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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Camps Offer Fun, Friendship and Memories

Does your child get a bit bored in the summer? Or do you wish there was a way to get them away from the screen and out doing something fun and exciting when the school year ends? The Monmouth County Park System has the perfect solution...or rather over 150 solutions. The Camp/Swim edition of our Program Directory will be available this Friday.

This summer, sign your child up for one or more of our exciting and enriching summer camps. No matter where your child's interests may lie, the Park System is sure to have something they'll enjoy. From arts & crafts to nature, farm life to sports and so much more, there's something for everyone. Here's just some of what we have planned for our campers this summer:

Arts & Crafts

Fine Arts Camp • Junior Art Intensive Camp • Tween Sewing • Art in the Gardens • Clay Camp • Fashion Accessory Design and Fabrication • Fashion Camp


Beginner & Introductory Youth Horseback Riding Camps

Farm Life & Living History

Youngster Hayseed Adventures • 1890s Tradesman • A Young Girl's Life on the Farm • Turn of the Century Cooking • Down on the Farm • Life on the Farm

General Interests

Avengers Assemble! • Pixie Hollow Camp • Build a Bridge • Kaboom! • Virtual Reality • Camp Seven Presidents • Media Masters • Summertime Fun at the Fort • Camp Woof • Summer Chefs


Summer Garden Camp • Summer Garden Camp - Girls Only!

Nature & Science

Dino Days • Engineering for Kids Camps • Bricks 4 Kidz • Wind and Sea • IncrediFlix Camps • Mad Science Summer Camps • Longhouse Legends and Lore • Explorers Club • Coastal Adventures for Girls • Fish On!

Odyssey Adventures

Mini Odyssey Adventures • Family Sailing Odyssey • Pirate Sailing Odyssey • Seven Parks Odyssey • Land & Sea Odyssey • Olympic Odyssey • Starry Nights Odyssey • Aquatic Odyssey • Extreme Adventure Odyssey • Navigate the Navesink Odyssey

Performing Arts

Drama for Tots • Kids on Stage • Circus Skills Camp • Theatre Techies Camp • Places, Please! • Creative Actor Training


First Goal Soccer • Golf Camp • Ace Tennis Camp • Baseball Camp • Basketball Camp • Five for One Sports Camp • Powder Puff Sports Camp • Softball Skills Camp • Camp Dorbrook • Field Hockey Camp • Flag Football Camp • Surf's Up • Zombie Survival Camp

Our Camp/Swim Program Directory also offers a wide range of children's swim lessons for abilities from beginner to advanced.

The Camp/Swim Program Directory will be available on Friday, February 26 both online and in most Monmouth County Park System parks. If you're on our mailing list, expect to get your copy in the mail in the next few days. To join our mailing list, click here.

Registration for summer camps and swim lessons will begin at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 6. Don't miss your chance to give your child a summer they're sure to remember!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Are You Thinking Spring? We Are!

February means spring is getting closer, which also means it's time to register for spring programs with your Monmouth County Park System. This year's spring volume offers more than 250 programs and special events for you and your family to discover. From learning a new hobby to playing in a tournament, there's something for everyone! Here's just a sampling of some of the programs available:
  • Around the World with Food (ages 9-11) - If you have a budding chef at home, they'll love learning about the food of other cultures around the world during this hands-on cooking experience.
  • Beginner Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (adults) - Get in the latest water craze. This program offers instruction on strokes, paddling technique, safety and equipment selection.
  • Beginners Surf Fishing Clinic (ages 14 and up, under 18 with adult) - One of our Park System Naturalists will guide you in the basics of surf fishing. One hour of indoor instruction will be followed by three hours of fishing on the beach.
  • Bricks 4 Kidz Spring Break Camp (ages 5-9) - If you're child loves building with LEGOs, we've got the perfect spring break camp planned. They'll spend their week off building, designing and exploring architecture, engineering and technology with LEGO bricks and motors.
  • Canoe Discovery (adults) - Learn the basics of canoeing so you can enjoy all that paddling has to offer. Our instructors will teach you basic water safety and various paddling strokes.
  • Disc Golf League (ages 16 and up) - Our first ever disc golf league will meet weekly at Wolf Hill Recreation Area's brand new disc golf course.
  • Dog Obedience: Basic Obedience (ages 14 and up) - Bring your beloved four-legged friend to learn the basic commands in becoming a well-mannered canine companion.
  • Early Spring Containers (adults) - Learn tips and techniques for designing and planting containers that will brighten your doorstop through the spring. 
  • FootGolf Family Frenzy (all ages) - FootGolf combines soccer and golf in a fun-filled game the entire family can enjoy. Give it a try at our 9-hole course at Bel-Aire Golf Course. 
  • Grow Plants in Boxes (ages 7 and up, under 18 with adult) - Learn how to grow simple plants to beautify areas around your house. 
  • My First Fish (ages 6-12, with adult) - Kids will get a kick out of reeling in their first big one! This catch and release program is guided by a Park System Naturalist and includes all necessary equipment.
  • Springtime Fun at the Fort (ages 6-12) - School is out and this is the perfect way to keep your kids having fun for the week. Activities include games, art, experiments, sports and more!
And be sure to save the date for these upcoming special events:
  • E. Murray Todd Half Marathon on Sunday, March 6 at 9 a.m. This 13.1-mile course begins at Brookdale Community College and runs through Lincroft, Holmdel and Colts Neck. Cost to pre-register is $35 per person (due March 1). To register or for more details, click here.
  • Spring Craft Show on Saturday, April 23 at Tatum Park, Middletown. The perfect place to shop for Mother's Day, this annual craft show offers unique, hand-crafted gifts for the special person in your life.
  • Great Spring Perennial Plant Swap on Saturday, April 23 at Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown. Swap your plants for something new. Bring your plants in one-quart, one-gallon or two-gallon containers and take home the same size and number of plants. Plants may be dropped off between 8:30-10 a.m. for inspection; then select your new plants between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. FREE!
  • Earth Day Celebration on Sunday, April 24 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Spend the day celebrating our Earth in various parks throughout the county. Discover coastal animals at Bayshore Waterfront Park, take a tour of the gardens at Deep Cut Gardens, meet snakes and reptiles at Huber Woods Environmental Center, explore the woods and wetlands of the Manasquan REservoir Environmental Center, design some eco-fashions at Thompson Park, or take a nature walk at Turkey Swamp Park. For full details on these Earth Day activities, see page 8 of your Spring Program Directory.
  • Creative Arts & Music Festival on Saturday & Sunday, April 30 & May 1 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Thompson Park, Lincroft. Enjoy a day at the park as you peruse the artists of the Park System's second annual juried arts festival. Fine artists from all mediums will be featured as well as musicians, art activities, and food vendors. FREE!
  • Walnford Day on Sunday, May 15 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Historic Wanlford, Upper Freehold. Step back in time as your family experiences hands-on historical activities and crafts, games, exhibits, horse drawn wagon rides, music, historic demonstrations and more! FREE!
  • Special People United to Ride Horse Show on Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Sunnyside Equestrian Center, Lincroft. Enjoy a day of fun as our SPUR riders showcase their riding skills. FREE!
  • Superhero Fun Run on Saturday, May 21 from 9-11 a.m. at Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck. Assemble your superhero squad for a fun adventure through the park during this fun, noncompetitive race. Cost is $10 per person. To register or for more details, click here.  
  • Sk8 Jam on Saturday, May 21 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, Long Branch. This amateur skateboarding contest offers contests for beginner, intermediate and advanced level skateboarders as well as a bowl contest. Cost is $15 per person. To register or for more details, click here.
  • Bayshore Fishing Derby on Saturday, May 21 from 4-7 p.m. at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth. Fun for the entire family, this derby is open to both beginners and experienced anglers. Prizes will be awarded for the longest fish caught in three different age categories. Cost is $8 per person, $4 each additional person. To register or for more details, click here.
These are just some of the fun things you can do in the parks this spring. For more, check out the Spring Program Directory. Get on the mailing list to receive the Program Directory by calling 732-842-4000. Registration for spring programs begins at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, February 10.