Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Get a Taste of History this Winter

Though the temperatures are dropping, that doesn't mean you can't add some history to your schedule. Two of your Monmouth County Park System's historic sites are open throughout the year. Experiencing history, especially local history, offers a valuable look view of where we came from and how life and the community has evolved over time.

Historic Longstreet Farm

Step back in time with the sights and sounds (and smells!) of rural Monmouth County in the late 19th century. Nestled within Holmdel Park on Longstreet Road in Holmdel, Historic Longstreet Farm is staffed with historic interpreters who spend their days working the farm as it was done in the 1890s. Daily and seasonal chores demonstrate the various agricultural and domestic activities that were necessary to any working farm of this time period. From milking the cows to feeding the livestock, planting the vegetables to cleaning the animal stalls, our farm staff does it all, giving visitors the feeling of being sent back in time if only for a short while.

The site is maintained as a living historical farm with the purpose of interpreting the agricultural activities in Monmouth County's rural past. This interpretation includes the breeds of animals and crops raised at this site in the 1890's. For your safety, as well as the safety of the animals, we ask that you do not touch or feed the animals. As a general precaution when leaving this site, you are encouraged to wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. For further information about the Farm's livestock, click here.

Open daily, year round from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., visitors may enter at their leisure free of charge. (Please note that pets are not allowed within the farm.) On any given day you're sure to see the staff working the farm, but other activities and demonstrations are also available as well. The Farmhouse is open for tours on weekends and holidays, March through December, from 12-3:30 p.m. or by reservation (for reservation information, call 732-946-3758).

Parent/Child Morning Chores is offered from 8-9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month (excluding October). Open to ages 4 and up, participants assist the staff with milking a cow, collecting eggs from the chickens, and feeding the livestock. This program meets at the Visitor Center and costs $15 per parent/child pair, $5 each additional participant (cash or check only please). Participants should dress for the weather and wear closed-toe shoes.

Free December drop-ins at Longstreet Farm include the following:

  • Blacksmith Demonstration - During your visit to the farm, head to the Blacksmith's workshop to see this skill in action from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, December 9.
  • Christmas Candymaking Demonstration - On Saturday, December 8 from 1-3 p.m. Brandy McCann will demonstrate the art of candy making, creating tasty chocolate delicacies and other sweet treats from the 1890s Fannie Farmer's cookbook.
  • The Sounds of Christmas from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, December 9. Celebrate the holidays with a visit to the beautiful Longstreet farmhouse where you can enjoy the wistful music of Larry Moser and Mary Nagin as they play Christmas carols on the hammered dulcimer and fiddle.
  • Christmas Sing-Along from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, December 15. Rick Garland will be playing the piano in the Longstreet farmhouse for an old-fashioned sing-along.
  • Visit with Santa on Saturday & Sunday, December 22 & 23 from 12-3 p.m. Enjoy an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas where children can visit with Santa and then take a walk to the farmhouse to have a cup of hot cider. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this memorable visit!
For more upcoming winter activities at Historic Longstreet Farm, visit our website

Historic Walnford

Tucked away in westernmost Monmouth County and within the heart of Crosswicks Creek Park, Historic Walnford is filled with fascinating history throughout the year. Once home to the Waln family, the site offers a look into both the family and the evolution of Walnford over two centuries - from an 18th century industrial village and family farm to an elegant country estate. Visit the large, elegant home built in 1774 and farm buildings set in a picturesque landscape. The site is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, and the historic buildings are open to the public from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

Free December drop-ins at Historic Walnford include the following:
  • Sleigh Selfies from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday, December 1 & 2. We'll have our decorative red sleigh and a selection of historical hats and bonnets ready for your selfies. Create a charming Currier & Ives style image to share for the holidays! (Please, no professional photographers.)
  • Samplers: Historical Documents Written with Needle and Thread from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, December 9. View local 18th and 19th century samplers from a private collection. This special show and tell afternoon will include what has been learned about the young women who created the samplers and share the progress of the carefully executed stitches recreating an 18th century Waln family sampler.
For more upcoming winter drop-in activities at Historic Walnford, visit our website

Questions? Call our Park System information staff at 732-842-4000, ext. 4312, or email us at

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hey...Who is That?

I am always hoping to see a rare or unusual bird, and migration season is a good time to be on the lookout. An experienced birder once told me that a good place to spot an uncommon bird is within a flock of migrating, common birds. So, every spring and fall I get out my binoculars and scan flocks of Canada Geese, Brant, Starlings, Cowbirds and more. This past week I got lucky! A flock of sleeping Rudy Ducks caught my eye and, as I scanned through them, someone looked different - a little bigger than the rest.

I pulled out the binoculars and sure enough, there was a stranger with the flock! I took a few photos to use once I got home and could pull out my bird book. Bingo! A Eurasian Widgeon. A new bird for my life list and an uncommon visitor to Monmouth County.

Eurasian Widgeons are native to Europe and Asia, migrating seasonally between the two. While there are rare sightings of these beautiful birds in North America each year, they are not considered native to the New World and there have been no record of them breeding here. There have been some reported cases of them interbreeding with American Widgeons. The Eurasian Widgeons seen here are likely from eastern Siberia or Iceland. There are only three species of widgeon in the world, the Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope), the American Wigeon (M. americana) and the ChiloĆ© Widgeon (M. sibilatrix). The males of all three are very colorful while only the females of the ChiloĆ© Widgeon are also. They are dabbling ducks, eating from the bottom of shallow water by tipping their heads down rather than diving. Therefore, a good place to look for widgeons is along the edges of shallow water.

The next time you are able to observe a flock of migrating birds, scan the flock. Look for an individual that is slightly larger or smaller, has different color feet, or just looks different than the others. You might get lucky and spot a new bird for your life list!

Story and Photos by Park System Naturalist Ruth Carll
For more nature happenings in the parks, be sure to check out the Nature Now page on our website.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thompson Park Day is Coming!

Celebrate the changing of the seasons at this year’s Thompson Park Day! This Monmouth County Park System tradition offers everything an autumn event should: pumpkin painting, arts & crafts, kids' races, entertainment and much more! Best of all, it’s a chance for families to acquaint themselves with the year round charms of Thompson Park, a perfect place to for hiking, running, canoeing and other outdoor activities. All are invited to attend this family-friendly tradition and to stroll through the sights, sounds and smells of autumn. Held from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, October 14 at Thompson Park, 805 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, Thompson Park Day is the quintessential fall event! 


Canoeing: Grab a paddle and hit the water in one of our canoes. Thompson Park's Marlu Lake is the perfect place to enjoy a paddle. All equipment is provided; canoeing will be weather permitting. (free)

Pumpkin Painting: Pumpkin painting is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit! This activity is great for all ages and simple enough for even the youngest in the family. (Two tickets are required for this activity.)

Pie Eating Contests: Bring your competitive spirit and your appetite! Adults and children chow down on delicious pumpkin pies while the stopwatch runs. Will you win the contest or even set a Thompson Park Day record?

Strut Your Mutt:
Think you have the cutest or spookiest dog in Monmouth County? Here's your chance to prove it. The Friends of the Parks' annual Strut Your Mutt Canine Halloween costume contest has become a popular event for dog owners to show off their creative talents, celebrate their pets, and share in the fun with other dog owners! The four-legged competitors are judged in
categories for funniest, scariest, prettiest, most original, and best canine/human combo. (Registration and fee of $15 required.)

Scarecrow Contest: Make the season extra special by building your own scarecrow! The Park System provides the framework and stuffing; you supply the face, outer covering (clothes, etc.), and imagination. Prizes will be awarded and the scarecrow is yours to take home. (Registration and fee of $12 required.)

But these are only a few of the fun activities you can enjoy. We'll also have Zany Zombies, archery, rides, the climbing wall, a photo booth, Golfzilla (weather dependent), mini golf, nature activities, grab & go ceramics, and so much more. Some activities may require purchase of tickets and/or a wristband. Check our website for full details. 

Theatre Barn Stage Entertainment

Kids on the Block Puppet Show is scheduled from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m., this educational puppet show helps children learn about disabilities, as well as broader themes of friendship, community-building, the importance of expressing feelings, and celebrating differences.

The “It’s the Wolf!” Puppet Show at 1:15 p.m. is an interactive puppet production. Straw, sticks, bricks, and a huffing and puffing Big Bad Wolf bring hilarity and mayhem in this adaptation of the classic story, The Three Little Pigs.

The Curse of the Silver Pearl Swashbuckling Spooktacular at 2:45 p.m. is a pirate variety magic show starring Boot Buckle Bob pirate extraordinaire and offers skull juggling, plank walking hilarity, egg tossing vanishes, music and plenty of audience participation and laughs! Arghhhh you ready?

The Little Rockers Band from 4:15-5 p.m. brings a fun, fresh way to introduce your children to music. The Little Rockers Band is a popular local group that introduces music in a variety of ways.

To learn more about Thompson Park Day or other Park System activities, please visit or call the Park System at 732-842-4000. For persons with hearing impairment, the Park System TTY/TDD number is 711. The Monmouth County Park System, created in 1960 by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, is Monmouth County’s Open Space, Parks, and Recreation agency.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Explore & Discover Your Park System Trails

When you hear the word “trail” what comes to mind? Is it a winding dirt path under towering trees, or a wide paved path alongside a winding river or pond?

The National Recreation and Park Association conducted a survey among 1,005 adult Americans, and 36% stated they use a trail for hiking, running or walking. That’s one in three Americans visiting their local parks with friends, family members or pets to destress.

Monmouth County is truly a great place to live, being recognized as having one of the most beautiful park systems throughout New Jersey. As residents, we cherish our trails as the perfect balance between land and sea. These trails offer simple strolls along ocean, forest and river views, while others take you over isolated valleys. Some are easy and moderate flat paths, and others are more difficult taking you up and down hills; you pick your path!

Whether you’re running, walking or biking, Park System trails are ideal places to learn about and practice healthy lifestyles; connect with nature, history and culture; and relax in a setting removed from the noise and distractions of daily life. More importantly, spending time outdoors grants future generations the gift of learning to appreciate and enjoy nature. Being on trails allows children to step away from screens and get outdoors to use their imagination. Above all, it becomes a fun way for families to get fresh air, exercise and explore the great outdoors together.

Choosing a trail can be the most overwhelming part of getting outdoors. The Monmouth County Park System has over 16,000 acres of land and 139 miles of trails. That’s a lot of area to cover! It's important to find a trail that is best suited to your age and level of fitness. Here are some of the most popular trails in Monmouth County that inspire us to get out and discover:
  • If you haven’t been to Hartshorne Woods Park, you’re missing out on the best hiking and biking trails near the shore! A true Monmouth County favorite, Hartshorne Woods is a hilly, forested 787-acre site with over 14 miles of extensive trails for all levels, some of which offer amazing views of the Navesink River. 
  • Holmdel Park has a reputation as it is the site of a variety of cross country meets. The shady woods and rolling hills are the perfect setting for exploring over nine miles of trails. Be forewarned of “The Bowl” which has become infamous throughout the running community. While on this section of the trail, one first descends down around this long hill. Then, after the last turn, one travels up a steep 150-foot incline. It's the perfect challenge for the seasoned runner.
  • Tatum Park features over six miles of trails through rolling hills and open fields where you're sure to spot a variety of species of birds. Run or walk through the winding paths that take you through the oak forest and meadows of tulip trees. 
  • The scenic Manasquan Reservoir is popular for its five mile loop trail offering excellent views of wetlands, wooded forests and wildflower meadows. The area is home to 200 species of birds, including a Bald Eagle nesting pair. A favorite for all ages, the trail is wide and flat enough for strollers, bicyclists and horseback riders. 
  • The beautiful 988-acre, family-oriented Shark River Park has become a staple through the seasons. Nine miles of trails pass through several habitats, including a coastal river and floodplain, gravel-capped sandy hills, a cedar swamp, and several sphagnum bogs. 
But these are only a few of the trails that will get you discovering the outdoors. Learn about all the Monmouth County Park System trails so you can get out an explore all year round.

Now that we’ve shared some of our best trails with you, we’d love to hear from you! Tell us about your favorite trails and share photos with us of your adventures on our Facebook page. We'll see you in the parks!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Family Fun in the Parks

August is Family Fun Month and your Monmouth County Park System has plenty of activities that will guarantee a great time for the whole family. The month of August typically signifies the last few weeks of summer before kids return to school. But in between the back to school shopping, families must take the time to enjoy what’s left of summer days (and nights).

It is universally known that parents encourage behaviors in their children. According to a PBS article, “Children are watching their parents’ every move, mirroring their every action; if parents are sedentary, there is a good chance their children will be too.” The article goes on to state: “However, parents who eat healthily and exercise with their children on a regular basis are teaching them many valuable lessons.”

August is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors at any of your Monmouth County parks! The temperatures are still toasty, the days are long, and the kids are ready to enjoy nature as much as they can before going back to school. So what is there for families to do when they want to break free from their routines? Go for a hike, have a picnic at the park, spend the afternoon kayaking, or ride your bikes through new scenery. Enjoy the beautiful summer weather while it lasts and go outdoors for some fresh air. You can even pick an activity and start a new family tradition. It doesn’t matter if your time together is extravagant or simple; it's all about spending quality time together and making lasting family memories. If you’re a selfie taker, use the hashtags #FamilyFunMonth and #MonmouthCountyParks to encourage others to join in the fun!

Check out these family activities that will help you celebrate Family Fun Month:

Superb Summer Saunter on Friday, August 10 from 10-11:30 a.m. With summer rearing to go, our parks are teeming with all sorts of animal and plant life. At the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, engage your curiosity as you get some fresh air and explore the open trails with a Park System Naturalist  as your guide to teach you about the plants and critters you see along the way.

Starry Night Hike on Saturday, August 25 from 8-9 p.m. On a clear night at Freneau Woods Park get out your telescope and do a little family stargazing! Don’t have a telescope? No problem! Join our Park System Naturalists as you hike the forests, meadows and trails looking for constellations, cloud formations, moon phases, and maybe even a shooting star. You may even hear some bumps in the night, but have no’s probably just a howling coyote, hooting owl, or other nocturnal critter.

Open Shoot Archery on Sunday, August 26 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Take a shot at archery at the Thompson Park Activity Barn! Stop in during open shoot archery to improve your archery skills at our indoor range. This is not an instructional clinic and NOT designed for beginners. Open to ages 10 and up; under 18 with adult. Cost is $10 per person, cash or check only. Questions? Call 732-842-4000, ext. 4312.

Kayak Tours of Swimming River on Tuesday, August 21 from 6-7 p.m. and Wednesday, August 22 from 7-8 p.m. for ages 12 and up (under 18 with adult) at Swimming River Park. Paddle your way down Swimming River during these nature kayak tours. Novice paddlers are welcome. All equipment is provided; both single and tandem kayaks will be available. Program is limited to 12 participants; first come, first served. Cost is $20 per person, cash or check only.

Boat Tours of the Manasquan Reservoir are both fun and educational as well as a great way for families to explore local nature. These 45-minute tours are led by Park System Naturalists and offer a terrific view of the local wildlife, which may include turtles, herons, egrets and our resident Bald Eagles. Tours take place on weekends through September 3 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. as well as on Wednesdays through August 29 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Life jackets are required. The cost is $6 per adult and $4 per child 12 and under. Please note that tours are both weather and water level dependent. To confirm boat tour schedule, call 732-751-9453. Boats and kayaks are also available to rent at the Manasquan Reservoir for those who wish to explore on their own.

Safari Backpacks: The Park System offers Safari Backpacks at several of locations: Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown; Huber Woods Environmental Center, Middletown; and Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell. Backpacks contain all your family will need to fill your self-guidance nature walk with adventure and exploration. Safari Backpacks are perfect for exploring the parks in a brand new way.

We look forward to your visit as you explore the parks together this August!