Monday, July 8, 2019

Summer 2019 Bucket List

Summer is officially in full swing! As you plan your weeks of fun in the sun, don't forget to add your Monmouth County parks to the mix. With a wide variety of Park System locations, programs and events, summertime can't be beat in the parks.

Plus, by attending at least FIVE of the activities or events listed below, you can win a free group archery program! Those interested in entering our Bucket List Challenge, start by filling out the form at Then, as you enjoy any of the activities listed below this summer, take a photo and post it to social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), making sure that your post and/or social media page is public so we can see it. Full details on the contest are available on the Bucket List Challenge form.

Now, onto a summer of fun in your Monmouth County parks:

Safari Backpacks

Found at several locations, these backpacks contain all you need to fill your self-guided nature walk with adventure and exploration. Use of backpacks are free, but require leaving a New Jersey driver's license with our docent. Backpacks are on a first come, first served basis at the following locations: Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell; Huber Woods Environmental Center, Middletown; and Deep Cut Gardens Horticultural Center, Middletown. FREE!
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo with your Safari Backpack while out in the park. 

Seining Along Sandy Hook Bay

This popular summer program takes place on the shores of Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth. Held from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through August 24, this free program for families is a great way to explore nature while having fun on the beach. Our Park System Naturalists pull a long seine net along the edge of the Sandy Hook Bay and pull in a variety of critters from fish to crabs as we learn what lives in the bay. (Program cancelled in inclement weather.) FREE!
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo as you discover what lives in the Sandy Hook Bay.

Tidal Tuesdays

Held every Tuesday at Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area, Manasquan at 11 a.m., our Park System Naturalists will pull a seine net through the waters off the cove to see what creatures we can find, such as fish, crabs and other sea creatures. (Program cancelled in inclement weather.) FREE!
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo checking out one of the found critters.

Monmouth County Fair

Presented by the Monmouth County Park System in cooperation with the Monmouth County 4-H Association, the Monmouth County Fair is a county-wide event for all ages to enjoy. Coming to East Freehold Showgrounds on Wednesday-Sunday, July 24-28, the Fair offers rides, entertainment, live musical performances, home & garden competitions and demonstrations, 4-H shows and exhibits, living history displays, and so much more! Admission to enter is $8.00 per person, children 12 and under enter for free; parking is free. Fair hours for 2019 are Wednesday-Friday, July 24-26 from 5-11 p.m.; Saturday, July 27 from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Sunday, July 28 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For full details on this year's event, visit
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo in front of the butterfly house in the Monmouth County Park System Exhibit Tent. 

Take a Paddle

Get out on the water with a boat rental! Getting out on the water is just another way to view the beauty of the parks. Kayaks, rowboats and electric motor powered rowboats are available daily at the Manasquan Reservoir, Howell; kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are available daily at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold; and canoes are available on select weekends at Thompson Park, Lincroft. Lifejackets are provided and are required to be worn with all boat rentals. For full details and rental pricing, click here.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo with your boat rental or paddle. 

Roving Golfzilla

Take a shot at Golfzilla, a 20' tall, 18' wide inflatable waiting for you to attempt to hit foam or tennis golf balls through its hands, feet, or mouth using plastic SNAG clubs. This is a non-instructional program, though staff will be on hand to teach the basics of the golf swing if needed. All equipment is provided during this FREE drop-in program. See if you can sink a shot on Saturday, July 13 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Dorbrook Recreation Area, Colts Neck, or Saturday, August 24 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Big Brook Park, Marlboro.
For our #BucketListChallenge, get a photo taking a shot with Golfzilla.

Celebrate the Anniversary of Woodstock

The whole family is sure to have a groovy time during this musical celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. Held on Saturday, August 24 from 6-9 p.m. at Thompson Park, Lincroft, visitors can sit back and relax during live musical performances at our Theater Barn. Lawn games will be available to challenge family and friends. Or, create something fun like a tie-dye T-shirt, peace pendant necklace, or flower crown (while supplies last). Entry and parking are free, but some activities may have a fee.
For our #BucketListChallenge, get a photo near the Theater Barn stage.


Thursdays of summer break just got more fun! Our Enviro-Quest stations change parks each week. During scheduled dates, visitors can go to the week's location to follow the Enviro-Quest signs and join in on nature activities, crafts or games for 30-60 minutes of fun. For upcoming dates and locations, click here.
For our #BucketListChallenge, get a photo in front of one of our Enviro-Quest signs. 

Run, Jump, Slide!

With playgrounds at nine Park System locations, there are plenty of places for children to have fun, exercise, and socialize. Playground equipment is a perfect way for kids to get moving, with climbing equipment that exercises the legs, bars to exercise the arms and shoulders, and jungle gyms to exercise the entire body. For a full list of parks with playgrounds, click here.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo by one of the slides at any of our playgrounds.

Take a Step Back in Time

Learning from the past is the key to our future. The Monmouth County Park System offers two historic sites to browse and learn about local history. At Historic Walnford in Upper Freehold, visitors can appreciate over 200 years of social, industrial and agricultural history reflected through five generations of the Waln family. At Historic Longstreet Farm in Holmdel, you'll be taken back to the 1890s while experiencing what life as it was in rural Monmouth County. Costumed interpreters show both daily and seasonal agricultural and domestic activities from working with the farm animals to growing vegetables in the garden.
For our #BucketListChallenge, at Historic Walnford take a photo in a rocking chair on the porch of the Waln house, and at Historic Longstreet Farm take a photo with the vegetable garden behind you.

Spend a Night Under the Stars

Unplug and unwind with family or friends with camping at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. Your days can be spent fishing or boating at the lake, playing on the playground, and hiking the trails. And when the sun goes down, sit around the campfire with stories and tales while roasting marshmallows or other snacks. You'll leave more relaxed and take home lifelong memories.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo around the campfire or near your tent, camper or cabin.

Stop & Smell the Roses

If you haven't been to visit Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown, there's no time like the present! This 54-acre site is filled with gardens and greenhouses planned as a living catalog of cultivated and native plant materials to be observed through the seasons. The focal point of the Parterre features 52 varieties of roses with over 180 bushes. A walk through the gardens is sure to offer a sense of relaxation surrounded by beauty. Be sure to also check out the lily pond filled with koi and goldfish, the rockery with its three cascading pools, and the All-America Selections Display Garden.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo inside the pergola at the end of the Parterre.

Soccer & Golf Combined

FootGolf is a unique sport that combines elements of both soccer and golf. Laid out on a traditional golf course, players take aim at large 21-inch cups, trying to make par. FootGolf courses are located at Bel-Aire Golf Course, Wall (9-hole course), and at Pine Brook Golf Course, Manalapan (18-hole course). For full details on this great sport, including fees, visit our FootGolf page.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo near one of the course flags. 

Take a Walk, Hike, Bike or Run

With 140 miles of trails throughout the Park System, you're sure to find one (or more) that suit your needs. From paved to challenging, trails are a terrific way to combine exercise and the outdoors, whether you're taking a leisurely walk through Thompson Park with friends or family or a challenging mountain bike ride through Hartshorne Woods Park.
For our #BucketListChallenge, take a photo near one of our trail head signs or kiosks. 

No matter what your plans for the summer, we hope you'll add some of your favorite parks into the mix. Need more ideas on where to visit, just head to to learn about all the parks you can explore throughout the year.

We'll see you in the parks!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Caught in the Crosshairs

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These words, written by Thomas Jefferson, sent a shockwave around the world as Colonial America shrugged off their distant rulers for a leadership of their own control. The idea of an American democracy was in its infancy on July 4, 1776. The people of America had no idea of the uncharted wilderness they were embarking into. Now, 243 years later, the evidence of the conflict that created the United States of America can still be found all around us. However, in Monmouth County, the situation was less of a revolution and more of a civil war. Neighbors and families were split with their loyalties creating terrible conflicts. The base for those loyal to the British (Loyalists) was Sandy Hook and for those in favor of the revolution (Whigs) was Freehold. Caught in the crosshairs of this split was the Seabrook-Wilson House.
19th Century Painting of the Seabrook-Wilson House

At the time, this Bay Shore property was owned by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Seabrook, a staunch Whig. From using his boat as a privateering vessel on Sandy Hook Bay, to serving in the New Jersey General Assembly, Lt. Col. Seabrook focused his efforts on defeating the British. This made his house, right across the bay from Sandy Hook, the perfect target for Loyalist revenge. On multiple occasions throughout the war, Loyalists launched raids on his home, once shooting a cannonball at the roof and once stabbing Seabrook’s son, Stephen. Luckily, Stephen Seabrook survived the attack. Other times, Loyalists stole the Seabrook family’s livestock and food. The conflict would continue until the end of the war in 1783. However, like many Monmouth County residents at the time, the Seabrook family's life was turned upside-down.

For those that backed the Loyalists, the defeat of the British meant a troubling choice: return home or leave forever. A mass exodus ensued from the newly established nation. This included many former slaves that saw the British as an escape from bondage. In the end, many of these Loyalists went to Canada, Sierra Leone, and Britain to establish new lives. For those that chose to return, it would take a long time for the wounds of the Revolution to heal. Many homes had been confiscated and others destroyed. Even attacks of revenge occurred occasionally after the end of the Revolution.

Like for the nation, for the Seabrook family the American Revolution was merely the infancy of their story. To learn more about the history of one of the oldest houses in the region, visit Bayshore Waterfront Park on Sundays from 9-11 a.m. (now through October 20) for tours with a Park System Historian. The house is also open on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. for informal, self-guided tours (now through October 27).

Seabrook-Wilson House Today

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Top Spots for Tourists

It's National Tourism Week! Whether you're visiting the area or a Monmouth County native with friends and family coming in from out of town, make a point to head to a Monmouth County park. Many visitors to New Jersey are amazed when they visit our local county parks that provide such beauty and tranquility, among a vast amount of amenities.

The following are the top parks visitors to our area should check out...

Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown

Throughout the year, Deep Cut Gardens offers beauty through 54 acres of gardens and greenhouses. Through springtime, it's the perfect place to see the season come into bloom, often starting with tulips in April as well as the colors of daffodils, violets, primrose and so many others. Mid-June brings to bloom 52 varieties of roses with over 180 bushes in the Rose Parterre. The All American Garden displays an expert selection of flowers, vegetables and herbs. Year round, the greenhouse is home to a variety of tropical plants including hibiscus, bromeliads and orchids. It's a top spot for garden enthusiasts and local photographers, as well as those just looking to add some gorgeous scenery to their day.

Holmdel Park, Holmdel

Perfect for a relaxing day in the park with family and friends, Holmdel Park is one of Monmouth County's most popular locations for active recreation and nature appreciation. The park features a lake for fishing, picnic areas, four tennis courts, two playgrounds, and ten miles of trails. During the winter months, it's a hot spot for sledding and ice skating. It's also home to the David C. Shaw Arboretum, which features hundreds of species and varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs, and Historic Longstreet Farm, a living history site that transports visitors back to farm life in the 1890s. With so much to discover at Holmdel Park, you'll find yourself coming back again and again.

Manasquan Reservoir, Howell

With the highest yearly visitation out of all the Monmouth County Park System sites, the Manasquan Reservoir offers beauty, exercise, and nature education. The 1,208-acre park is the perfect spot for fishing and also features a 5-mile perimeter trail that's terrific for walking, hiking or bicycling; a 1-mile nature trail; a playground; and boating rentals. The Environmental Center provides visitors of all ages a chance to learn about wetlands ecology and wildlife as well as habitat protection (be sure to say hello to our informative staff of Naturalists!). Boat tours of the Reservoir are available to get a glimpse of nature from the water and are offered on weekends and holidays from May 4-September 2; Wednesdays from July 3-August 28; and Friday evenings on June 7, July 5 and August 2 (weather and water level dependent). Bicycles are available in the Visitor Center lot on weekends from May 10-19, daily from May 24-September 2, and weekends only again from September 7-October 27. Schedules and fee information for rentals and boat tours are available on our website.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, Long Branch

Whether it's the perfect summer day at the beach or a stroll along the shore any time of the year, this Park System site is a definite local favorite. During the summer, it's a terrific place to swim, sun and surf offering a list of amenities that include a snack bar, sheltered eating areas, volleyball area, outdoor showers, changing areas, guarded swimming, and designated areas for surfing. A reservable picnic tent is also available for groups hosting small events (maximum of 50 people). Tony's Place, a universally accessible playground for all abilities, was designed with its shore location in mind and is a favorite for our younger visitors. And the Skateplex is loved by local skateboarders for its various ramps, stairs, planters and stainless steel grind rails. (Park access passes for Seven Presidents are required on weekends and holidays from May 25-June 9, and daily from June 15-September 2 - see pricing information.)

Your Monmouth County parks offer over 30 sites to visit throughout the year. If you have friends or family heading coming to visit or you want more information to keep on hand, call us at 732-842-4000, ext. 4312, to request a Parks Guide to help you navigate nearby parks that suit your needs.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

National Walking Day 2019

The first Wednesday of April is designated as National Walking Day, started in 2007 by the American Heart Association to remind people of the health benefits of walking. Adding a simple walk into your routine is an easy way to get active. "Research has shown that walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease," informs the American Heart Association. Additional health benefits include:
  • maintaining a healthy weight;
  • preventing conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes; 
  • strengthening bones and muscles;
  • improving mood;
  • and improving balance and coordination. 
Adding a walk to your daily or weekly routine is easy to work into your schedule with so many Monmouth County parks with gorgeous trails. You can take a walk during your lunch break, or head out as a family or with friends after work or on weekends. If you're brining along your four-legged friend(s), please remember that dogs are required to remain leashed within your Monmouth County parks.

Easy rated trails are perfect for a walk as they are short and well-maintained. Here are just a few Monmouth County parks to check out that have trails marked as "easy":

Clayton Park, Upper Freehold

You'll feel miles away from the hustle and bustle in this rustic 450-acre park. The 0.7-mile Glen Trail loop runs through the heart of Clayton Forest. Access to this trail is from the Clayton Park Emley's Hill Road parking lot. 

Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown

A walk through Deep Cut, especially in spring and summer, is probably the most colorful walk you'll find in the county. For a shorter walk, head from the main parking lot down to the Display Garden, then head back toward the Display Greenhouse and walk through to see the orchids, succulents, bonsai and more. From there, walk through the Shard Garden and toward the Rose Parterre to check out the 54 varieties of rose bushes (at peak bloom in June) and the pergola at the end of the garden. Head back and be sure to go past the Lily Pond and check out the water lilies, bog plants, koi and goldfish. Looking for a longer walk? Check out the unpaved walkways throughout the park that will take you through other natural areas of Deep Cut Gardens including the Meadow Walk, a woodland meadow featuring four groves of trees: chestnut, oak, maple and ash.

Hartshorne Woods Park, Atlantic Highlands/Highlands

This 794-acre site overlooking the Navesink River is well-known by hikers and mountain bikers for having the most extensive and challenging trails in the Park System. But, there are a handful of terrific easy trails at Hartshorne Woods Park too! From the Buttermilk Valley entrance, off of Navesink Avenue, you'll find the King's Hollow Trail, a 0.7-mile trail through oak trees and wildflowers, and the Candlestick Trail, a 1.5-mile loop with abundant mountain laurels and wooded overlook. Up at the Rocky Point section, accessed from Portland Road, the Battery Lewis and Lewis Overlook trails offer the perfect opportunity to check out Historic Battery Lewis and see some magnificent views of the river.

Hominy Hill Golf Course, Colts Neck

Hominy Hill Golf Course Trail
Yes, this may be the site of one of New Jersey's #1 public golf courses, but did you know Hominy Hill Golf Course also has a trail accessed from a lot off of Matthews Road? Though rated as moderate due to the more rustic conditions, this 1-mile trail meanders through serene woods and is great if you're looking to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Please note that for safety reasons, trail users are not permitted on the golf course.

Manasquan Reservoir, Howell

Known for its gorgeous surroundings and 5-mile perimeter trail, the Manasquan Reservoir is also home to a short nature trail. The 0.5-mile Bracken Trail can be accessed from the Environmental Center parking lot and offers informational panels describing the plants and wildlife found along the water. After your walk, stop in at the Environmental Center to learn about the local wildlife as well as the importance of water in our world.

Weltz Park, Oakhurst

Another terrific, nature-filled walk awaits at beautiful Weltz Park. The 0.9-mile Sweetbriar Trail begins at the West Park Avenue parking lot and meanders through this undeveloped park filled with meadows. To make your walk a bit longer, you can add the 0.4-mile Eastern Loop that connects to Sweetbriar. Keep your eyes peeled for birds and butterflies at this serene park site.

These are just some of your Monmouth County parks to enjoy a relaxing walk that will add to your fitness routine. Other great parks with trails rated as easy are Big Brook Park, Marlboro; Henry Hudson Trail; Holmdel Park, Holmdel; Huber Woods Park, Middletown; Shark River Park, Wall; Sunnyside Recreation Area, Lincroft; Tatum Park, Middletown; Thompson Park, Lincroft; Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold; and the Union Transportation Trail, Upper Freehold. For a full list of our parks with trails, click here.

Always be sure to pick up a park brochure before you head out on your walk so you can follow the trail map. Or, download the ESRI mobile app that offers interactive trail maps to help guide your way.

"Walking". American Heart Association.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

From Horse Breeding Farm to County Park

“They’re off and running folks!”

While these iconic words can still be heard at Monmouth Park Racetrack, the role of horse racing in Monmouth County actually goes much deeper. Although the sounds of galloping hooves are no longer heard at Thompson Park (aside from a few recreational trail riders), for nearly 100 years the park was used to breed and train thoroughbred racehorses.

Within the park, three major periods of the farm’s history have been preserved. From its colonial beginnings, this land was used as a rural farm. The Lloyd family purchased the farm around the time of the American Revolution. Thomas Lloyd would go on to build the largest house in Middletown on this property in 1786. This house and two barns from the Lloyd period still stand in the park today and are excellent reminders of Monmouth County’s early agricultural history.

The property continued to be used as a rural farm
until just after the Civil War, when a new craze began to sweep the northeast: horse racing. The “sport of kings” was introduced to the region by the southern gentry. For many wealthy businessmen in the area, they did not wish to merely watch these races; they wanted a part of the action! Members of the affluent landowning class began to buy horses of well-bred lineage, to breed horses on stud farms, and to train them to race. These elites became known as “Turfmen” and New Jersey became an ideal place for them.

Not only was New Jersey close to New York City, there was also plenty of flat, open land and a number of racetracks nearby. One of the masterminds behind the American Turf was David D. Withers. He purchased the rural farm in Lincroft and transformed it into Brookdale Stud Farm. Across the grounds, Withers began building new, large barns for the breeding of his horses. These barns remain the heart of Thompson Park today, serving as the Theatre and Activity Barns. The impressive 40-stall barn at the center of the park highlights the extent of his operation. Following Withers, the farm was purchased by Colonel William Payne Thompson in 1893.

At the turn of the century, Brookdale Farm saw yet another transformation. The Thompsons
Regret, the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby, was trained
at Brookdale Farm.
renovated Wither’s house into a magnificent Colonial Revival mansion. Despite an early involvement in horse racing, the Thompsons soon began leasing the stables to others, allowing the Colonel to enjoy Brookdale as a country estate. When his son, Lewis, and daughter-in-law, Geraldine Thompson, received the property, they chose to use it as their permanent residence. During these years, famed trainers like James Rowe and Harry Payne Whitney worked the Stud Farm, producing a slew of champions and bringing national acclaim to the establishment. The first filly to win the Kentucky Derby, Regret, was bred and trained right here at Brookdale Farm.

By 1940, the heart of horse racing had moved south to the warmer temperatures of Kentucky, where horses could be trained year round. Despite this change, the Thompsons continued to play an active role in New Jersey society as philanthropists and politicians. Geraldine sustained this generosity in her donation of 215 acres to the Monmouth County Park System in 1968. Today guests can experience the serene beauty of Thompson Park as they walk the one mile Track Loop, where the horses used to train. Even though the horses are gone, visitors can still get a sense of history from the site and the impressive restored buildings across the park. For more information visit the exhibit located inside the Thompson Park Visitor Center. The first floor of the Visitor Center is open to the public on weekdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Thompson Park