Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Fun in the Parks!

The holidays are upon us! Take some time out from the hustle and bustle that surrounds us this time of year, and make some memories in the parks. Here are some of the programs we have planned this holiday season:

Christmas Sing-a-Long
This holiday season come to the Historic Longstreet Farm farmhouse and visit with Rick Garland as he plays the piano for an old-fashioned sing-a-long the whole family will enjoy! Free! - Saturday, December 8, 1-3pm

Seasonal Senses
Come to Historic Walnford to see, touch, and smell an array of spices used in historical recipes. Many of the aromas we associate with winter holidays were from products imported by Richard Waln in the 18th century. Free! - Saturday & Sunday, December 15 & 16, 1-4pm

Visit with Santa
Enjoy an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas at Historic Longstreet Farm. Children can visit with Santa, then take a walk to the farmhouse and have a cup of cider. Be sure to bring your camera! Free! - Saturday & Sunday, December 22 & 23, 12-3pm

The Sounds of Christmas
Visit Historic Longstreet Farm to enjoy tranquil music as Larry Moser and Mary Nagen play Christmas carols on the hammered dulcimer and fiddle. Free! - Sunday, December 23, 1-3pm

Holiday Centerpiece
Join us at Deep Cut Gardens to create a centerpiece for your holiday table using mixed evergreens, fresh flowers, cones and other botanicals, finished with a bow and candle if you wish. Registration and fee required. - Saturday, December 22

Still looking for gifts for the special people in your life? Register your family member or friend for one of our wonderful programs. From arts & crafts to nature, outdoor adventures to horticulture, and so much more! The Park System is sure to have a program they will love! Check out a full listing of our upcoming programs here.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Working to Get Back on Track

The Monmouth County Park System family extends its heartfelt compassion and support to residents who suffered damage or other disruptions from the recent storm. We join with the entire Monmouth County community as we start the long but hopeful journey of rebuilding our homes and businesses.

We also extend a warm “thank you” to those who assisted with the storm relief supply center at Thompson Park, Lincroft. More than 1,000 volunteers assisted in sorting the goods that arrived, from non-perishable food to baby items, clothing and blankets to cleaning supplies. Each and every volunteer came ready to work, smiles on their faces. And to those who donated much needed supplies, you can be assured that you made a positive difference for your neighbors in their time of need.

*  *  *  *  *
Fishing Pier at Bayshore Waterfront Park
Henry Hudson Trail near Atlantic Highlands Marin
After Hurricane Sandy there was much to do within the Park System. During the week following the storm, our Rangers were in the parks evaluating the damage and beginning clean up. Lack of power was the least of our worries. Most of our parks fared well, but some areas took on quite a bit of damage like the SkatePlex at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, the marina at Monmouth Cove, and the fishing pier at Bayshore Waterfront Park. There were many trees and large tree limbs down all over the parks, especially on our trails. And the winter storm that followed only a week later just made things more difficult and brought more of a mess. Even as of today, quite a few park trails remain closed due to safety issues from damaged and fallen trees. These include a large portion of the Henry Hudson Trail northern extension (Keyport to Highlands) and those at Huber Woods Park.

But the Park System is working hard to get back to normal. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the parks again, to have a place to de-stress and wind down. Most of our programs are back to normal again, and we've even gotten our Winter Program Directory out. All of our playgrounds have reopened, giving families a great place to visit and let loose. Many other park facilities have reopened, including our off-leash dog areas at Thompson Park and Wolf Hill Recreation Area, as well as our Environmental Centers at the Manasquan Reservoir and Huber Woods.

If you're looking to go for a run or a bike ride to let off some steam, there are trails open within Hartshorne Woods Park, Locust (paved trails at Rocky Point and some at Claypit); Shark River Park, Wall; Tatum Park, Middletown (Holly Grove and Dogwood Hollow); Manasquan Reservoir, Howell; and Thompson Park, Lincroft, to name a few. For the most up to date information on reopenings, please click here

We wish everyone well and hope for a hasty recovery during this holiday season. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Osprey Platform Raised at the Reservoir!

Since the Manasquan Reservoir was completed in 1990, Osprey were always a big part of the seasonal rhythm at the park, arriving in early March (around St. Patrick’s Day) and leaving in late August or September. Before the Bald Eagle’s arrival in 2001 the Osprey, and their nests, were a mainstay of our public boat tours. We could normally count on between five to six nests during the season. The Osprey are masterful nest builders (the males build the nests) utilizing the dead trees and, in one case, a wooden tree stand.

About six or seven years ago a platform was built behind the main dam. This platform was not visible from the trail, but was not considered an issue. The Osprey had plenty of dead trees to pick from and seemed able to build their nests even, in one case, on a short stump. However, the number of Osprey having successful nests began to drop yearly. Although Naturalist staff noticed the trend, we all hoped it was just the normal ebb and flow of life; the veteran adults dying off and being replaced by much less practiced pairs who found building on the increasingly fragile dead trees an impossible challenge. It was sad to see them attempt to build a nest only to have the first spring storm destroy it before they had even finished.

For the past two years, it proved to be an impossible challenge and no Osprey nested directly on the reservoir. They visited and we would see them now and again, but for the first time in 20 years we had no visible nesting pairs on the reservoir. The Naturalist staff determined that a platform would be needed and with the generous support of Monmouth County Audubon the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey was contacted and agreed to install a nest at the reservoir.

On September 19, staff and volunteers from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey joined with Park System Naturalists to erect a platform near the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center. The installation needed to take place when the reservoir was at its lowest level, which this year ended up being only around three feet below full capacity. Installing the nest in deeper water was felt to be impossible and even installing it in a foot of water proved a challenge. Luckily all went well and our hope is that a pair will find the location and platform to their liking. Now it is up to the Osprey and we will be awaiting their return next March with a mixture of hope and apprehension. Visit the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell, to learn more about the Osprey and our new platform!

Staff Contributor: Christopher Lanza, Senior Park Naturalist

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Make Harvest Home Festival an Annual Family Tradition

Nothing stirs nostalgic sentiment like the traditions centered on autumn and harvest time. Many area families count Longstreet Farm’s Harvest Home Festival as one of their favorite fall destinations. You’re invited to come to Longstreet Farm between 11am-5pm on Sunday, September 30 to enjoy a full schedule of harvest fun with an historic twist. 

What would a harvest festival be without a celebration of the bounty of the land? Longstreet Farm staff have been busy through the summer tending to the crops. You can be help with the harvest by digging potatoes and taking home what you gather! Come early because the crop is limited. Other farming activities include plowing and beekeeping demonstrations throughout the afternoon.

Is your pumpkin the biggest in the county? Is your homemade jam the talk of the town? Gardeners and crafters are encouraged to display their produce and home goods in a friendly competition in categories that include vegetables, baked goods, canning, condiments, needlework, quilting, and rug hooking. Ribbons will be awarded for the best selections in each category. Entry is free but the registration deadline is September 26, all entries (except baked goods) must be dropped off to the farm by this date. Baked goods should be dropped off on the morning of the event between 9-10am. Click here for an entry form and detailed category listing.

Another popular event is the pie eating contest, with three divisions for children ages 8 and under, ages 9-14, and adults. There is no fee to enter, but visitors must register with farm staff upon arrival. Competitors will surely want to wash down their pie with a cold cup of apple cider, freshly made on an antique cider press.

Children of all ages will enjoy old-fashioned lawn games, rides on our horse-drawn wagons, and hands-on craft demonstrations including weaving, embroidery, and rug hooking.  Entertainment includes the Chorus of the Atlantic, the Jugtown Mountain Band, Music Man Rich Marzec, and banjo player Chuck Winch.

For a full schedule of the day’s activities and directions to Longstreet Farm visit our Harvest Home Festival page, or call (732) 842-4000, ext. 4312.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Autumn in the Parks...

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." 
- Albert Camus

Labor Day has passed and children are heading back to school. Autumn is falling upon us, and with that comes shorter, cooler days, colorful foliage, and approaching holidays. And as your schedule becomes busier, don't forget that your Monmouth County parks await you seven days a week. Don't miss out on all the wonderful things in the parks this autumn!

Harvest Home Festival
Sunday, September 30 from 11am-5pm
Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel
Take a step back in time with this charming country fair reminiscent to those held in the late 1890s. Family friendly activities and demonstrations include old-fashioned games, wagon rides, demonstrations, live entertainment, pie eating contest, and corn husking competition. Our annual Harvest Home Festival Competition returns, inviting visitors to enter their best baked goods, canning, condiments, needlework, and vegetables. For a competition application, click here. Free!

Walnford Day
Sunday, October 7 from 11am-5pm
Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold
The sights and sounds of the past come alive as families experience hands-on history during this annual anniversary celebration of Historic Walnford. Visitors will enjoy wagon rides, trying a quill pen, old-fashioned games, demonstrations, dressing up in period garments, and exhibits about how homes were lighted before electricity and life at Walnford in 1862. Free!

Thompson Park Day
Sunday, October 14 from 11am-5pm
Thompson Park, Lincroft
This annual family festival is filled with even more fun than ever this year! Don't miss out on the corn maze, kids races, pumpkin painting, Meet the Mustangs, Zany Zombies, Pond Exploration, canoeing, and SO MUCH MORE! And don't miss the Friends of the Monmouth County Park System annual Strut Your Mutt Dog Costume Contest. Entrance and parking are free; some activities require tickets and/or registration.

Open Ceramics
12:30-4:30pm on September 9, October 7, November 4, November 8, November 9 & November 25
Thompson Park Creative Arts Center, Lincroft
Choose from our selection of bisque fired pottery to glaze and make your own. Cost is $6 per hour plus cost of bisque ware (cash or check only).

Stroll the Gardens
Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown
Head to Deep Cut to view seasonal plants that are native to our area. This 52-acre site also hosts some wonderful events this fall:
  • Jersey Shore Rose Society Rose Show on Saturday, September 8
  • Bonsai Day on September 16
  • Great Fall Perennial Plant Swap on September 22
For more information on these Deep Cut Gardens events, visit our website. 

Visit Our Historic Locations
Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel
Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold
Take a step back in time to learn about life in our county many years ago. Both locations are open year round, but they also offer free drop-in demonstrations throughout the season. Visit the specific park link above for a list of upcoming historic events.

Enjoy Some Outdoor Adventures
Our Outdoor Adventures staff always has some fun lined up:
  • Canoe Rentals
    • Enjoy a calming paddle on picturesque Marlu Lake at Thompson Park on September 8 & 9 from 9am-3pm. Cost is $15 per boat for 1-3 people for 2 hours (cash or check only). All equipment is provided.
  • Climb Time
    • Enjoy a free chance to try our 25-foot rock climbing wall on Sunday, September 9 from 10am-2pm at Thompson Park, Lincroft and on Sunday, October 28 from 1-5pm at Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck. Climbers must be 42 inches or taller and between 40-250 lbs.
  • Open Shoot Archery 
    • Ages 8 and up (under 18 with adult) can try their hands at archery on Monday, September 10 from 4:30-7:30pm; Saturday, November 3 from 12-3pm; and Saturday, December 15 from 12-3pm at the Thompson Park Activity Barn, Lincroft. Cost is $5 per person (cash or check only). 

Get Ready for Halloween!
Sick of buying pricey Halloween costumes just to wear them once? Save the planet and your budget during Re-Spook, Re-Wear, Re-Scare! Upcycle gently used kids', adults', and even pet costumes for a spooktacular new-to-you ensemble.

Enroll in a Fall Program
This year's Fall Directory is filled to the brim with old favorites and new fun! Here's just a sampling of what's available:
  • Walnford Harvest Barn Dance - Put on your dancing shoes as we Swing, Do-Si-Do, and Sashay the afternoon away on Saturday, September 15. Enjoy dancing, old-fashioned fun and games, and ice cream making! A great family-friendly program!
  • Early Fall BBQ - Just because it's fall doesn't mean you can't grill! Join us for this popular cooking class on Tuesday, October 9.
  • History Alive!: Haunted History of New Jersey - Just in time for Halloween, learn about local legends, hauntings, ghost stories, folklore, and more on Saturday, October 20.
But that's not all! This fall there are hundreds of programs for you and your family to enjoy! Check out our Fall Directory for a full list of programs happening now until December.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Turtles, Snakes, and Eagles, Oh My!

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." - Aristotle

Ever wanted to see just how big some of our local snakes are? Or see our national bird in its natural environment? Or learn about Native Americans who once lived in our area? There is so much to learn within the walls of the Monmouth County Park System's two environmental centers.

Huber Woods Environmental Center

Huber Woods Environmental Center

25 Brown's Dock Road, Locust
(732) 872-2670
Hours: Weekdays from 10am-4pm; Weekends from 10am-5pm

Once the estate of Hans and Catherine Huber, the Huber Woods Environmental Center overlooks the beautiful hills and meadows of Huber Woods Park. It is a place for visitors to come and explore the wonders of nature through hands-on displays featuring plants and animals, programs offered throughout the year, and educational activities offered for schools and community groups.

The most unique display at the Huber Woods Environmental Center teaches visitors about the Native Americans that once lived in our area. Learn more about Native Americans through trying instruments, viewing recordings of dancing and singing, trying your hands at basket weaving, playing games, and discovering archaeology that has brought their past into our present.

Huber Woods Environmental Center Hands-On Exhibits
Nature takes center stage with kids as they learn more about the environment at the Junior Naturalist Station. And the most popular exhibit at the Huber Woods Environmental Center? The reptile house where live turtles and snakes await our visitors to give them an up close and personal chance to experience these wonderful creatures.

Plus, don't miss out on a great opportunity to discover nature as a family. Borrow one of our Safari Backpacks for a day of discovery. Each backpack contains all you need to make your self-guided nature walk filled with adventure and exploration. Visitors can pick one of the following packs: Pre-K, Forest, Meadow, or Pond. Use of the backpacks are free, but a valid NJ drivers license must be left with the docent before heading out for adventure.

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center

331 Georgia Tavern Road, Howell
(732) 751-9453
Hours: 10am-4:30pm (open on Fridays until 8:30pm from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend)

One of our most popular locations, the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center is dedicated to teaching visitors about wetlands ecology and wildlife and habitat protection. Through interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations, educational activities for schools and community groups, and wildlife observation areas, visitors gain an understanding of the importance of water in our world.

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center Exhibit
Each exhibit in the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center shows the connect of water into our lives. One exhibit features fish found in the Reservoir right outside. Another traces the journey of a raindrop as it travels through the watershed to the Manasquan River and, eventually, to the ocean. Some exhibits reveal what is not readily visible, such as nocturnal animals that call the Reservoir home. And another compares the effects of a town with unmanaged growth to one that has chosen to protect the environment.

This location is also well-known for the chance to take a glimpse at the Reservoir's resident Bald Eagles. From a television set up in the hallway, visitors can view exactly what's happening in the nest right at that moment. You may even get a glimpse of newly hatched babies depending on the time of year (normally sometime toward the end of April or early May).

There's always something happening at the Manasquan Reservoir! Be sure to check out the many programs held at this location as well as frequent weekend drop-in programs that are great for families!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fall Directory...Coming Soon to a Park Near You!

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Piccasso

The Monmouth County Park System offers more than 2,000 different programs each year and caters to a wide variety of interests. From arts & crafts to cooking, horticulture to nature, outdoor adventures to equestrian and more, there's always something for everyone! These programs can not only help our visitors refine skills they already have, but also help them discover a hobby that's all new to them that they'd never thought to try before.

This year's Fall Directory is jam packed with over 500 programs offered from September through December. It will be available in most of our county parks and on the website beginning this Friday, August 10. When you browse through, think of everything you see as a possible new experience. Consider learning something new...

Back to School Menu Ideas
When school begins many of our lives become hectic once again! This hands-on class features recipes that are easy to create and will please the whole family. 

Family Geocaching
Enjoy the parks in a whole new way as a family. Together you will use GPS devices that will direct you to hidden treasures around the parks. 

Fun with Horses
If your child (ages 2-9) has shown an interest in horses, don't miss out on this popular favorite! Children will explore the world of horses and horseback riding at Sunnyside Equestrian Center in Lincroft. 

Golf Instruction for Beginners
This is your perfect chance to learn the sport of golf. With classes directed toward children, parents with their children, juniors, adults, women, and couples, the whole family can get in on the game! The Park System even has clubs available if needed.

Naval Air Station Lakehurst Tour
Learn more about an important chapter in American history as we explore the Naval Air Station and the new Navy Lakehurst Information Center. Known as the site of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, experience the rich airship history as we mark the 75th anniversary year of that fateful event. 

Precious Metal Clay Basics
Precious Metal Clay (PMC) is fine silver particles suspended in a clay bind; it is so easy to work with to create beautiful jewelry! Our instructor will teach the basics of this up and coming art.  

See the Forest for the Trees
Join a Park System Naturalist on a nature walk that will have you taking a closer look at your surroundings. Magnifying glasses, field guides, and journals will be your tools of discovery. 

Super Science
Parent and child (ages 4-6) work together to explore various science topics such as plants, magnets, buoyancy, and chemical reactions.  

Vegetable Gardening 101 - Fall
As the summer comes to a close, it's time to start working towards next year's vegetable gardening, and there's still plenty you can do with your existing one. This class covers fall planting, extending the growing season, and preparing a new or existing garden for next growing season. 

Young Chefs
Kids (ages 6-9) who enjoy helping out in the kitchen will love this new class! This four-week program will have children making a simple 3-course meal each week while learning about kitchen safety and healthy eating habits.

This is just a small sampling of the amazing programs the Park System has to offer this fall. There's always something to enjoy for everyone. So be sure to pick up your copy this weekend. Don't miss out, registration begins Wednesday, August 15 at 8am.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Get a Taste of Local History in the Parks

"If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday." - Pearl Buck

If you frequent the Monmouth County Park System parks you surely have enjoyed the trails, playgrounds, nature, and programs we have to offer. But did you know how much history lies within our parks? Take some time to learn about local history by visiting the following sites:

Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth: Located along the Sandy Hook Bay, many visitors come to stroll the beach, enjoy the free Summer Seining, or fish off the pier. But this picturesque location is also home to the Bayshore Waterfront Park Activity Center (aka Seabrook-Wilson House), which is the oldest standing house in the region. The building dates back to the early 1700s. The Activity Center has limited hours, but is scheduled to be open to the public on August 4 & August 18 from 11am-5pm for visitors to view exhibits about the ecology of the Sandy Hook Bay, the history of the house, and the connection between the two of them.

Hartshorne Woods Park, Highlands & Locust: This 787-acre site is popular to hikers, bicyclists, and nature enthusiasts due to over 14 miles of trails. But did you know that a large section of the sites was a military installation in the 1940s? During WWII, batteries for heavy artillery were built on the site to modernize coastal defense efforts. These concrete and earth encasements or bunkers protected both personnel and equipment. These structures can still be viewed at the site today in the Rocky Point section (1402 Portland Road, Highlands).

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel: The sights, sounds, and smells of rural Monmouth County in the 1890s were recreated on this 9 acre living history site. Interpreters dress in period clothing and show both daily and seasonal agricultural and domestic activities that would have been done on a local farm in the 19th century (i.e., milking the cows, plowing the fields, blacksmithing, and more). The site is open daily, year round, from 10am-4pm (during the summer hours are extended to 9am-5pm). Upcoming demonstrations include: 19th Century Woodworking Demonstration on Saturday, August 4 from 1-3pm; Penny Rug Demonstration on Sunday, August 12 from 1-3pm; and Harvest Home Festival on Sunday, September 30 from 11am-5pm.

Tatum Park, Middletown: Many visitors to this 366-acre park come for the trails or for programs at one of its two activity centers. But a visit to the Red Hill Activity Center located off of Red Hill Road offers a bit of local history. The Heath Wing was built in 1981 to honor Mary and Clinton Heath. In 1885, Clinton Heath, a freed slave from North Carolina, became the first black farmer to settle in Middletown. The Heath Wing features a permanent display of memorabilia from the county's early black community.

Thompson Park, Lincroft: Known for being the location for Park System Headquarters, this park was established with a donation of 215 acres from the estate of Geraldine Thompson. Once the home of "Brookdale Farm", the site was a premier thoroughbred racing horse breeding/training facility. Today, the park remembers Mrs. Thompson's belief that "children have to feel the ground beneath them and go out into the woods and see the trees and birds." The Thompson family residence, a grand colonial revival mansion, had been used as the Visitor Center until it was destroyed by a fire in 2006. The Visitor Center has since been rebuilt and allows visitors to learn more about Mrs. Thompson and Brookdale Farm in an exhibit on the first floor which is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8am-4:30pm and Saturday-Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold: This gorgeous park seems to be a hidden gem in the western most section of Monmouth County. Visitors can learn more about the Waln family and the evolution of Walnford over two centuries - from an 18th century industrial village and family farm to an elegant country estate. Take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque locale and view the large, elegant home built in 1774, the 19th century gristmill, and the farm buildings. The gristmill opens its doors on weekends April-November from 1-4pm as knowledgeable staff describe the workings of the mill. Weekend drop-in programs are also available; upcoming free programs include Ice Cream, Edible History on Sunday, August 5 from 3-4pm.

Don't miss out on all the Park System has to offer. There's something new to find each and every day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Park System Trip Gives Rare Glimpse at Terracotta Warriors

This summer has become even more exciting with the Park System's August 11th trip to Discovery Times Square in New York City! What makes this trip different than those previous? This summer the museum has introduced the only East Coast exhibition of China's Terracotta Warriors. It is your chance to get up close and personal with an archaeological find that has been considered the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. The warriors are a national treasure for China and have been under excavation since their inadvertent discovery in 1974. If you are not familiar with the story, let's bring you up to speed:

It began as these things usually do, with simple folk going about the business of everyday life, eking out a living to support their families. Foremost in their minds was the need to find water to support their village, never did they imagine that the basic act of digging a well would reveal the archaeological find of the century.

The excavation started out as any other dig, but the magnitude and scope of the project quickly became apparent as scientists found that the site extended approximately 16,000 meters. Thus, in 1975, the State Council authorized the building of a museum at the site, which is divided into three pits, encompassing over 7,000 pottery warriors, horses and chariots!

The army was created during the reign of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who is famous for unifying China’s warring states, and for beginning construction of the Great Wall. The warriors were intended to guard his tomb and replicate his living army. It is estimated that it took over 700,000 people 37 years to complete all of the figures, which are life-sized and painstakingly, individually detailed, with no two exactly alike.

One of the dismaying aspects of the excavation was that the once bright paint that brought the warriors to life would flake off within hours of exposure to the air. It was not until recently that a team of German scientists created a substance to coat the warriors and preserve their unique colors. Apparently it was the lacquer layer underneath the paint that would dry up as the air hit it, taking the paint as well. It is now hoped that as the excavations continue, more the warriors will be preserved with their original colors.

The current exhibit at Discovery Times Square, in addition to several of the actual restored warriors, includes Han Dynasty Burial Chamber gates, cooking utensils, weapons, jewelry and ritual items in a collection of over 200 artifacts more than 2,000 years old. By this point we're sure we have aroused your curiosity about these amazing artifacts, and want to know all about when to go and how to get there. The Park System wants to make it easy for you to see this amazing exhibit! On Saturday, August 11, we will be leaving Thompson Park by bus and heading to New York City for the day. Fees include timed admission ticket, round trip transportation, and Park System leader. There will be free time for you to enjoy the city and have lunch on your own. Register now!

Staff Contributor: Ann Sage, Cultural Services Division

Note: The Park System has a wide variety of trips scheduled every year! Check out the Fall Directory (to be released on August 10) for trips that will include: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; The Best of the Bronx; Total Amish Experience; Grounds for Sculpture; Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour; Montreal, Quebec & Vermont Overnight and so much more!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Experience the Outdoors with Family & Friends

There's something about relaxing around a campfire telling stories with family and friends that makes daily stresses and troubles melt away, if at least for a while. Camping with family increases a sense of togetherness and allows for a time without modern distractions. So leave the television and video games behind (and even the handheld devices) and go camping!

Get out in the woods while staying close to home at the Turkey Swamp Park Family Campgrounds in Freehold, New Jersey. The campgrounds, open from April 1 through November 15, offer facilities for both tent camping and travel trailers. Of the 64 sites, 52 are available by reservation and 12 are available on a first come, first serve basis. Looking for great campground amenities to make your trip rustic yet still comfortable one? We've got 'em:
  • Wooded campsites
  • Electrical service
  • Water service
  • Drinking water
  • Modern restroom with hot showers and laundry machines
  • Dump station
  • Fire rings for charcoal cooking and campfires
  • Picnic tables
  • Children's playground
  • Pay phones
  • Vending machines
  • Quiet hours from 10pm-7am
Paddleboat Rentals at the Lake!But Turkey Swamp Park offers more than just campsites. While there, make sure to enjoy all the park has to offer:
  • A lake where you can fish for bass, catfish, and bluegills. (Visitors must have a NJ fishing license - not required for those under 16.)
  • Rentals of canoes, rowboats, kayaks, and paddleboats.
  • Nine miles of multiple use trails great for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians.
  • Plenty of open space to fly a kite or toss a ball around.
For those who don't have a tent or trailer, the campground also two comfortable cabins (one ADA accessible). The cabins feature a double bed, two sets of bunk beds, lights and electrical outlets. Outside each cabin is a water spigot and picnic area with a fire pit.

There's nothing stopping you but yourself! Reserve your site today by calling (732) 462-7286 (after 11am daily) or by filling out the Reservation Request Form.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July is Park and Recreation Month!

Since 1985, July has been celebrated as the nation's official Park and Recreation Month to encourage communities to go out and visit their local parks. This year, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is encouraging communities to get out and GET WILD about parks and recreation: "You just can’t help but have fun this July, all while expressing the many valuable benefits of parks and recreation!"
Celebrate Park and Recreation Month by visiting and having fun with us! Here are some ways to enjoy our parks this July (click the event/location link for additional information, dates and times):
  • Take a short nature walk with our Roving Park System Naturalist on July 1, July 13 & July 21. Free!
  • Discover what lives in the waters of Sandy Hook Bay with your family during one of our Summer Seining Drop-In programs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11am-12pm at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth. Free!
  • Get out on the water with an Eco-Kayak Drop-In Tour on the Navesink, July 3, 10 & 12, where a Park System Naturalist will guide you down the river for a leisurely paddle. Fee: $20.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Move past your fears during our Drop-In Zip Line on July 7 at the Old Orchard Parking Lot, Thompson Park, Lincroft. Ages 12 and up. Fee: $10.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Enjoy a leisurely paddle on Marlu Lake in Thompson Park, Lincroft, by renting a canoe on July 7, 8, 14 & 15. Fee: $15.00 per boat for 1-3 people for 2 hours (cash or check only).
  • Learn about Bald eagles, local animals, and insects with free weekend drop-in programs all month long at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell.
  • Take a step back in history! Head to one of our historic sites for some terrific free drop-in activities this July. For more information, click on Historic Longstreet Farm or Historic Walnford.
  • Try your hands at archery during Open Shoot Archery at the Thompson Park Activity Barn, Lincroft on July 8 & 17. Fee: $5.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Tee off with us! Enjoy one of our many golf courses! Even compete in one of our tournaments!
  • Take the kids to any of our wonderful playgrounds to release some energy and have some fun!
  • Really get wild during this year's Monmouth County Fair with rides, games, food, and SO MUCH MORE from Wednesday-Sunday, July 25-29.
  • Kids love the Park System's fun and exciting summer camps. Give your children a summer they'll never forget!
These are just some of the things that the Monmouth County Park System parks have to offer this July! Visit our website to view all of the wonderful facilities the Park System has to offer...from trails to fishing to boating and more. So get wild in the parks with us and celebrate National Park and Recreation month.

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    What Lives in the Bay?

    Seining the bayTaking a look at our finds!Northern Puffers, Lined Seahorses, juvenile Bluefish, or Bay Anchovies. Which of these fish do you think may be found in the water at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth? The answer is all of them!

    Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from June 25 through August 24, 11am–12:00noon, Park System Naturalists provide visitors with a free seining program at Bayshore Waterfront Park. Visitors have the opportunity to discover a variety of fish, crabs, and other remarkable creatures of the bay that live in shallow waters. This is one of the best ways to learn about the diversity of aquatic life in Sandy Hook Bay. Park System Naturalists pull a long net through the water to try to catch fish, crabs, and anything else that lives along the shallow edge of the bay.
    Northern Puffer Fish
    Visitors who partake in our free seining not only have fun seeing what interesting life lives in the bay, but many have a good time holding different species of fish, such as snapper blues, croakers, flounders, Hermit Crabs, Pipefish, and more, before releasing them back into the water. Each haul of the seine net brings in something new to discover.   

    This fun and exciting program takes place on the beach near the fishing pier. Closed-toe shoes are required. The program will not run during inclement weather. Open to ages 5 and up, families, with adult, the program is designed for individuals and families, not groups. (Groups can reserve a date by calling (732) 872-7369.)

    It will be a fun time for everyone as we discover what lives in the bay this summer!

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    National Pollinator Week

    A native bee (genus: Agapostemon) on New England Aster flower. Photo by Jolie Goldenetz Dollar
    One in three mouthfuls of food and drink we consume can be linked to insect pollination. Pollinators (primarily bees but also moths, butterflies, beetles, flies, and small mammals) assist in the production of more than 150 U.S. crops that include apples, alfalfa, almonds, blueberries, cranberries, kiwis, melons, pears, plums, and squash. Native pollinators not only contribute to the productivity of our crops, but also to the survival and reproduction of many of our native plants.

    What is pollination? Pollination is when pollen is moved within a flower or from one flower to another of the same species, which leads to fertilization. With no pollination at all, many of the foods we enjoy would no longer be available. The plants that other creatures rely on for food and shelter would disappear as well. More than 80% of flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their pollen grains from plant to plant.

    Five years ago the U.S. Senate designated the final full week of June as "National Pollinator Week" to raise awareness on the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinating animals are a vital part of our ecosystem, support terrestrial wildlife, provide healthy watershed, and more.

    According the the Pollinator Partnership, here are some things we can do to help our pollinators:
    • Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
    • Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitats with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your area, download a free ecoregional guide online. 
    • Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators.
    • For more tips on what you can do to help our native pollinators, visit the Pollinator Partnership website.
    Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown will be hosting the following events to inform you and your family about native pollinators:
    • Friday, June 22 from 7-8:45pm: Free viewing of the documentary Vanishing of the Bees which examines the decline of the honeybee, possible causes, and the greater meaning it holds. A brief discussion will follow, including tips on what you can do to support pollinators in your own backyard. Appropriate for ages 8 through adults. Popcorn will be provided!
    • Saturday, June 23 from 1:30-3pm: Free drop-in for children ages 4-10 titled Celebrate Pollinators! Children will enjoy a special story as well as a fun craft!
    Facts and figures for this post were found on the Pollinator Partnership website.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Drop Your Line this Weekend!

    Fishing in the Parks
    Did you know this upcoming weekend, June 16 & 17, is New Jersey's annual free fishing weekend? Any angler will tell you that there's nothing better than feeling the first nibble on your line and then reeling in the big one! Well, this weekend you'll have your chance.

    During the annual free fishing weekend, those looking to give freshwater fishing a try get the chance to do so without purchasing a New Jersey fishing license or trout stamp; normally anglers 16 and up must have a license. It's the perfect time to get out on the water and see if this relaxing, and sometimes exciting, sport is for you!

    According to the NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife, "freshwater fishing in New Jersey has never been better"! There are a multitude of locations throughout the state for anglers to try their luck, and the Monmouth County Park System is home to many of them. Check out these freshwater fishing locations this weekend to drop a line and take advantage of this no-license-required free fishing weekend:

    Fishing in the ParksCrosswicks Creek Greenway, Upper Freehold
    Cast from the shore for catfish and shad.

    Holmdel Park, Holmdel
    Cast from the shore for trout, large mouth bass, catfish and panfish.

    Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold
    Cast from the shore for carp, catfish, pickerel, large mouth bass, sunnies, and freshwater eels.

    Manasquan Reservoir, Howell
    Cast from the shore or boat (electric motor boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks are permitted) for large and small mouth bass, hybrid striped bass, tiger muskie, bullhead catfish, and panfish. Bait can be purchased from the shop located at the Visitor Center on Windeler Road.

    Manasquan River Greenway, Howell
    Cast from the shore for trout.

    Perrineville Lake Park, Millstone
    Cast from the shore or boat (electric motor boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks are permitted) for bass, catfish, panfish and pickerel.

    Shark River Park, Neptune
    Cast from the shore of the pond to find bluegills and trout; cast from the shore of the river for trout.

    Thompson Park, Lincroft
    Cast from the shore or boat (electric motor boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks are permitted) for bass, bluegills and perch.

    Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold
    Cast from the shore or boat (electric motor boats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks are permitted) for bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegills. Bait can be purchased at the Campground Office.

    Don't have anyone to borrow a pole from? Head to Turkey Swamp Park on Saturday and Sunday from 7am-3pm to rent poles and tackle for $5 for 2 hours. Equipment will be available outside the boat house.

    For more information on fishing at the Monmouth County Park System parks, click here. For more information on the NJDEP's Free Fishing Weekend, visit their website.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    National Get Outdoors Day!

    "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan
    Manasquan Reservoir, Howell

    Did you know that the average American child can recognize approximately 1,000 brand logos but cannot recognize 10 plants or animals native to their area? Or that children in the US average about 30 minutes a week of outdoor activity but average almost 45 hours a week of electronic media exposure? There is no better time to make a step toward change by heading out to the parks this Saturday, June 9 during National Get Outdoors Day.

    There's always something to do in the Monmouth County Park System parks, whether it's a structured program, special event, drop-in program, or just a visit. Here's a list of some things to get you outdoors on June 9th for National Get Outdoors Day (and hopefully will bring you back for more too!):

    • Thompson Park Canoe Rentals - Canoes will be available for a relaxing weekend paddle at Thompson Park Marlu Lake, Lincroft. All equipment provided; limited number of canoes available. Fee: $15.00 per canoe for 1-3 people for 2 hours (cash or check only).
    • Explore Tatum Park, Middletown, with a Park System Naturalist as your guide during our Roving Naturalist drop-in program. Free!
    • Bring your children to one of our many playgrounds! Playgrounds are located at the following parks: Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck; Holmdel Park, Holmdel; Manasquan Reservoir, Howell; Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook, Atlantic Highlands; Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, Long Branch; Shark River Park, Neptune; Tatum Park, Middletown; Thompson Park, Lincroft; Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. Free!
    • Cool off at the Dorbrook Recreation Area Sprayground in Colts Neck. Free!
    • Walk, run or bike some of over 124 miles of trails. Free!
    • Get in a round of golf at one of our scenic golf courses. (See website for golf fees and charges.)
    • Hit the beach at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, Long Branch for some fun in the sun. (See website for cost of daily passes and badges.)
    • Take a step back in time at one of our wonderful historic locations: Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel or Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold. Free!
    • View over 200 species of animals by taking a trip with us to the Cape May Zoo! (Pre-registration and fee required.)
    • Play with your pup off the leash at one of our off-leash dog areas at Thompson Park, Lincroft or Wolf Hill Recreation Area, Oceanport. Free!
    • Drop a line and see what you get! Fishing is available at 13 park locations. Just remember, a NJ Fishing License is required for those ages 16-69 when doing any freshwater fishing. Free!
    • Learn about the wildlife of the Manasquan Reservoir with a boat tour. Weekend boat tours of the reservoir are available on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm from May 5 through October 8. (Adults: $5.75; Children 12 and under: $3.75)
    • Camp out under the stars! Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold has 64 family campsites available from April 1 through November 15 and have all the amenities your family will need to have an enjoyable retreat. (Call 732-462-7286 for reservation and pricing information.)
    • Stop and smell the roses. A visit to Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown is sure to please the entire family with 54 beautiful acres of gardens and greenhouses to explore. Free!
    • Explore various parks while completing our annual Rockin' the Trails challenge. Free!

    Exploring the outdoors is not only a wonderful way to get some exercise, it also promotes relaxation and a greater sense of the world around us. Come, visit and enjoy your Monmouth County Park System parks. We're waiting for you!

    If you're looking for additional activities that may not be listed here, check out our website or call us at 732-842-4000, ext. 4312, Monday-Friday from 8:00am-4:30pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 10:00am-4:00pm.

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Exploring Creativity at the Creative Arts Center

    Thompson Park Creative Arts Center
    The Creative Arts Center at Thompson Park, Lincroft is a facility designed to give visitors the chance to experience a multitude of different crafts. The center features ceramics and pottery studios as well as classrooms for painting, drawing and other craft activities. One of this spring's newest programs was The Creative Arts Experience, a six session class for adults that covered a new medium each week. From painting to sewing, pottery to printmaking, and more, students were given the chance to explore crafts that they may have never tried before.

    The Creative Arts Experience has been a terrific way for our participants to find a craft they enjoyed without committing to a full session of one activity. On the first week we delved right into pottery, showing participants (some of which had never touched clay before) how to use handbuilding techniques to create a fun birdhouse. In the weeks following we have explored acrylic paints,printmaking, origami, watercolors and a simple sewing project as time allows.

    The Creative Arts Experience will be offered again this autumn, so be sure to keep an eye out for it in the Fall Directory (available on Friday, August 10).


    If you're looking for a program to take this summer, be sure to check out the Summer Directory which lists all of our programs and special events for June, July and August. Some of this summer's arts & crafts programs include:
    Adult Arts & Crafts
    Kids & Teens Arts & Crafts
    Parent & Child Arts & Crafts
    This is merely a sampling of the creative programs scheduled for this summer. Pick up a copy of our Summer Directory (available in most county parks) or visit our website for a full list of programs.

    Staff Contributor: Christina Carlson, Creative Arts Center Staff

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Family Fun While Discovering the Parks

    If you’re a fan of Monmouth County Park System parks you and your family probably stick to a few favorite locations. But the Park System has over 30 locations for visitors to enjoy all year round. If you’re ready to discover some new locations in a family-friendly way, we have fun approach to get you started!  

    Rockin’ the Trails is back for the third year in a row and will have you discovering park locations you may have never seen or new details about parks you already love. You and your family will be sent on a mission to visit eight specific Monmouth County parks and discover answers to our questions. Each answer will supply you with letters that will combine to reveal a special nature quote from John Burroughs. Participants may either mail their completed brochure in or bring it to the Huber Woods Environmental Center or Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center. You will then be entered in the Grand Prize Drawing that will take place at the year's end (last year's winners enjoyed a free family boat tour at the Manasquan Reservoir).

    Don't miss out on this terrific family experience! You can find a PDF of the Rockin' the Trails brochure on our website or call (732) 842-4000, ext. 4312, to have one delivered by mail.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Sunnyside Invites You...

    Explore a Park System facility this weekend that you may never have known about. Many frequent Park System visitors have never visited or even heard of Sunnyside Equestrian Center in Lincroft. But this weekend is your perfect opportunity to see what Sunnyside is all about! 

    On Sunday, May 20 from 12:00-3:00pm Sunnyside Equestrian Center will host an open house. This family-friendly, free event celebrates the 10th anniversary of therapeutic horseback riding at the center through the not-for-profit organization Special People United to Ride (SPUR). Through SPUR, individuals with disabilities find a safe haven at Sunnyside where limitations are replaced by the freedom of riding and handling a horse, working to improve self-esteem, social skills, balance, muscle tone, and posture as well as to process sensory messages to the brain. Guided by instructors certified by PATH International, the governing body of therapeutic horseback riding, and more than 100 volunteers annually, over 200 students with disabilities are served each year.

    Celebrate this momentous occasion with us! Open house activities include pony rides, crafts, face painting, caricatures, demonstrations, and an opportunity to meet the horses and see where they live. There will also be light refreshments, music, 50/50 ticket sales (winners will be chosen at SPUR’s Casino Night on September 22), and a drawing for prizes which include a birthday party at Sunnyside.

    The Sunnyside Equestrian Center Open House is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to not only experience a little known Park System location, but to also learn about SPUR and the amazing opportunities the organization offers to individuals with disabilities. For more information on the Open House or on Sunnyside Recreation Area, call (732) 224-1367, ext. 3#. For more information about Special People United to Ride visit the SPUR website.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Get Outdoors with the Outdoor Adventure Expo!

    A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
    Canoes, kayaks & paddle boats!
    Kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and climbing are just some of the magnificent outdoor adventures available throughout Monmouth County. Are you ready to greet the outdoors with open arms? Or are you already an outdoor adventurer looking to learn more about these great activities? There’s no better place to learn about the vast variety of outdoor opportunities available than by visiting the Park System’s Outdoor Adventure Expo on Sunday, May 20 from 11:00am-5:00pm at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold.

    The Outdoor Adventure Expo is an annual family-friendly event that allows our visitors to explore and sample all there is to offer in the area. The following are some of the wonderful happenings you’ll experience at the Expo:
    • Test a variety of equipment such as touring kayaks, white water kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, our 25 foot rock climbing wall, and more!
    • Children’s fishing derby.
    • Take a shot with hands-on golf demonstrations.
    • Attend free lectures, demonstrations, mini-clinics, and nature hikes.
    • Meet vendors for various outdoor activities who will offer advice and be available to answer all of your questions.
    • Discover local and regional outdoor adventures and sportsmen’s clubs.

    Be sure not to miss the following scheduled events (schedule subject to change):
    Kids' Fishing Derby
    • 11:30am – White Water Kayaking Demo (presented by MCPS Staff)
    • 12:00pm – Long Bow Demonstration (presented by Warpath Archery)
    • 12:00-2:00pm – Fishing Derby (presented by Jersey Shore Chapter – Trout Unlimited)
    • 12:30pm – Reptile Show (presented by MCPS Staff)
    • 1:00pm – Picking the Right Kayak (presented by Eastern Mountain Sports)
    • 2:00pm – Geocache Hike (presented by MCPS Staff & Central Jersey Geocaching)
    • 3:00pm – Long Bow Demonstration (presented by Warpath Archery) 
    • 3:30pm – Reptile Show (presented by MCPS Staff)
    Ongoing demonstrations will also be available:
    • Archery (MCPS Staff)
    • Golf (MCPS Staff)
    • Lost in a Monmouth County park? There's an App for that! (MCPS Staff)
    • Rigging Sailboats & Sailors Knots (SEAS)
    • Small Animal Care (14 Carrot Rabbit Club)
    • Stand Up Paddle Boarding (Aloha Guides)
    Here is a full list of the exhibitors who will be available during the Outdoor Adventure Expo:
    • 14 Carrot Rabbit
    • Aloha Guides
    • American Littoral Society
    • Central Jersey Geocaching
    • D&D Concessions
    • East Coast Diving Center
    • Eastern Mountain Sports
    • Hunters Helping the Hungry
    • Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association
    • Jersey Shore Chapter – Trout Unlimited
    • John Drulle, M.D., Memorial Lyme Fund
    • The Kids Fishing Shop
    • Monmouth County Park System
      • Acquisition & Design
      • Golf Division
      • Historic Walnford
      • Naturalist Division
      • Outdoor Adventures
      • Turkey Swamp Park
      • Visitor Services
    • Monmouth Ski Club
    • Scott Motor Coach RV Sales
    • Shoot NJ LLC
    • Sierra Club – Jersey Shore Group
    • Society for the Education of American Sailors
    • Warpath Archery
    • YMCA Camp Topanemus

    The Outdoor Adventure Expo is free and will run rain or shine. Don’t miss out on this amazing event that is sure to get you and your family ready to venture outdoors and try something new.

    Camping is available within the park for a fee (see our Turkey Swamp Park page for information campsite reservations).

    For additional information on this event, please call (732) 842-4000, ext. 4312. We'll see you there!

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Frogs in the Parks

    I recently had quite an adventure during my Starry Night and Singing Frogs program at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. It was a beautiful, clear night so stars were abundant and Venus shone brightly in the sky. In spite of it being late April, it was a cool night and I worried that the frogs singing would be inhibited. With this thought foremost in my mind, I led several families out of the shelter building, leaving the warm fire burning inside, and headed toward the lake and boathouse where a shallow cove often hosts frogs in abundance

    Spring Peeper
    As we walked down the hill toward the cove, I halted and gestured for silence. Faintly in the distance, I heard a familiar sound. Peep, peep, peep. Spring Peepers! This diminutive chorus frog is a sure sign of spring, as it is known to call as early as March and only the Wood Frog bests it by calling in February. I moved our party briskly across the field and toward a marshy area I know frogs love and was rewarded by the deafening but beautiful sound of dozens of Spring Peepers singing. 

    Pickerel Frog
    Even more exciting, I detected the calls of two other species: the Pickerel Frog and Green Frog. Both are true frogs, more closely bound to the water than Spring Peepers and sport a thin waist and long, powerful jumping legs with webbed feet. The call of the Pickerel Frog is described as something between a belch and a snore. The Green Frog call surprisingly resembles the sounds of a banjo. 

    Identifying the frogs was only half the battle and the children were determined to capture some of our noisy quarry. We spread out around the marsh, but the combination of darkness, water, marsh plants, and the amazing ability of the Spring Peepers to echo their calls in confounding ways and fall silent on our approach proved impossible to overcome. However, the children were delighted when our hard work was rewarded with the capture of a Pickerel Frog. We admired her for a time, but finally left the frogs to their marsh, the night, and their wonderful nocturnal concert. As we walked back to the parking lot, I discussed the other frogs (Bullfrogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, Northern Gray Tree Frogs and Fowler's Toads to name a few) that would be adding their voices to the nightly performance from now until late July.

    Staff Contributor: Christopher Lanza, Senior Park Naturalist
    • There are still spots available in our next session of Starry Night and Singing Frogs on Friday, May 25!
    • Check out more upcoming programs in the Summer Directory available on our website on Friday, May 11!