Highland Park Environmental News 2004
Redevelopment Goes Public
Water Watch Strikes Again
Dredging: Coming to Our River?
Asian Beetle Approaching
"Kilmer" Oak Comes to Town
Aerial Photos of The Meadows--Without Leaves
County's Strategic Planning on Display at Library
Path to Donaldson Park Completed
RESCHEDULING Summer Spruce-Up at Native Plant Reserve
It's Official! We're Historic!
Egyptian Geese: Proud Parents.
Earth Day Cleanup Moves Mountains (of Trash)
Street Fair & Volunteer Night are Held (April 25 and 28)
Mosquito Commission to the Rescue (Again)
Earthday Cleanup April 18, 2004: All Come!
Endangered & Threatened in Highland Park
Aerial Photos of Highland Park
Trail to Donaldson Started
Concept Design Shown for Environmental Center
- More on the HP Environment (past news)
Redevelopment Goes Public.
Highland Park is at an early stage in thinking about the future of commercial/industrial sections of Raritan and Cleveland avenues--the stage where the public needs to have its say. In a public information meeting November 11, 2004, Councilman Steve Nolan explained the process and the opportunity for input from property owners and the public. Copies of the initial needs assessment surveys for the two avenues are available at Borough Hall. To keep yourself informed and have your say, watch for Planning Board hearings and informational meetings to be posted on the Main Street web site (click our Links section). 11/2004
On December 5 a public design workshop in the high school cafeteria allowed residents to discuss the Raritan Avenue portion of the planning with Highland Park's design consultants, Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT). WRT showed two different general design concepts for each of several Raritan Avenue sites, neither concept being definitive but rather a suggestion that allowed residents to react and come up with further suggestions, which WRT staff busily wrote down. A later meeting will concern Cleveland Avenue. Rev. 1/2005
Neighbors joined Water Watch students and Environmental Commission members in hauling trash from Valley Place Ravine, Highland Park's original Green Acres site, 11-2 on Sunday, November 14, 2004. The cleanup was organized by Water Watch's Erin Manella. Some 30 people managed to carry off trash as large as water heaters and furnace components to achieve a new level of cleanliness and beauty in this surprisingly deep ravine with a wide river view at the end. To see a photo of the (pre)cleanup site, click on our photo tour at the bottom of the home page, then on Valley Place, or click here. 11/14/2004
Water Watch Strikes Again.
Once again, New Jersey Community Water Watch at Rutgers has cleaned our shores. Led by Erin Mannella, Becky Rottelli, and Alex Belinky, about 150 people joined in removing an estimated ton of trash from the river's edge along Johnson Park on Sunday, October 17, 2004. Past cleanups by Water Watch have cleaned other sections of the river or streams running through Highland Park, so that our open space has benefitted greatly from their efforts.
Dredging: Coming to Our River?.
Middlesex County is now seeking what are apparently the last permits needed before dredging the Raritan at Highland Park. It seems that the project is already so far along that what makes the news is an expected "delay" of a year caused by additional time needed for the final decision on those permits.
The Star-Ledger of October 1, 2004, reports that action on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits is taking longer than expected, making the work itself unlikely before next fall. The dredging plus construction of a floating dock at New Brunswick's Boyd Park are intended by the county to attract more (and larger) motor boats to our part of the river, with perhaps a fleet of water taxis later. The March 2003 Raritan River Sediment Characterization Report describes proposed dredging from the Albany Street Bridge downstream to or past the old Red's Marina. It also approximately maps other project elements such as a new Rutgers boathouse and a Raritan River bike path (some of them potentially using fill generated by the dredging).
The project has already been granted $1.5 million of Middlesex County "open space" funding, and an initial $2.25 million of Green Acres funding with more expected. At this web site, we do not know of any remaining opportunities for public comment. If one of our site visitors does hear of such opportunity, please notify us. 10/2004
Asian Beetle Approaching.
The Asian longhorned beetle is now killing trees in New Jersey. First found in Jersey City trees, it was found in Carteret May 2004, and seems headed our way. Watch for a big black beetle with white spots, 1-1.5" long, with antennae longer. Report beetle or its exit holes (dime-sized or a bit smaller holes in trunk). Too bad it's so destructive, as it's a strikingly handsome beetle whose white spots on shiny black gave it the much better name in Asia of "starry sky beetle." Did Americans re-name it so blandly to prevent people liking it? Or are Americans in these light-polluted days simply unaware what a starry sky really looks like?
Remedy is tree removal and a mile or so of quarantine ring out from the first infected tree. In a town the size of Highland Park, waiting till it spreads to more than the first tree could threaten most of a whole town's trees (at least susceptible genera such as maple and ash). So let's get the first one. Catch in a jar if possible (don't let it bite). Report beetle or exit holes to NJ Dept. of Agriculture 609-292-5440. More information: flyers in the public library rack or
If you're thinking of planting a tree, the NJ Department of Agriculture advises avoiding these trees that have been found to be susceptible: maple (Acer), horsechestnut (Aesculus), willow (Salix), elm (Ulmus), birch (Betula), mimosa (Albizia), hackberry (Celtis), ash (Fraxinus), sycamore/planetree (Platanus), mountain ash (Sorbus), poplar (Populus). Some trees thought not to be susceptible (and therefore recommended for planting instead of the susceptible species) include: gray and flowering dogwood (Cornus racemosa and C. florida), crabapple (Malus), hawthorn (Crataegus), serviceberry (Amelanchier), redbud (Cercis), chokecherry (Prunus virginia), American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), magnolia (Magnolia), yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea), Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), oak (Quercus), white pine (Pinus strobus), honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), mountain silverbell (Halesia monticola), beech (Fagus). There are others from various continents; the above are native U.S. species selected from the Department of Agriculture's longer list. rev 10/2004
"Kilmer" Oak Comes to Town.
A descendant of the white oak on the Rutgers campus that is sometimes claimed to have inspired Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" was planted June 15, 2004, in front of the Highland Park High School. This planting commemorates the moment 100 years ago when Kilmer (who spent much time in Highland Park) is reputed to have first seen the majestic tree on the Rutgers campus. (Highland Park historian Jeanne Kolva points out, however, that Kilmer didn't write the poem until February 3, 1913, several months after he had already moved to Mahwah in Bergen County, where some other tree might well have been the immediate inspiration. Whether the Rutgers connection is folklore or history, it is the Rutgers tree that inspired horticulturists to save acorns and continue the line.)
Although the original Rutgers oak had to be cut down some years back, acorns were saved and sprouted. They grew to trees and produced acorns in turn. Our third-generation tree is one of the sprouts of that second generation. Read more. 7/2004 rev 11/04
Aerial Photos of The Meadows--Without Leaves.
Once again, Pilot Eli Rohn of Aerial Operations in Edison (www.AerialOperations.com) has brought us aerial photos of Highland Park--this time early April photos before trees leafed out. These less obstructed views show clear details of The Meadows (a.k.a. "old landfill" downstream of Donaldson Park), and the adjacent Buck Woods ravine.
Although looking quite "wild" in these photos, this area is not as secure as it may look. The uphill half of the woods and meadows is all zoned residential (everything above Valentine Street, even if municipally owned). The river itself is proposed (by Middlesex County) for dredging and increased motor-craft traffic. Keep alert for news.
Still, as it functions today under part-protection, the wooded Meadows are deer- and bird-rich, and can be entered on a rough "at-your-own-risk" trail from the Southside Bikeway down to the river. From adjacent Donaldson Park, birders can look across the marsh for a sight of the endangered peregrine falcon known to use the WCTC radio tower for a lookout perch. These aerial photos are also the first to show from the air Highland Park's newest nature trail. This is the path to Donaldson Park that runs along a stream and the Public Works building (Fifth and Valentine). This is the easy way to see the area, with a "universal access" porous paving. Bring the bikes and kiddy strollers to this one and learn to identify some native shrubs and trees.
See photos for more detailed commentary. 7/04
County's Strategic Planning on Display at Library.
Come to the Highland Park Public Library to see a three-panel display of Middlesex County planning projects. The panels show intended projects in two "strategic" areas, the I-287 corridor and the Route 18 corridor (that's us, folks!). They are toward the back of the library near the meeting room.
Highland Park projects lead the list as posted on the center panel (items 1-7, plus 17). Look for the tiny numbers on the big aerial photo. Here are the titles (plus our best guess on location, but this is hard to read so come see for yourself, perhaps with a magnifier).
1) "Future student housing" (location appears to be Cedar Lane?).
2) "Industrial-distribution redevelopment" (Midland-Ross/Grimes Aerospace site plus Cleveland Avenue?).
3) "Environmental center" (our River Road project).
4) "Riverfront development" (location unclear: downstream of the Route 27 bridge?).
5) "Shuttle bus" (on or near Raritan Avenue?).
6) "Downtown improvements and possible core."
7) "Possible future open space" (Buck Woods?).
17) "Dredging Raritan River" (to bring larger boats up river to dock at New Brunswick). 6/04
Path to Donaldson Park Completed.
Mid-May 2004 saw completion of the path to Donaldson Park from the Southside Bikeway at Fifth and Valentine. This Southside project is the first completed portion of the overall greenway/environmental education centers plan for sites all around the river edge of Highland Park. (The next portion is expected to be the Environmental Center and plantings at the Native Plant Reserve on River Road.) It was financed through a federal Recreational Trails Grant (administered by the state). Our DPW constructed the rolled stone-grit universal access path as part of the borough match for the grant.
Along the stream, plantings of native spicebush, blackhaw viburnum, and highbush blueberry make a flowery transition into the naturally occurring streamside trees, shrubs, and vines. On the other, DPW, side, plantings of red maple, sweetspire (Itea), and cedar screen the DPW fence and parking area. As they mature and fill out, the path will become essentially a woodland lane between walls of native greenery and blooms. The path is also a self-guiding nature trail. Metal name tags identify species, and somewhat larger educational signs are being added. Hurry down for a look: the Iteas beneath the maples are at full bloom right now--a particularly lovely native wetland shrub that you may find also does well in Highland Park yards. See photos, read more! 6/04
RESCHEDULING Summer Spruce-Up at Native Plant Reserve.
Rained out on 6 June, the NATIVE PLANT RESERVE
SUMMER SPRUCE-UP will be rescheduled in July; watch this news column for the date.
It's both a work day and a get-acquainted day. You'll see the site for the new Environmental Center and help maintain the existing beds of native plants. Come pull some weeds, plant some flowers, do your bit. Gardening clothes recommended; gloves/tools optional, but come for a visit even if you can't stay to work. A few sprinkles? Come anyway. Downpour? Rain date to be announced. 6/04
It's Official! We're Historic!.
On May 1, 2004, the Livingston Manor Historic District was accepted by the state and entered onto the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. (It has been forwarded for consideration for the federal list as well.) The district is on the north side of Highland Park, extending roughly from Lawrence to Cleveland Avenues and River Road to Madison Avenue. It is something of an architectural showpiece, containing an unusually well preserved ensemble of houses in Craftsman and other architectural styles of the early twentieth century (1906-1925). For more information, use the LINKS button to access the Highland Park Historical Society site. 5/04
Egyptian Geese: Proud Parents.
Our Egyptian geese seem to have settled in--and started at least one family. Tim and Aileen Coffey report two pairs of adult Egyptian geese in Donaldson Park, in addition to the pair with four goslings in Johnson Park, previously reported by Joanne Williams. That totals 10 Egyptian Geese in residence.
Goslings with the same distinctive pattern were seen last year (but without the parents nearby and hence unidentified), so we're probably into our second year of Egyptian goose family life. All Egyptian geese in the U.S. originate as escapees from zoos or farms, but the Sibley Guide to Birds reports Egyptian geese established as a colony in the wild in just one area, Southern California. Ours may be the pioneers of an East Coast colony. Since mentioning them on our site, however, we have been contacted by other areas with pairs of Egyptian geese: Texas, Southern New Jersey (Gloucester Park across from Philadelphia and other parks), Monroe Twp. (Thompson Park), North Carolina, and Long Island. The only goslings we've been contacted about other than in Highland Park are ones in Thompson Park and Little Egg Harbor. 5/04 rev. 11/04
Earth Day Cleanup Moves Mountains (of Trash).
At the foot of The Meadows downstream of Donaldson Park, a tidal marsh and line of mudflats form probably the wildest and nearest-to-natural riverside landscape in Highland Park. A cleanup 18 April to celebrate Earth Day has now made it a lot cleaner, too. The event was sponsored by NJ Community Water Watch and the Highland Park Environmental Commission.
Some 30 participants brought out trash for disposal (mostly "floatables": the bottles and light trash brought down by the river) and 19 abandoned tires (picked up later by our Department of Public Works for recycling). One volunteer, Danny Long, stayed after the others to bring out 11 of those 19, then returned days later to find another 11, all now hauled off for recycling. With our earlier collections, this makes some 90 tires removed (and thousands of mosquito larvae no longer being bred in tire-trapped water). 4/04 rev 5/04
Street Fair & Volunteer Night are Held (April 25 and 28).
The Environmental Commission and the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, as well as many other groups throughout the borough, had tables of information at Highland Park's annual Street Fair April 25 and Volunteer Appreciation Night April 28. Visitors could pick up free posters or informative pamphlets on gardening, environmental protection, open space in Highland Park, et cetera.
STAC also had perennial flowers on sale at the Street Fair(with profits going toward plantings in Highland Park).
Although the Street Fair was cut short by rain, the Volunteer Appreciation Night stayed dry in the Community Services Building, where volunteers received their "volunteer star" pins. There's a real "volunteer star" in the sky, too, officially named in astronomical listings for all volunteers. It's just below the Big Dipper (you'll need a telescope, though, to see it). 4/04 rev. 6/04
Mosquito Commission to the Rescue (Again).
On March 24, a crew from the Middlesex County Mosquito Commission responded to a call from our Environmental Commission and removed more than 20 tires from "The Meadows" along the Raritan River downstream of Donaldson Park. The crew consisted of David Popiel, Mark Maggiore, John Hilferty, and Richard Krohn, with Arnold Henderson of our Environmental Commission leading them to tires scattered in woods, marsh, and tangled brush.
Frequent readers of our news column may recall similar pickups from July and November of 2002. Those pickups removed 37 tires from The Meadows and other areas (Rutgers Ecological Preserve, the municipal land in the ravine below Buck Woods, etc.), so that the total is now approximately 60 tires removed from our open space--taking 60 potential breeding pools for mosquitos (and West Nile virus) out of production. Homeowners can do their part, too, by getting rid of any water-holding trash they find, whether tires, tin cans, or those old flowerpots out behind the garage, and by changing water in birdbaths frequently. 3/04
Earthday Cleanup April 18, 2004: All Come!.
NJ Community Water Watch and the Highland Park Environmental Commission are sponsoring a cleanup in the Donaldson Park/Meadows area here in town on Sunday, April 18. Meet at noon by the community gardens on the east side of Donaldson Park. Rough clothes and work gloves are recommended. Water Watch has been to Highland Park several times before, clearing streams and woods of trash. Our cleanup is part of a larger "Raritan-Wide River Cleanup." For more information contact Jesse Roehrich 732-445-5269. 3/04
Endangered & Threatened in Highland Park.
Yes, Highland Park harbors endangered and threatened bird species, at least as visitors stopping by our river and parks. (The quality of stop-over points can mean life or death to a migrating or over-wintering bird.) This site's birder-in-residence Joanne Williams has reported to DEP's Endangered and Nongame Species Program the following birds on New Jersey's official endangered/threatened list. Watch for them--and if you have evidence of others, or of any of these actually nesting here, contact us!
black-crowned night heron,
Aerial Photos of Highland Park.
Pilot Eli Rohn of Aerial Operations in Edison (www.AerialOperations.com) has brought us aerial photos of Highland Park. They were taken in the summer of 2003 by Peili Zhang, with Rohn as pilot. These summer photos particularly show the remarkably dense tree cover in our wilder open spaces (The Meadows, Buck Woods, Rutgers Ecological Preserve). Rohn has offered to help us take winter/spring aerials, as well, so keep watching this space. 1/04
Trail to Donaldson Started.
Construction is well underway on the trail to Donaldson Park. It begins at the foot of the Southside Bikeway, then follows the stream alongside the Department of Public Works down to Donaldson Park. The existing trail was badly eroded and is being replaced, using funds from a federal Recreational Trails Grant administered by the state. The new trail will have a stroller-friendly surface and plantings for a nature trail alongside. This trail should be particularly welcome to residents in the southeast corner of the borough, as it is their direct route to the park.
As of the end of 2003, the DPW has installed a drain and small retaining wall to control erosion at one particular problem point. Work will be completed in late winter or early spring by laying the surface, then planting native shrubs and trees to create a nature trail. Educational signage will be added to make this Southside nature trail function as part of the boroughwide Environmental Education Centers project--in fact, the first portion actually to be constructed. 1/04
Concept Design Shown for Environmental Center.
Sage Coombe architects and MKW landscape architects have shown borough representatives final concept designs for the proposed environmental education/outdoor learning center at the Native Plant Reserve on River Road. The proposed glass-walled building is modest in size, but will demonstrate several principles of environmental construction: passive solar design, a "green roof" of plants, partial earth sheltering, and (on a separate shade structure) active solar panels that will power our modest electric needs and have enough left over to put back into the power grid for a credit--the meter will run backward! 1/04 More on Environmental Ctr. design