Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2007
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2007
Lead the institution of an innovative recycling program in Clayton NJ in collaboration with Recycle Bank of Philadelphia. Recycling increased by 60% in three months, revenues to pay for the program were generated by cost savings from reduction of volume sent to the landfill. Residents received $400,000 in coupons redeemable at local stores based on recycling weight. Three other Gloucester County towns have adopted this program and soon Swedesboro, NJ will also. Other places moving towards whole or partial adoption of this system, who have had representatives meet with Joe Abate to learn from his experience, include New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Cherry Hill and Chicago. “ Joe is our Champion”, says Robert Milligan of Recycle Bank.
As Chair of the Wenonah Environmental Commission he lead the 2 year Restoration of Synott’s Pond which included DEP permitting, surveys, and fundraising. 30 tons of rip-rap was placed by hand. The town contributed $5000 and $15,000 was raised in a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 300 shrubs were also donated by US Fish and Wildlife and planted by volunteers.
“My experience with the Environmental Stewardship program from the very first class to the last surpassed my expectations. I felt as though I should be forking out a lot more money for the program due to the expertise of the instructors who presented to us and the breadth of topics discussed. It was very difficult to narrow my focus because many specialties under the 'environmental' umbrella held my interest, but ultimately I chose to do an invasive removal project at the NJ Audubon Society's Rancocas Nature Center. The experience has been very fulfilling. Also, I'm looking into ways to turn this into a career opportunity by taking courses at a local college.”
Coordinated a stewardship day for a team of corporate volunteers to enhance two parks in Madison and Florham Park in Morris County. Approximately 100 volunteers used materials purchased with a $15,000 donation from the Wyeth Company. Volunteers were recruited with a power point presentation which served as instruction for the would-be volunteers and also served to encourage recruitment. Accomplishments on the stewardship day included: spreading 300 yards of mulch to improve the trails of the Madison park, removing invasive plants over the 1 acre park, setting posts to prepare for the tot lot fence, painting a mural of cartoon fish to enhance the pool building, repairing / staining town paddle tennis courts, spreading 20 yards of mulch at the Borough Hall complex gardens, rebuilding a 200 foot chain link fence. The award ceremony at the end of the project day was attended by the volunteers, the Executive Director of Morris Land Conservancy, the Mayor of Florham Park, the Florham Park Borough Administrator, a Madison Councilman, a Madison Environmental Commission Member and the wife of the person to whom the playground was dedicated. Lastly, the prepared presentation was used to teach the International Association of Professional Administrators about how to arrange volunteer projects for their corporate associates.
Provided leadership to preserve, protect and promote Liberty State Parkas part of the Friends of Liberty State Park though fundraising of $30,000, purchase and planting of trees and shrubs and removal of invasives. Worked with several hundred volunteers from Goldman Sachs and facilitated the creation of a Master Gardener program in the Park to help with maintenance. Positive working relationships were also developed with environmental groups in his region including NJ Audubon, the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the Save Ellis Island Foundation. Leadership and communications skills from the course were used to “hold our ground” in negotiating with developers for additional funds for park improvements.
Co-Chaired Cleanup Day in town with 400 volunteers. Cleaned 23 sites and provided a picnic in the park. Worked with fellow Rutgers Environmental Steward Leon Lakritz on Washington Twp. Environmental Commission, coordinated town Clean-Up Day, collecting 300 bags of rash, gathered business contributions to fund hats and vests for clean-up volunteers, Chaired Environmental Commission last year. Supported Leon Lakritz in delivery of youth stream sampling project.
Established an Environmental Advisory Committee in Westhampton Township and was elected Chairperson. The effort took approximately 8 months and will benefit the town by activities such as advising on the impact of proposed development, promoting open space preservation, promoting recycling and sound solid waste management and advising on protection of water resources.
Input data for South Branch Aquifer Study being conducted by the South Branch Watershed Association. 5 years of well test data has been made rapidly accessible in a computer database, which will allow the residents of 28 communities to identify water quality hot spots and increase public awareness and knowledge of ground water quality. At least one community has stepped up promotion of well testing as a result of knowledge gained through this effort. More outreach is planned.
Gathered and organized biological field data on 23 Passaic River Coalition Land Trust properties, laying groundwork for stewardship plans. “Margaret Fritzes’ (work) enables us to begin to characterize and assess the individual parcels and their resident populations, laying the groundwork for our own monitoring and maintenance efforts, leading to stewardship plans for single or multiple parcels. Her write-ups are being incorporated into a booklet on PRC properties that we will use both internally for our trustees and externally for funders.” said Matthew Polsky of the Passaic River Coalition.
Got appointed to the East Greenwich Township Environmental Commission and elected Chair. In that capacity he assumed responsibility for a portion of a new park which was being developed in the township. Planned inclusion of wildlife habitat using native species. Other activities included writing for bimonthly newsletter, participating in 7 site plan reviews, proposing new environmental review guidelines and organizing an Arbor Day tree planting.
Helped create and manage the Rutgers Environmental Steward web site. Site serves to promote program to new students, convey educational materials to those attending lectures, link Stewards with suitable intern projects, publicize achievements of Stewards, and contributes to the overall efficient operation of the program. The site has had 7,000 unique visitors since 2005.
Served as the volunteer statistician for the New Jersey Avian Migration Project, creating 3 databases to capture the hourly data generated within the season and also to accommodate the dissemination of these records to the Hawk Migration Association of North America, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Cornell University as well as the RPI (Raptor Population Index) being coordinated by Hawk Mountain. New Jersey Avian Migration Project is a stationary monitoring project located at two sites, Duke Farms at Hillsborough, NJ and Chimney Rock at Washington Valley Park, Bridgewater, NJ. The purpose of the project is to monitor the annual fall migration of winged species and record that data to monitor population trends. The data generated is shared with scientists and similar sites across the United States as well as being available to the general public in an effort to ensure the long term health of these migratory populations and also for environmental education and recreational purposes.
As member of Washington Township Environmental Commission and Open Space Committee, organized storm water management seminar for Burlington towns, setup biennial stream sampling, applied the township tree ordinance, well head protection ordinance, organized Earth Day, Community Clean Up Day, a Sneaker recycling drive, a workshop on implementation of county storm water management plan, and encouragement of builders to employ best management practices. He also used contacts made in the course to inform the local school board of assistance to install solar panels. They subsequently successfully sought funding and completed the school solar installation.
Conducted fuel use survey of school bus companies for the Burlington County Division of Solid Wastefor the purpose of determining feasibilityof using methane fuel generated from the county landfill as an alternative fuel for the school bus fleet.
Worked with Hackensack Riverkeeper creating materials for a Clean Water campaign and leading development of a report and public information campaign on problems resulting from Combined Sewer Outflows (CSO) in the Hackensack River. Created powerpoint presentation used by Riverkeeper to outreach to municipalities and the International Association of Riverkeepers. Hackensack as moved forward on eliminating CSOs, having completed work on the River Street bypass. Bayonne is in the process of engineering and permitting to use an old primary treatment plant as a detention device to remove floatables and sediment prior to treatment.
Coordinated the commuting efforts of employees at Pfizer's Morris Plains Facility by organizing carpools, vanpools, encouraging mass transit use and arranging shuttles to the train station for TransOptions, a nonprofit organization committed to improving air quality through traffic mitigation practices.
Planned, promoted and implemented Morris, Warren and Sussex County's first Bike to Work Day. This event attracted over one hundred registrants from 23 companies. The registrants reported that their bicycle commutes would exceed a total of 2600 miles. Three corporations have installed bicycle racks as an outgrowth of interest expressed by their employees in Bike to Work Day. 5 new sponsors were identified. The goal of the promotion was to encourage individuals to give up the car for at least one day and, hopefully, to experience that biking to work is a viable alternative for their commute. The success of this year's event has led to beginning to plan a tri-county Bike to Work Week for next year.
Started to create bluebird nesting habitat on 225 acres in Stephens State Park but expanded to include 6 other locations within the Musconnetcong watershed. A “bluebird trail” has been created for park visitors and youth groups have been engaged in restoring nesting boxes, posts and the wise management of the surrounding habitat. Science curriculum materials are being developed for grades 1-6. A group of river watchers has also been organized who will be trained to assist in protecting the river and surrounding habitats. This is a two year project that has already had significant human impacts and the data below shows the Bluebirds are also doing pretty well too!
2007 Summary: Total Real and Potential Boxes for this Project:
Total Boxes: Total Active Nests: Total Live Young Blue Birds:
Stephens State Park: …………… 40……………………….9……………………..5
Union Cemetery at Stanhope: ……. 16………………………6…………………….18
Waterloo Village…………………. 10………………………2…………5 eggs
Camp Warren …………………… 10………………………2……………………...4
Mt. Olive Public Library………… 06………………………3…………13 eggs.......4
Turkey Brook Park…………………30………………………0……………………...0
Baptist Church Cemetery………… 06………………………0………………………0
TOTAL:………………………….. 118……………………..22………….18 eggs…31
For the Morris Lands Conservancy, he participated in two restoration projects involving removal of bamboo and other invasives and planting of bulbs in the Great Swamp and at the Reeves Arboretum.
For the Passaic River Coalition, he managed the multi-step real estate process to buy land for preservation in the watershed in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Activities for each transaction include walking the site and deciding on its importance, negotiations with the landowner, preparing an environmental assessment, and managing deliverables by appraisers, a surveyor, usually a County, a lawyer, and the State's Green Acres program. The purpose ultimately is to protect the Passaic River. He has closed on 6 properties, permanently preserving 53 acres. To raise funds to purchase this land, he won $1.7M in four grants from two Counties, received $132K in donations below market value from two landowners, and helped win another $1K donation. He is currently in the process of trying to buy and preserve another 100+ acres in the Passaic River watershed.
In the past 2 1/2 years, he also recruited and managed 13 interns and volunteers, including fellow Rutgers Environmental Stewards. He developed the first land trust budget to help prioritize the PRC's land purchases, and led the team that prepared the first published profile of all PRC-owned lands.
Provided leadership as Chair to “retool” the Ridgefield Environmental Commission. New activities included Ridgefield Cleanup Day, a 3 rd grade poster contest, the re-opening of the 5.4 acre Ridgefield Environmental Center, and enhancement of the 16.3 acre Skeetkill Marsh including removal of invasive plants and planting of native species and installation of nesting boxes for tree swallows. Increased outreach activities by the commission stimulated citizen use of these facilities through hikes and bird watching events. A $3000 grant was obtained to write a community forestry management plan which included marking of landmark trees in the town and training of the Dept of Public works personnel in proper pruning techniques. The high value of these activities resulted in Karen Riede being named the Bergen County Volunteer of the Year in 2006.
Worked for the Passaic River Coalition contacting approximately 60 towns in the watershed to survey protections in place for streams and to disseminate information about the merits of a Riparian Buffer Ordinance and answer questions about adoption, and enforcement. To date no town as adopted the Riparian Buffer Ordinance as a result of these efforts but significant information has been gained by the PRC regarding the status of stream corridor protection in the watershed.
Developed a partnership involving the Immaculate Conception School, Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Water Resources Program, and Merck & Co. to conduct the Beaver Brook Watershed Restoration Project. Using a $7,500 grant provided by Merck the 6 th, 7 th, and 8 th graders of Immaculate Conception School studied water resource management with help from Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and put their knowledge to work constructing a bio-retention basin which will protect the Beaver Brook, a category 1 trout stream.
A ½ acre section of the 16 acre Cora Hartshorn Arboretum in Short Hills was restored by removing invasive species. The section, called the Dell, was a fern garden that had become overrun by Norway maples, vinca minor and garlic mustard. The restoration included replanting and creation of educational material about the ferns and the problems caused by unwise use of invasive species in the landscape.
Assisted faculty and staff from the Wetlands Institute and Stockton State College engaged in the Terrapin turtle Recovery and Conservation Project. He participated in data collection, habitat management and turtle management for the purpose of increasing the population of a species which has suffered due to greatly reduced nesting habitat.
Served as environmental educator at Palmyra Cove Nature Park where she conducted workshops and tours including Owl Prowl night hikes, orienteering, wetlands and woodlands ecology, water testing, and native species planting for schools, scouts and senior clubs.