Thursday, December 31, 2015

Make the Parks Part of Your Resolutions

As you wave goodbye to 2015 and ring an exciting new year, we hope you will consider making the parks part of your list of New Year's resolutions. Whether it's getting more physically fit, experiencing new hobbies, or spending more time as a family, the Monmouth County Park System can assist you in achieving your goals and having an excellent new year.

Here are some resolutions to consider as we head into 2016:
  • Whether you're trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or stay healthy, exercising more is often one of the top resolutions made for the new year. With over 130 miles of trails, your sure to find one that suits your fitness needs; walking, running and biking the trails are a terrific way to get in shape! Plus, be sure to check out the Fitness Trails at Holmdel Park, Shark River Park, and Turkey Swamp Park. For those who prefer the routine of a weekly (or biweekly) class, check out the full list of upcoming sports & fitness programs being offered by the Park System this winter.
  • Ever considered learning a new craft like drawing or painting? Or maybe learning new outdoor skills like cross-country skiing or bird watching? The Park System offers a wide variety of programs you're sure to enjoy. For a full list of upcoming winter programs, click here.
  • Family time is so very important with how busy our lives can become. The parks make it easy to get out and spend time together. You can enjoy a walk on the trails, have fun on the playgrounds, stroll through the gardens, and more. And when the temperatures drop this January and February, you'll love the winter activities we have available! 
  • Discover some local history! The Park System's two historic sites are open throughout the winter. Historic Longstreet Farm in Holmdel offers the sights, sounds and smells of rural Monmouth County in the 1890s and is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. To the west you'll find Historic Walnford in Upper Freehold, a picturesque site showcasing over 200 years of social, technological and environmental history through the Waln family.
  • Looking for something to do on the weekends? Our This Weekend in the Parks page is updated weekly with fun drop-in programs you and your family are sure to enjoy. From crafts to nature walks to photography exhibits and more!
These are just a few of the things available to you in the Monmouth County parks. For ideas on more things you can do in the parks, visit

How will you resolve to make the parks part of your new year?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Looking for the Forest in the Trees

A healthy mixed-oak forest.
Have you ever made the observation while walking park trails that the character of the forest around you is distinctly different from place to place and park to park? Ecologists tell us that these variations are a result of the environmental preference; the ‘niche’ or ‘habitat’ of the forest species.

Monmouth County has particularly diverse parks because it overlaps multiple geographical regions—the Inner and Outer Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Pine Barrens. This provides a unique mosaic of forest types not typically assembled elsewhere. Observing and understanding this forest variety has been an important and ongoing project for the Park System.

Ongoing Studies Track Forest Health
As the third largest landowner in the county, the Park System is responsible for protecting all the natural resources on this land, including the flora and fauna (plants, animals, and insects). A first step in this process is to understand what needs to be protected, its condition, when a habitat has been compromised, and to what condition it should be restored.

Several ongoing studies evaluate our forest resources to determine their composition, quality, and disturbance. The results help focus our management efforts, financial resources and manpower. The Park System manages approximately 10,000 acres of protected forest. Nearly 250 species of native forest plants and another 50 introduced (or non-native) species, have been catalogued.

This effort has also identified many populations of rare or endangered plant species, and we can now provide a comprehensive list of what plants occur at which parks. This alone is valuable because it lets us know the particular species protected by the parks.

Surveys Determine Forest Value and Composition
Different forest types require different management techniques to protect their resources, and we are now surveying the distribution of plant species in our parks to determine what types of forests we have within our county. At the same time the State of New Jersey is developing a vegetation classification system, and when it is complete, we can use it to assess our own data and see if we have protected a representative of each forest type. We can also use this information to evaluate future park acquisitions to preserve the most valuable remaining forests.

What’s the Score? Floristic Index Evaluates Species
There is also an established ‘scoring’ system for evaluating plant communities, which began with Swink and Wilhelm’s 1979 Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI). The principal concept of FQAI is that the quality of a natural community can be objectively evaluated by examining the degree of ecological conservatism of the plants species within that community. Each plant is given a value based on its fidelity or faithfulness to a particular habitat; it’s degree of conservatism.

For our region, the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania worked with many New Jersey botanists to develop an index for statewide use. More conservative species, those found only in specialized habitats and vulnerable to disturbance, are scored higher than generalists. A formula that combines all the scores helps determine diversity and health of the community. The higher the overall score, the higher the uniqueness and quality of the community.

Mapping it All Out
The Park System also evaluates forest plots by overlaying them onto orthophotography (detailed aerial photos) of the park. The forest can then be evaluated in the context of park boundaries; topography; trails; streams; historic, current, and neighboring uses; and many other factors that may affect quality.

One valuable application of this process is that we can determine what components within the plot are the detractors or negative contributors to the value, such as impacts from invasive species. Visualizing the plots in context allows for better management of the park as a whole.

Historic Analysis Yields Interesting Results
When a forest plot was laid over aerial photographs from the 1930s, it becomes apparent that today’s high quality plots are consistently found in areas that were forest back at that time (and remained forest in the interim). One surprising find was that the remnant of an old growth forest at Thompson Park has retained relative high quality over time, despite being fragmented by surrounding farms and creation of the Swimming River Reservoir.

The trend holds true in other parks, such as Crosswicks Creek Greenway and Clayton Park, where continuously forested areas yield high quality values today. Extending this analysis may point us to other areas where rare or endangered species exist, and these areas may serve as models for forest restoration efforts, providing a rare glimpse of remnant communities not disturbed by agriculture or development.

For further reading on forest communities in the parks, please see the Healthy Habitats link under Natural Resources on our website:

This article was published in the 2009 fall edition of the Green Heritage Newsletter (click on the link to view it in full color with photos). If you would like to start receiving our newsletter by mail, click here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Winter will be Bustling in the Parks!

Autumn colors are giving our visitors a gorgeous display as they enter the parks, and the leaves are beginning to fall as the temperatures cool. As we enter November, it's time to start planning for the excitement and fun of the winter months that lie ahead. In the Park System, we spend months preparing for programs and events that our visitors can experience and enjoy. Just take a look at our recently released Winter Program Directory, filled with more than 250 programs for you and your family to delight in this December, January and February.

Don't hide away in the house all winter long, avoiding the shorter days and cooler temperatures. Head to the parks where you can learn a brand new hobby, improve on a current one, or experience something exciting. Check out some brand new programs that are sure to warm up your winter months:
  • Pottery Night Out is a terrific opportunity to get out with a friend and make a beautiful pottery piece out of a lump of clay. 
  • Texas Hold 'em for First Timers is perfect for those who've wanted to try out poker's hottest game. Our professional teachers will offer instruction on all the basics as well as some insider tips and tricks to get you started on the right foot.
  • Full Wolf Moon Walk takes you outdoors for an evening walk along Sandy Hook Bay with a Park System Naturalist this January during the first full moon of the year. 
  • Science in Nature offers children ages 8-11 a chance to discover science and engineering concepts as they relate to the natural world. 
  • Intro to Kung Fu for children ages 8-12 will introduce this style of martial arts while improving their self-esteem, coordination, focus, and physical fitness.
  • Family Skate Date gets the entire family together as we turn the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center gymnasium into an old-fashioned roller rink!
And if you're looking for something for your kids to do during their December winter break, be sure to take a look at Bricks 4 Kidz Winter Break Camp, Mad Science Winter Break Camp, Park-A-Day Winter, and Wintertime Fun at the Fort. These winter camps are sure to keep your child busy and having an excellent week off from school!

Lastly, mark your calendars for returning special events like the Seashore Open House at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park on Sunday, January 24, and WinterFest at Thompson Park on Saturday, January 30.

For full details on these programs and many more, check us out online or have a copy of the Winter Program Directory mailed to your home by calling 732-842-4000, ext. 4312. Add some fun to your family this winter with the Monmouth County Park System! You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autumn and Halloween Combine in the Parks

The weather is getting cooler as we settle into October and families begin getting ready for the fun of Halloween. Here at the parks, we want to help make the beginning of fall and the Halloween season even more fun for everyone in your family. Here are a few things you won't want to miss out on in the coming weeks:
Costume Swap
  • Eek-O-Fabulous Costume Swap - This annual event is going on this week and gives you the opportunity to get terrific costumes for the entire family (even your four-legged friends) without spending tons of money. Gently used costumes can be dropped off at one of five Park System locations now through Saturday, October 10. For each costume you bring you will receive one token. Then, on Sunday, October 11, families can head to the Thompson Park Visitor Center, Lincroft to pick out new-to-you costumes. For full details, visit our Costume Swap page.
  • Creatures of the Night - There's no better way to celebrate autumn and Halloween than an evening hayride. Our Creatures of the Night hayrides are fun for the whole family and offer a glimpse into the lives of nocturnal animals. This year, head through the hills of Huber Woods Park, Middletown as you help solve "The Mystery of the Missing Pumpkins". Rides are available on Friday and Saturday evenings from October 9-24. Pre-registration and fee are required. Click here for full details.
  • Critters and Jitters - Geared to our younger visitors, these daytime hayrides through Huber Woods Park, Middletown also offer pumpkin picking and a craft. Pre-registration and fee are required. For details, click here
  • Pumpkin Carving & Painting Stations - Decorate your home with a beautifully carved pumpkin this harvest season! We'll provide the pumpkins and the tools, you provide the creativity. Plus, we take care of the mess! Carving will take place on Saturday, October 10 at the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls and at Holmdel Park, Holmdel on Sunday, October 11. Pre-registration and fee are required. For full details, click here
  • Thompson Park Day -
    Thompson Park Day
    This annual family fun event is the perfect way to kick off the autumn season! Held on Sunday, October 18 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., activities include pumpkin painting, a corn maze, rides, wagon rides, arts & crafts, kids' races, contests, entertainment, canoeing, archery, and so much more! Contests include a Scarecrow Contest and the annual Strut Your Mutt Doggie Costume Contest (sponsored by the Friends of the Parks). Admission and parking are free; some activities require tickets ($1 per ticket). For full details, check out our flier.
  • Great Pumpkin Barn Dance - Carve pumpkins and kick up your heels during this family-friendly program at Thompson Park, Lincroft on Saturday, October 24. We'll start by using templates to carve beautiful pumpkins. Then, head to the dance floor for an old-fashioned barn dance! Light refreshments are provided. Pre-registration and fee are required. Click here for more information. 
  • All Hallows Eve Gala - Don your best costume and get ready for this dance party for all ages at the Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls on Friday, October 30. You'll have a fantastic time dancing under the lights of our disco ball. You can also decorate your own Jack-O-Lantern and enjoy some tasty treats. Pre-registration and fee are required. Click here for more information.
 Looking for more ideas for fun in the parks this autumn? Check out our Fall Activities page for more ideas.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Spotlight: Special People United to Ride

There's something amazing about how a bond with an animal can offer therapeutic benefits to those who need it. Special People United to Ride (SPUR) offers this through horsemanship for people with a variety of disabilities including: ADD, ADHD, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Blindness, Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Developmental Delays, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Scoliosis, Spinal Cord Injuries, and Tourette’s Syndrome. 

Each person who comes to SPUR is unique with his or her own special needs. SPUR, a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, provides these individuals the opportunity to achieve personal goals through therapeutic horsemanship. A dedicated group of individuals work together to staff the equestrian center year round. Instructors are certified by PATH International, the governing body of therapeutic horsemanship. In addition to the staff, over 100 volunteers help with programs serving more than 200 students with disabilities annually. Sunnyside’s professional team and trained volunteers help students work to improve self-esteem, social skills, balance, muscle tone and posture, and to process sensory messages sent to the brain. Riding a horse provides a variety of physical, emotional, and psychological stimuli. 

Current Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies include: 
  • Individual Therapeutic Horseback Riding Lessons
  • ARIES Group Therapeutic Horseback Riding Lessons
  • SPUR's Equine Environment for Learning Program
  • Equine Facilitated Wellness Programs
  • Wounded Warrior Veterans Program and SPUR sponsored Horses for Heroes Veterans Program
The Monmouth County Park System's Sunnyside Recreation Area in Middletown provides a safe environment for SPUR's participants within its beautiful Equestrian Center. With an 18 stall stable, an outdoor instructional ring, and an 80’ x 200’ indoor instructional arena, SPUR has the ability to offer therapeutic riding year-round.

Donations to SPUR make it possible to invite all ages with a range of disabilities to participate regardless of their economic status. Donations can be made to SPUR by clicking here

** And don't miss another valuable chance to help SPUR during 5% Day at Whole Foods Market of Middletown and Marlboro on Wednesday, September 16. Five percent of the net sales on this special Community Giving Day will be donated to provide Therapeutic Equestrian Riding Scholarships for students and veterans with disabilities. **

For more information on SPUR, visit

Monday, August 31, 2015

Autumn is Approaching

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

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August Staff Spotlight: Lauren Gerber, Therapeutic Recreation Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 6, 2015

End Your Summer with Park System Fun!

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

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

We'll see you in the parks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Fair is Coming, the Fair is Coming!

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

July Staff Spotlight: Christina Carlson of the Creative Arts Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Parks & Recreation Month

Did you know July is Parks and Recreation Month? Started in 1985 by the National Recreation and Park Association, Park & Recreation Month celebrates the importance of parks and recreation for the world. The Monmouth County Park System is celebrating this July by doing what we do best – offering exciting recreation programs and providing outstanding facilities for our visitors to get out and have fun!

With a variety of parks and golf courses as well as a family campground, the Park System provides countless ways for visitors of all ages to keep active, happy and healthy throughout the summer. You can bring your children to one of our 10 playgrounds, take a walk through the beautiful gardens of Deep Cut, explore the nature of the Manasquan Reservoir with a Naturalist-led boat tour, or spend some quiet time together with a picnic in any one of our over 30 park areas.

Already open for the season, Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, Long Branch, offers everything visitors need to enjoy a day at the beach during the summer: snack bar, sheltered eating areas, volleyball area, outdoor showers and changing areas, and areas for surfing. Lifeguards are on duty daily through Labor Day. Both daily and seasonal park access passes can be purchased. The site also offers Tony's Place, a universally accessible playground for children of all abilities.

Prefer teeing off instead of hitting the waves? Head to a county course! With eight Park System golf courses at six locations throughout the county, golfers are sure to find one to suit their level of play. Hominy Hill Golf Course in Colts Neck is perfect for golfers looking for a challenge while Bel-Aire’s executive style courses are great for a quick round. Other courses are Charleston Springs in Millstone, Howell Park in Howell, Pine Brook in Manalapan, and Shark River in Neptune.

While the Park System offers many golf courses, there is only one Sprayground and it can be found at in Colts Neck. This popular water-enhanced playground is open seven days a week through September 13 from 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on weekends (weather permitting). Make a day of it by bringing a picnic and relaxing under a nearby tree and adding a visit to the popular Challenger Place playground for children of all abilities.

If one day isn't long enough, plan a family camping trip at beautiful Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. With its playgrounds, trails, fishing and boating, Turkey Swamp Park’s campground is family-friendly and affordable. Rowboats, canoes and paddleboats are available for rent at the park’s lake. Most Saturday evenings throughout the summer, campers are invited to enjoy Campfire Programs that include stories, games and tasty treats. Call 732-462-7286 for more information or to make reservations.

Turkey Swamp Park isn’t the only park where you can rent a boat. The Manasquan Reservoir has rowboats and kayaks available for rent daily. Or check out the canoe rentals at Thompson Park's Marlu Lake, offered on select weekends and Wednesday evenings. For a schedule, click here.

Discover the nature of the bay with free Summer Seining at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, now through August 21. Park System Naturalists guide their seine net through the water to give families a chance view the variety of fish, crabs and other critters found in Sandy Hook Bay. Participants should wear closed-toed shoes and sunblock. Drinking water is recommended.

And of course there are always a wide variety of excellent programs to get you out in the parks as well. Check out our Calendar of Events for drop-in activities or sign up for any of our programs listed in our Program Directory.
Dorbrook Recreation Area

Show us how your having fun in the Monmouth County parks this July! Find us on Instagram at @MonCountyParks and share a photo of you and your family and/or friends enjoying one of the parks! Be sure to use the hashtags #MonmouthCountyParks and #JulyPRM30.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Nature Filled Summer Awaits Your Family!

Don't let your children get bored this summer! Offer them the excitement of nature fun instead. This summer your county parks are offering a variety of drop-in programs that will get your children both learning and having fun discovering the nature that surrounds us. Check out these great opportunities to take advantage of this summer:


Don’t know what to do on a weekday this summer break? Why not seek out some nature fun with Enviro-Quest? Start in the parking lot and follow the Enviro-Quest signs to where the Park System Naturalist is waiting. Once there join in activities, crafts or games for 30-60 minutes of nature fun. Activities may include meeting a live animal, finding hidden treasure, discovering incredible parts of a flower, creating artwork with natural materials, or participating in a fun nature themed game. You bring your sense of adventure and we'll bring the rest! FREE!
Thursday, July 2 at 2 p.m.  
Shark River Park, Wall - Start in the main entrance parking lot off of Schoolhouse Road.
Friday, July 10 at 11 a.m.  
Thompson Park, Lincroft - Start in the Old Orchard parking lot.
Monday, July 13 at 2 p.m. 
Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown - Start in the parking lot.
Wednesday, July 22 at 2 p.m.  
Manasquan Reservoir, Howell - Start in the Visitor Center Parking lot.
Friday, July 31 at 11 a.m.  
Sunnyside Recreation Area, Lincroft - Start in the Equestrian Center parking lot.
Thursday, August 6 at 11 a.m.    
Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold - Start in the parking lot nearest to the Shelter Building.
Monday, August 10 at 11 a.m.  
Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck - Start in the parking lot near the basketball courts.
Thursday, August 20 at 2 p.m.  
Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth - Start in the parking lot.
Wednesday, August 26 at 11 a.m.  
Charleston Springs Golf Course, Millstone - Start in the Stonebridge Trail parking area off of Stagecoach Road.
Monday, August 31 at 2 p.m.  
Holmdel Park, Holmdel -  Start in the Forest Edge parking lot.

Bayshore Summer Drop-In Programs

Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth

Summer Seining

Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays through August 21 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Discover a variety of fish, crabs, and other creatures of the bay as we pull a 30' seine net though the calm waters of Sandy Hook Bay. It will be a fun time for everyone as we discover what lives in the bay. Closed-toe shoes are required. Meet on the beach. Open to all ages, under 18 with adult, the program is designed for individuals and families, not groups. Sunscreen and drinking water are recommended for all attending the program.
Program runs weather permitting. For more information, please call Bayshore Waterfront Park at 732-787-3033, ext. 2#.

Make a Fun Fish Print

We have lots of paint so why not make a colorful fish print of a rubber sea star, flounder, skate and more to take home. Fish printing, the art of Gyotaku, dates back to Japan over 100 years ago. Anglers made fish prints to record their catches and to save information on fish biology. Why not try it yourself to see what you can discover.
From 3-3:45 p.m. on:
  • Monday, June 29
  • Wednesday, July 8
  • Wednesday, August 12
  • Wednesday, August 26 

Seashell Painting

Have you ever come home from the day at the beach with a collection of shells you didn’t know what to do with? Why not paint them? We will supply the paint and brushes. Bring your own shells or feel free to use ours to make a unique and attractive coastal attraction. It will be a shell-spectacular time! 
From 3-3:45 p.m. on:
  • Thursday, July 9 
  • Monday, August 10
  • Monday, August 24
  • Thursday, August 27

Tidal Tuesdays  

Tuesdays, June 30-September 1 at 11 a.m.
Looking for some Tuesday fun by the shore this summer? Stop by the Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area Activity Center in Manasquan and join a Park System Naturalist to discover exciting things about nature and our coastal habitats. Each week take part in a different activity such as meeting creatures living in the water that we find in our seine net or creating crafts from natural materials found along the shore. Programs run for about 30-60 minutes. For details on the activity for the week, please call 732-751-9453.

Roving Park System Naturalist

Join our Roving Park System Naturalist for a walk in a beautiful county park and learn about seasonal points of interest. Feel free to join in the walk and ask questions.  The schedule for this FREE activity is as follows:  
  • Friday, July 10 at 8 a.m. in Crosswicks Creek Park, Upper Freehold. Meet in the parking lot.
  • Friday, July 24 at 8 a.m. in Holmdel Park, Holmdel. Meet in the Longstreet Farm parking lot.
  • Sunday, August 30 at 2 p.m. in Perrineville Lake Park, Millstone. Meet in the parking lot.
  • Friday, September 11 at 9 a.m. in Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. Meet in the main parking lot.
  • Monday, September 21 at 4 p.m. in Weltz Park, Oakhurst. Meet in the parking lot.  
  • Friday, October 2 at 10 a.m. in Huber Woods Park, Middletown. 
  • Sunday, October 25 at 1 p.m. in Big Brook Park, Marlboro. Meet in the parking lot.
  • Monday, November 2 at 9 a.m. along Hominy Hill Path (adjacent to Hominy Hill Golf Course, Colts Neck).  Meet in the parking area on Matthews Road.
  • Sunday, November 22 at 1 p.m. in Hartshorne Woods Park. Meet at the Rocky Point entrance in Highlands.

Looking for an adventure you can have on your own? Check out our Safari Backpacks! These backpacks contain all you need to fill your self-guided nature walk with adventure and exploration! Use of a backpack is free but you must leave your valid NJ driver's license with the docent.  
Backpacks are available on a first come, first served basis at the following locations:
Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell  
Explore the reservoir with your family and friends throughout the year as the contents of these backpacks change seasonally. For more information, please call 732-751-9453.
Huber Woods Environmental Center, Middletown    
Turn your walk through the woods into an adventure by choosing a Pre-K, Forest or Meadow themed backpack and experience the park in a new way. For more information, please call 732-872-2670.
Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown   
Set out on an exploration of the gardens and discover new ways of seeing living and non-living features of the gardens using these Garden Safari Backpacks. Backpacks available in the Horticultural Center. For more information, please call 732-671-6050.