Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Volunteers in the Parks

Did you know that this week is National Volunteer Week?

At the Monmouth County Park System we pride ourselves on the great number of local individuals who help to enrich the parks through their dedication as "Volunteers in Parks". Every year over 1,000 residents of varying age groups and backgrounds help to make your county parks something special.

The Volunteers in Parks program is ever expanding. Currently, volunteers can be found doing a number of notable jobs, including the following:

Each year, hundreds of volunteers give over 20,000 hours of assistance to your Monmouth County Park System. Though you may not always spot a volunteer, their hard work can be seen in every park you visit. 

And we're always happy to meet new volunteers who are interested in helping their county parks. 

For more information on how you can become a volunteer with the Monmouth County Park System, email us at or call 732-842-4000, ext. 4283.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring Break in Your Parks

Spring break is here! If you're looking for ways to get out of the house with your children to get some exercise or learn something new, we have plenty of possibilities to choose from. Just take a look at all the fun you can add to your spring break plans:

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel
  • Take a step back in time with one of the Park System's historic sites. At Historic Longstreet Farm in Holmdel you can experience life as it was in rural Monmouth County during the 1890s. Open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., visitors can walk through the farm and view costumed interpreters showing both daily and seasonal agricultural and domestic activities. Or head into western Monmouth County for a visit to Historic Walnford in Upper Freehold. Here you can learn about the Waln family and the evolution of Walnford over two centuries - from an 18th century industrial village and family farm to en elegant country estate. Currently the Waln house is closed for interior painting, but all other buildings remain open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Explore the the world around you with TWO environmental centers. The Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, located on Georgia Tavern Road in Howell, offers a variety of
    A turtle in the Reptile & Amphibian Display at the
    Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center
    interactive exhibits to learn about wetlands ecology and wildlife and habitat protection. Tucked within the hills of the Locust section of Middletown, the Huber Woods Environmental Center features hands-on exhibits on Native Americans as well as about our environment. Also available at both environmental centers are our Safari Backpacks which include everything you need to take a self-guided nature walk filled with adventure and exploration. Use of the Safari Backpacks is free, but you must leave a valid NJ drivers license with the docent.
  • Playgrounds offer a terrific place for children to run, jump, climb and play! Your Monmouth County Park System offers nine parks with beautiful playground equipment that will keep your children active for hours. Find the playground closest to you by clicking here.
  • Whether your geared up for a walk, hike or bike ride, you won't find a better place than your
    Bike riding on the trails
    Monmouth County parks! With over 130 miles of trails throughout 21 park locations, you can visit the park closest to you, or explore an area you've never been to. Some favorites include Thompson Park in Lincroft or the Union Transportation Trail in Freehold. Be sure to pick up a brochure when you arrive that will offer a map of the park and the trails. A full list of our parks with trails can be found here.
  • If you're looking to get out some energy indoors, the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center in Tinton Falls has Open Gym times scheduled on various days. During these times you'll find various play equipment available as well as the table games in the lobby. Cost to attend an Open Gym session is $5 per person per day. Check out the Calendar for a full listing of Open Gym times and other upcoming drop-in programs available at the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center.
For more ideas on how you can include the parks in your spring break plans, visit our website at We look forward to seeing you!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Get Heart Healthy in the Parks

Did you know February is American Heart Month? Heart disease is one of the top causes of death in the U.S. But the good news is that becoming more active can assist in reducing your risk of heart disease.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is encouraging people to move more, striving for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week "that gets your heart pumping and leaves you a little breathless." Though 2 1/2 hours may seem like a lot of time, the NHLBI reminds people that small amounts of activity throughout the day add up quickly and are beneficial.

There are plenty of ways to increase your physical activity, and the Park System wants to remind you that we're here to help!

A terrific way to get moving is to head out for a brisk walk or bike ride on the trails. The Park System has over 130 miles of trails to enjoy throughout the year. Trails are given difficulty ratings to help visitors choose those that are best suited for them:

  • Easy trails are those that are well-maintained or paved and intended for walking or running.
  • Moderate trails are longer and have some grades and/or obstructions. They are intended for hiking, equestrians, and all-terrain bicycles. 
  • Challenging trails are much more primitive with steep grades or obstructions and are intended for more experienced hikers, equestrians and all-terrain cyclists.
  • Paved trails are great for activities such as in-line skating, bicycle riding, or walking with strollers.
  • Fitness trails are a great way to add something extra to your walk/run. These trails offer exercise stations at various points.
  • Nature trails are a great way to view plants, wildlife and environmental features during your walk.
Did you know that during a brisk 30-minute walk you burn approximately 167 calories?
Some of the Park System's most popular trails include the 5-mile perimeter trail at Manasquan Reservoir, Howell; the 4.2-mile Thompson Loop at Thompson Park, Lincroft; the 0.8-mile Fitness Trail at Holmdel Park, Holmdel; and the 1.3-mile Battery Loop at Hartshorne Woods Park (Rocky Point section), Highlands. For details on all of the Park System's trails, click here.

Playing golf is another great way to increase your activity! According to Harvard Men's Health Watch, walking while playing 18 holes of golf "is about equal to brisk walking in terms of intensity." A golfer may walk approximately four miles and burn between 800-900 calories during an average round of golf. If you ride in a cart, this cuts the walking distance down to about one mile and you burn about half the calories.

The Park System offers five championship 18-hole courses, two 18-hole executive courses, and a 9-hole, par 3 course. Our facilities accommodate golfers of all skill levels. Courses maintained by the Monmouth County Park System are Bel-Aire, Wall; Charleston Springs, Millstone Township; Hominy Hill, Colts Neck; Howell Park, Farmingdale; Pine Brook, Manalapan; and Shark River, Neptune. Looking to learn how to play or to improve your game? The Park System also offers a wide variety of classes and clinics during the spring, summer and fall. Check out what's coming up this spring!

Children need to be active too! The Center for Disease Control recommends children get 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day. This is easy to accomplish by adding trips to the playground into your schedule. Playgrounds offer the perfect place for your child to have fun while running, climbing, and jumping. Playgrounds can be found in a variety of Park System locations including Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck; Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook, Atlantic Highlands; Shark River Park, Wall; and Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold.

For a full list of park locations with playgrounds your children will love, click here

"A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes a week, but if you don't want to sweat the numbers, just move more! Find forms of exercise you like and will stick with, and build more opportunities to be active into your routine." - American Heart Association

These ideas are just some of the ways you can get healthy in your Monmouth County parks. There are also a wide variety of sports & fitness programs offered throughout the year for adults and children. From belly dancing to yoga, martial arts to tennis, and so much more, there's plenty to help you get moving. For full details on upcoming programs in the parks, check out the winter and spring volumes of our Parks & Programs Guide

For more information on the Monmouth County parks, check us out at

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Season for Snowflakes

It's only January, but our parks have already experienced several winter storms. It's the perfect time to consider how snowflakes are created. The process begins when water vapor comes into contact with a pollen or dust particle in the sky. If it's cold enough, the water vapor freezes onto the particle and forms an ice crystal - the beginning of a snowflake. When the crystal becomes too heavy, it falls to the ground. As it is falling, water molecules continue to freeze onto it and the ice crystal grows into a full-fledged snowflake.

All snowflakes are hexagonal. Once the six-sided base is created, they develop their unique crystalline design in a process called branching. Warmer temperatures and wet conditions allow for greater, more complex branching. In colder weather, when temperatures dip below -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit and there is less moisture in the air, simpler branching occurs.

The first person to capture on film the intricacies of snowflake symmetry was Wilson Bentley, a Vermont native who was fascinated with snow from a  young age. Armed with a microscope attached to a camera, Bentley would stand outside in the snow for hours, choosing his snowflakes carefully so as to capture the most pristine specimens. In 1885, he succeeded and was the first person to photograph a perfect snowflake.

Today, we know that most of the snowflakes we see are imperfect. As a Park Naturalist, I was curious to see if I could capture a perfect snowflake like Bentley did. I stood on my porch in my black winter coat, with my smartphone in hand, and let the snow fall onto my outstretched arm. Alternating between first trying to spot a perfect snowflake with my naked eye and then hurrying to zoom in on my phone before the snowflake melted, the results were mostly indistinct blobs. But I finally succeeded. My best photo is below, showing one beautiful, perfect snowflake.

There are other types of precipitation here too: a clump of imperfect snowflakes (called an aggregate), maybe some sleet, and a raindrop. For more information, check out these websites and videos:

Written by Park System Naturalist Gage Sands

Friday, August 25, 2017

Special Rooms at Huber Woods Environmental Center

The Environmental Center at Huber Woods Park has a lot to offer park visitors. You can stop in to learn about and explore the building itself, which was once home to the Huber family, or enjoy family-fun in special activity rooms.

The Forest Room is painted to resemble many layers of life in the forest, from birds in the treetops to the underground tunnels of moles. Challenge yourself to find all the painted animals (ask the docent for a copy of the forest room wall guide). There are books, puzzles, toys and costumes for kids; live toads and turtles in tanks along the walls; and a large bay window for bird-watching.
The Lenape Room features exhibits dedicated to the history, life and culture of the Lenape, a Native American tribe which lived in areas of Monmouth County. There are activities such as basket weaving, a junior archaeologist's station, a revolving maize game, and a place to listen to recordings of Native American musicians and dancers. When the kids need a quiet moment to relax, the Lenape room has a small alcove painted to resemble the inside of an Indian longhouse. Here, you can sit and read one of the many books about Native Americans that are shelved throughout the room.

Looking to explore the park on your visit as well? As the docent to borrow one of our Safari Backpacks. Each backpack contains all you need to make your self-guided nature walk filled with adventure and exploration. Backpacks offer themes for Pre-K, Forest, or Meadow. Use of the backpack is free, but you must leave a valid NJ drivers license with the docent.

The Huber Woods Environmental Center is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends. For more details about the facility, visit our website.