Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Activities in the Parks

When the snow begins to fall or the ice begins to freeze, there's nothing better than getting outside to enjoy some fun family time. And the parks want to be sure our residents have some wonderful and safe places to enjoy their wintry excitement. Here are some of the activities you can enjoy in the winter months when the weather is just right...

  • SLEDDING: When at least two inches of snow has fallen, we all know it's time to head to the sledding hill at beautiful Holmdel Park, Holmdel. This supervised sledding area is open when two or more inches of snow cover the hill and is often groomed by Park System Rangers to assure it is safe and there aren't any rough patches coming through. Conditions permitting, normal sledding hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and  8 a.m.-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Call Holmdel Park at 732-946-9562 for current sledding conditions or check for updates on our Winter Activities web page. 
  • ICE SKATING: Lace up those skates, because when the conditions are right and the ice is at least five inches thick, skating may be available at Holmdel, Shark River and Turkey Swamp Parks. It normally takes at a week to 10 days of subfreezing temperatures to produce safe skating conditions. When the ice is considered safe, skating hours are from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Please Note: Skating is considered safe when the "Skating Today" signs are posted. You can also find the most updated information on our Winter Activities web page. 
  • ICE FISHING: If your favorite wintry sport involves a rod and reel instead of a sled or skates, you can drop a line at the Manasquan Reservoir, Thompson Park, and Turkey Swamp Park when ice fishing conditions are right. See a Park System Ranger for the designated ice fishing area and times in each park. The Winter Activities page will offer currently open locations as well.
  • CROSS-COUNTRY SKI AND SNOWSHOE RENTALS: Open when the snowy conditions permit, the Ski Hut at Thompson Park, Lincroft (located next to the Three Barns Parking Area), offers rentals of cross-country ski and snowshoe equipment. When the snowy conditions are right, normal hours and pricing are:
    Weekday Rentals      
    Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Thursday & Friday from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (headlamps are recommended for evenings)
    Weekend Rentals     
    Saturday & Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
    Daily Rental Pricing     
    Ski Equipment: $15 per set
    Snowshoes: $10 per pair
    Skis and/or snowshoes are available on a first come, first served basis.
    For more information or questions regarding equipment rentals, please call 732-842-4000, ext. 4312.

    Cross-country skiers will be thrilled to learn that the Park System will be grooming trails for cross-country skiing at Thompson Park when there is enough snow and conditions are favorable. (Six inches or more of snow.) Here's the Cross Country Ski Trail Map for Thompson Park

    Prefer the path less taken? You can also cross-country ski and snowshoe at Clayton, Hartshorne Woods, Holmdel, Huber Woods, Shark River, Tatum, and Turkey Swamp Parks. Please stay on designated, marked trails. Cross-country skiing is available during regular park hours from 8 a.m. to dusk. Refer to the park pages for trail and parking lot locations.  
    Please check this website for grooming info and snow condition updates. 
These are just some of the fun things you can do in the parks as we enjoy the last half of winter. You can also visit any of the parks to play in the snow or build a snowman. Many winter programs with the parks are also still available. Check out our Winter Program Directory for upcoming programs and drop-ins in February. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Upcoming Programs to Warm Up Your Winter!

Looking for something to do that will brighten an otherwise gloomy, cold winter day? The Park System can help with that! We have plenty of programs planned that will get you out of the house and learning something new or enhancing a skill you already have. Take a moment to check out these exciting and fun programs and events:

  • Polar Bear Hiking Series on Sundays, January 25-March 1 from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. will take you to trails you may have never experienced in the Park System. Each session will visit a different park, such as Huber Woods Park, Tatum Park, Clayton Park and more! If there's snow we'll enjoy the fun of trying out our snowshoes! Pre-registration and fee are required. (Various Park System locations)
  • Seashore Open House on Sunday, January 25 from 1-4 p.m. gives a little bit of summer to a cold winter's day. Held at the Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Activity Center, Long Branch you and your family will enjoy hands-on activities, aquatic animal displays and more. FREE!
  • "Split Pea" Cross-Country Ski Clinic on Thursday, January 29 from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. will teach you the basics of cross-country skiing. Nature not providing us any snow? We'll be prepared with our ski mats! Pre-registration and fee are required. (Thompson Park, Lincroft)
  • Super Bowl Appetizers on Thursday, January 29 from 6-9 p.m. will get you prepared for your upcoming Super Bowl party by offering a variety of tasty recipes like Cheesy Wontons, Lime Infused Pulled Pork, Cheese Puffs and more! Pre-registration and fee are required. (Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck)
  • Sweetheart Clay Ornament on Friday, January 30 from 4-6 p.m. offers visitors a chance to make a special valentine for their sweetheart. Creations will be fired and ready for pick-up before Valentine's Day. FREE!
  • Bedtime Stories on Friday, January 30 from 6-7 p.m. offers families a fun evening to enjoy a snack while listening to a bedtime story. All ages are welcome as we wear our pajamas to settle down to head home and enjoy a restful night's sleep. Pre-registration and fee are required. (Holmdel Park, Holmdel)
  • Outdoor Cross-Country Ski Clinic on Sunday, February 1 from 1-3 p.m. offers the chance to learn the basics of cross-country skiing so you can ski with confidence when you venture out on your own this winter and in years to come. Pre-registration and fee are required. (Thompson Park, Lincroft)
  • Winter Full Moon Walk on Tuesday, February 3 from 5:15-6:15 p.m. will have us out exploring the trails under the light of a full moon. Pre-registration and fee are required. (Manasquan Reservoir, Howell)
  • Winter Reservoir Bird Walk on Sunday, February 8 from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. takes us for a leisurely walk along the 5-mile perimeter trail as we search for birds spending their winter with us. Pre-registration and fee are required. (Manasquan Reservoir, Howell)

These are just some of the programs awaiting you in the parks! For a full list of our winter programs, visit our website

And don't let the winter chill get you too down, spring is slowly approaching. The Park System's Spring Program Directory will be released on Friday, February 6 and is filled with 100 pages of fun events and programs for the entire family!

Monday, January 12, 2015

January Nature Happenings

Have you ever wondered what happens in the world around us as the temperatures plummet? January weather brings all sorts of birds and other animals. Check out the fun and interesting nature happenings going on this wintry month.

Some things to look and listen for during the month:
  • The deep penetrating hoots of courting great horned owls – one of the earliest birds to breed - might be heard in Huber Woods Park, Middletown.
  • Chickadees, crows and blue jays that live in forests.
  • The absence of squirrels as they go into dormancy during the very cold weather.
  • The red fox will grow a thick fur coat during very cold weather and might be see in Thompson Park, Lincroft.
  • The hairy woodpecker’s territorial drumming in the woods.
  • Eagles from northwestern states or Canada – places where there is little ice-free water, a critical habitat requirement-  may join our eagle pairs here in Monmouth County.
  • The chickadee’s territorial call in the woods – phee-bee - might be heard in Clayton Park, Upper Freehold.
  • Black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice sing repeatedly in the morning.
  • Meadow voles (aka field mouse) traveling and breeding in tunnels beneath the snow.
  • Wintering ducks populate the salt ponds.  Bufflehead and goldeneyes feed during the day while scaup and canvasback can be spotted diving for food in shallow salt water around dawn and dusk. 
  • Elders, loons and mergansers might be seen from Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth, as they dive for food close to shore.
During this month:
  • Fish found off the Jersey Shore during January include winter flounder, whiting, blackfish and striped bass.
  • When the days first get longer; owls are establishing territory and foxes are mating.
  • Aquatic invertebrates generally spend the winter quietly as eggs or cysts.
  • As ice forms on lakes and ponds, it limits the amount of light and dissolved oxygen causing most aquatic life in the water to settle at the bottom. 

Some cool facts about January:
  • January 22 is the average start of the January thaw.
  • January is the coldest month of the winter with an average temperature of 31.6° F.  The ground freezes; cranberry bogs and freshwater pond usually freeze; and bays and sounds sometimes freeze.
  • January is a relatively dry month due to the predominance of northwest winds that flow from the dry interior land mass of the continent.
  • Snowfall in January averages about 5” along the Jersey Shore.
  • Days grow longer with an additional 50 minutes of daylight by month’s end.
  • The January’s full moon is called a “Wolf Moon” by some Indian Nations because wolves were more likely to forage for food near their villages and campsites during this cold, dark time of year.

The natural world never sleeps! Be sure to check out our Nature Calendar each month to learn fun facts on what's happening all around us.