. For full details, click here.
  • Step back in time with the Harvest Home Festival at Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel on Sunday, September 27 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. This fair reminiscent of the 1890s offers your family the experience of fun the old-fashioned way. With games, wagon rides, live entertainment, demonstrations and contests, there's something for everyone to enjoy! For full details, click here
  • Thompson Park Day returns on Sunday, October 18 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. as your number one celebration of autumn family fun! Held at Thompson Park, Lincroft, activities include wagon rides, kids' races, ceramics, pottery demonstrations, cross-country skiing, rides, entertainment, contests, food and so much more. Some activities require the purchase of tickets. For full details, click here
There's always something to do in your Monmouth County parks! For more information on all the parks have to offer and to check out our current Program Directory, visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August Staff Spotlight: Lauren Gerber, Therapeutic Recreation Division

Name and title: 
Lauren Gerber, Recreation Supervisor with the Therapeutic Recreation Division

Background in your field (education, employment, hobbies, etc.):
Education:  B.S. in Leisure Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; M.P.A in Public Administration/Public Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University
Background: I got job when I was 16 working for the South Suburban Special Recreation Association in the Chicago suburbs (where I grew up). I started as a counselor for campers with severe/profound disabilities ages 6-21. I wanted to work with the little kids only but my supervisors put me on the camp with the teens and adults. The running joke was: “We didn’t tell Lauren what we signed her up for.” Yet the next year I begged to be put back on the same camp, something that was unheard of. I spent five years on that camp and eventually became the site supervisor, overseeing the daily operations. It was then that I decided to change my major to Leisure Studies because I really enjoyed the field of therapeutic recreation.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
The rapport I develop with participants and their families. It usually starts with a simple phone call. A parent will call me and tell me about their child and expect to hear, “No, we can’t accommodate his or her needs,” and when I say yes, we can, they open up. We share stories (I have a brother on the autism spectrum) about struggles with behaviors, schools and more. And then their child (this can be a child, teen or adult) comes to our programs and has a wonderful time; they keep coming back and I am able to watch their family grow and change. From good times to bad, we are really a tight-knit group who are there for each other. Families come to me for resources, not always recreation based, and I am able to make a few phone calls to other participants’ parents/guardians, and point them in the right direction. It’s a win-win situation.

As a therapeutic recreation staffer, what has been your biggest goal for the Park System when it comes to our patrons with special needs?
To understand that everyone has a right to recreation and it is not a one fits all approach. There is a reason for separate therapeutic programming and there is a reason for inclusive recreation. We just need to find the right fit for each participant.

What do you feel is the most important thing for our visitors to know about the Park System’s therapeutic recreation options?
That we are here. I still get so many calls with people surprised my department exists!

What is your favorite park to visit and why?
The Manasquan Reservoir, not only is it beautiful but the Environmental Center is awesome, and it is one of the few parks where I cannot get lost on the trails. I have the world’s worst sense of direction and with the trail being a loop, it’s easy!

What is your favorite program in the Park System?
Tea at Historic Walnford. Site Supervisor Sarah Bent does such a wonderful job on the program. Not only is it tasty, but you get an in depth look into the history of Walnford.

Outside of the Park System, what is your favorite thing to do in your off time?
I enjoy crafting, reading and traveling. My husband and I try to visit at least one national park every year, and I am always in the middle of a crochet project.

If you could give one tip to our visitors about our Monmouth County parks, what would it be?
Visit us! You'll be happy that you did!

If you have a child with special needs and would like to learn about the Monmouth County Park Systems therapeutic recreation and inclusion services, contact Lauren at 732-460-1167, ext. 22, or email

Thursday, August 6, 2015

End Your Summer with Park System Fun!

August is here, which means the beginning of school is growing near. As you prepare for your children to head back to school next month, be sure to fill the rest of their summer with great memories! There's always something to do in your Monmouth County parks, so plan some local fun in the upcoming weeks that both you and your children are sure to remember for years to come. Here are some activities to add to your calendar:
Climb Time
  • Help us celebrate the 30th birthday of Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck on Saturday, August 8 from 1-5 p.m. The afternoon will be filled with family friendly activities, crafts and demonstrations. At 4 p.m. we'll enjoy cake and a ceremony. For full details on this free celebration, click here.
  • Enviro-Quest offers nature fun at a different park each week. When you arrive at the scheduled park, follow the Enviro-Quest signs to where our Park System Naturalist awaits. Once there, you'll join in free activities, crafts or games for approximately 30-60 minutes of fun. For upcoming dates and locations, click here.
  • Climb Time is the perfect (and free) way to see if rock climbing is for you. Offered at a variety of Monmouth County parks, climbers 42" or taller can explore new heights. Click here for a full list of upcoming dates and locations.
  • Tidal Tuesdays every Tuesday through September 1 at 11 a.m. at Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area, Manasquan offers free activities that range from seining to crafts. Children will love meeting with a Park System Naturalist to discover nature and our coastal habitats. For full details, click here.
  • Relax and view the beauty of the parks from the water in the seat of a canoe, kayak, rowboat or paddleboat. Canoes are available for rent at Thompson Park, Lincroft on select weekends and Wednesday evenings through the summer. Rentals of rowboats and kayaks are available at the Manasquan Reservoir in Howell, and Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold offers kayaks, canoes and paddleboats for visitors to enjoy. Check out our Boat Rental page for details and pricing.
  • If you haven't had a chance to check out Summer Seining at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth, be sure to add it to your list! Offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. through August 21, this free program is a family favorite! Kids will love seeing the creatures found as our Park System Naturalists pull a 30' seine net through the waters of Sandy Hook Bay.
  • Family Open Swim
  • Looking to cool off? Take a dip in the pool or enjoy the air-conditioned gymnasium at the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls. The Rec Center offers a variety of times to enjoy the pool with your family or to have fun playing basketball or using other play equipment in the gym. Check out the variety of drop-in activities available on our Fort Monmouth Recreation Area page
These are just some of the excellent options available to visitors this month. For a full listing of what's happening in the parks, view our Calendar of Events. There are also openings still available in some of our summer programs such as Tomato Tasting (August 8), Family Fossiling at Shark River (August 9), S'Parks in the Night (August 13) and more! For all upcoming programs, visit our Program Registration page.

Plus, there are over 40 park areas to visit. Peruse the picturesque grounds of Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown; step back in time at Historic Walnford, Freehold or Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel; or explore the Environmental Centers at Huber Woods Park, Middletown or the Manasquan Reservoir, Howell. Check out a full listing of your Monmouth County park areas.

We'll see you in the parks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Fair is Coming, the Fair is Coming!

Summer is a time of enjoying the outdoors, beach fun, and the Monmouth County Fair. And this year's Fair is sure to excite with a variety of activities and exhibits that are sure to suit everyone in your family.

Reithoffer Shows presents this year's rides and amusements, from kiddie rides like the Circus Train and Wiggle Wurm to faster paced rides like Zero Gravity and Sky Flyer for the thrill seekers. These are sure to be the best rides yet! Fair favorites like Bwana Jim's Wildlife Show and Robinson's Racing Pigs are returning, and newcomers Fishing Friendzy and Mutts Gone Nuts are sure to round out the fun! And keep your eyes on the look out for the T-Rex prowling on the fairgrounds; a perfect photo opportunity!

Plus, check out all of these other great attractions:
  • 4-H Events
  • Animal Shows & Exhibits
  • Free Musical Entertainment
  • Home and Garden Demonstrations & Exhibits
  • Crafters and Commercial Vendors
  • Hilby the Skinny German Juggling Boy
  • Living History Interactive Displays
  • Monmouth County Park System Interactive Displays
  • FFA Farm Stand featuring local produce
  • And so much more!
Check out the fantastic musical talent taking stage at this year's Monmouth County Fair:

The Fair kicks off on Wednesday, July 22 at 5 p.m. and runs through Sunday, July 26. Hours are 5-11 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 3-11 p.m .on Saturday; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $8 per person, children 12 and under enter free. For full details and a schedule for this year's Monmouth County Fair, visit We hope to see you there!

Monday, July 13, 2015

July Staff Spotlight: Christina Carlson of the Creative Arts Center

Name and title: 
Christina Carlson, Program Coordinator at the Creative Arts Center

Background in your field:
I started off studying early childhood education. As I was working through school I had the good fortune of working with a goldsmith. That is where I discovered my artistic side. I attended FIT for jewelry design classes and became the goldsmith's apprentice for 13 years. I had taken a summer pottery program here at Thompson Park when I was about eight; it did not go well, but I thought I would give it another try. So about 24 years ago I signed up for classes again. I fell in love! I devoured every workshop I could get my hands on, volunteered to help teaching with kilns, glazes and studio chores. I wanted to learn it all, but at the time it was difficult with four little ones at home.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love to see when people get "it". There are so many ways to make things out of clay, but when you find the one that’s right for you it is so rewarding. This wonderful relaxed look comes over them and then the creativity takes flight. You see the same look in 6 year olds, 60 year olds and beyond, that same satisfied look.

As an artist, what has been your biggest inspiration?
When I was working for the goldsmith we attended many fine craft shows. I was always drawn to the potters. One in particular was Nancee Meeker. She was from Fair Haven originally. Her work was so smooth and sleek and yet organic at the same time. My favorite pieces of Nancee's have a beautiful purple hue and are saggar fired. They are just gorgeous.

What is your favorite park to visit and why?
I am partial to Thompson Park, but not just because of the Creative Arts Center. I love the trails, especially the one that takes you by the reservoir and of course Marlu Lake. There is so much to do here. The Creative Arts Center is a big bonus. I have never seen a facility like it at any other county park.

Saggar Fired Bowl made by Christina
What is your favorite creative arts program in the Park System and why?
Our pottery programs are my favorite. There is something for everyone at every age and every ability. I call it mud therapy! I also love that the Park System allows us the opportunity to expand and experiment with our creativity with unique programs like raku and saggar firings and the annual pit fire at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park. These are great times for potters in the community to come together.

Outside of the Park System, what is your favorite thing to do in your off time?
I love to listen to music, all kinds. My three sons have a band, so I get to hear band practice while I’m in my studio throwing pots – it’s awesome (well, most of the time).

If you could give one tip to our visitors about getting creative in the parks, what would it be?
Absorb all the nature that surrounds you. Nature is the most inspiring tool for any artist. Use your imagination and draw from the trees and clouds something wonderful.

Thank you to Christina Carlson for taking the time to tell us more about herself. Be sure to check out all the upcoming arts & crafts programs within the Park System by clicking here