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Park Commission Press Releases

Celebrate National Volunteer Week: Volunteers are Honored at Morris County Park Commission
MORRISTOWN, NJ – The Morris County Park Commission is joining communities and organizations across the nation to celebrate and honor American volunteers during National Volunteer Week, April 21 to 27, 2013. The Morris County Park Commission in a private event is honoring their 500 volunteers who contributed their talents, skills, and time totaling over 14,000 hours. The Independent Sector valued a New Jersey volunteer’s time at a rate of $25.91 per hour equating to a value of $362,691 of unpaid services to the Morris County Park Commission and its residents! According to the Independent Sector, in 2011 the number of volunteers reached its highest level in five years, as 64.3 million Americans volunteered through an organization, reflecting an increase of 1.5 million from 2010. Americans volunteered a total of almost 8 billion hours, an estimated economic value of roughly $171 billion.

“Without question, Morris County volunteers add a level of quality to our organization and the community that is simply irreplaceable,” states David Helmer, executive director of the Morris County Park Commission. “We honor more than 500 individual volunteers who generously contributed over 14,000 hours delivering a myriad of services this past year. Without these volunteers, we simply could not deliver the same quality of programs and services to the residents of Morris County,” he added.

The volunteers provide a variety of services, including conducting tours, coordinating school programs, staffing special events, assisting with historical collections, planting and maintaining gardens, performing historical research, leading docent interpretative tours, staffing reception desks, and assisting in trail building and maintenance.

Ron Luna of Montville Township is the consummate Park Commission volunteer devoting over 1200 volunteer service hours. As a designated Morris County Adopt-A-Trail Regional Leader, Ron works at least 5 days per week supervising 26 trail maintainers, assisting with Eagle Scout projects, and managing the northern section of the Morris County Park Commission trails.

A 14 year veteran chairperson of The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum Plant Sale, their largest fundraiser, is the Morristown resident Sue Acheson. Over the course of one year, Sue volunteers in excess of more than 500 hours to plan this important event that supports many educational programs and visitor amenities at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum, the center of horticultural activities in the region.

Hugh Merritt, a 12 year veteran volunteer from Towaco, is a Master Gardener generously donating over 200 hours annually. At Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area in Montville Township, Hugh maintains the native gardens to ensure, for example, that specific insects have the flowers and plants they need to survive. When he is not out in the garden, Hugh is performing office duties.

According to Helmer, “Our volunteers understand their critical role in the delivery of vital services to Morris County through the Park Commission, and we greatly appreciate their contributions. We recognize the tremendous value of their volunteer services.” Morris County is a vibrant community working in partnership for the enhanced lifestyle of all its residents.

In addition to individual volunteers, organizations and corporations also have contributed to the community through generous donations and volunteer programs. Daiichi Sankyo headquartered in Parsippany, as part of their legacy of donating 3,000 cherry trees as a symbol of friendship between Tokyo and Washington, D.C., celebrated their 100 year anniversary by donating 100 cherry trees to Central Park of Morris County in Parsippany. Now called, Cherry Lane, it is a one-quarter mile stretch of cherry trees on Central Avenue that runs through the center of the park, a facility of the Morris County Park Commission. More than 75 volunteers from Daiichi Sankyo arrived to assist in the planting of the trees.

Goldman Sachs of New York City annually sends corporate volunteers who live in the Morris County area to assist in many gardening activities, such as removing invasive species at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum. At Willowwood Arboretum, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical of Raritan corporate volunteers recently helped with an array of gardening activities, as well as the staff and seventh graders from The Willow School of Far Hills who spent a day volunteering. Located in Florham Park, BASF routinely maintains the Traction Line trail that begins in Morristown and traverses into Madison, and recently they supported the Park Commission efforts to replace the exercise equipment along the trail. Novartis Pharmaceutical located in East Hanover and Mars Corporation in Hackettstown are significant contributors to maintaining the Morris County Patriots’ Path trails.

The Morris County Park Commission stewards over 18,700 acres with seven facilities listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, a National Landmark, The Frelinghuysen Arboretum named Best Public Garden and Arboretum in New Jersey, a trail that is designated as part of the National Trails System, top-rated golf courses, and outdoor educational experiences second to none. The Morris County Park Commission is partially funded by the Morris County taxpayers, and operates on visitorship revenue, grants, and also relies on the generosity of others to aid in the maintenance and support of its parks and programs. Along with volunteers who provide innumerable services, the Park Commission also relies on funding from nonprofit groups, such as the Park Alliance, The Friends of The Frelinghuysen Arboretum, the Friends of Fosterfields and Cooper Gristmill, Friends of Historic Speedwell, and the Willowwood Foundation.

The Morris County Park Commission, the largest park system in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,700 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.
All-County Garage Sale
MORRISTOWN, NJ – Get ready, get set, and GO! to the All-County Garage Sale as it returns by popular demand to Mennen Sports Arena on Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last year, over 2,500 people attended the Sale; many happy shoppers left with designer handbags, interesting antiques, delightful home goods, unique collectables, and so much more. Take the travel time out of shopping and find a variety of wonderful goods, at bargain prices in one convenient location. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity; it’s a one-day shopper’s paradise!

All proceeds from the All-County Garage Sale benefit the Historic Speedwell educational programming and historic preservation projects. The Factory Building, located on the Morristown site, is a National Historic Landmark featuring a brand new, hands-on, interactive exhibit on the telegraph and the development of modern communications.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and children 12 and under are FREE.

For more information on attending or becoming a vendor, please call 973-285-6534. Mennen Sports Arena is located at 161 Hanover Avenue, Morris Township.

The Morris County Park Commission, the largest park system in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,700 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is Coming to Morris County
In conjunction with The Jamie Oliver Foundation, the Morris County Park Commission is hosting the second annual, Food Revolution Weekend Friday and Saturday, May 17 and May 18.  The Food Revolution is a global movement share information, talents, and resources and also to pass on their knowledge and highlight the world’s food issues with the goal to increase awareness on preventing diet-related diseases and to be able to make healthier choices.

Celebrate this important initiative to promote food education through lectures, exhibits, and demonstrations. Kick off the weekend festivities on Friday, May 17, Historic Speedwell in Morristown at Food to Faces program where kids ages six and older learn the basics of portraiture and create a self-portrait using images of food. In the evening, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., don’t miss out on a special a lecture by Dr. Bump, Doctor of Functional Medicine and Nutrition to learn about Genetically Modified Organisms, decoding food labels, and tools for combating childhood obesity. Bring a locally sourced, healthy dish to this pot luck event, and share the recipe.

On Saturday, May 18, at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Food Revolution Day offers a myriad of fun food demonstrations, such as juicing, making smoothies and more, as well as fitness activities, games, and exhibits on diet and health. The cost for all the Food Revolution Weekend events are FREE.

Morris County Park Commission, is one of the region’s best park systems in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,600 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.
'No Place Like Home'
MORRISTOWN, NJ – If you call Morris County ‘home’ because you live, work, attend school, or socialize here, then you enjoy the pleasures of its many wonderful and unique gems. For over five decades, the Morris County Park Commission has dedicated resources to preserving historic buildings, treasured gardens, significant artifacts, and national heritage. The places, stories, and artifacts preserved are of significant local and national importance. Throughout the month of May, ‘No Place Like Home’ series, highlights some of the people, places, and plants that have been saved and restored in honor of National Preservation Month.

A myriad of programs offered include an array of events, tours, and exhibits, such as the Gallery Exhibit: ‘Who Loved This Place?’, a unique photography exhibit focusing on Morris County’s gardens with a special reception and lecture at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township. ‘Privy to the Past’ is an outhouse archaeology program to excavate and find the treasures at Washington Valley School House. Explore the damage left behind by Hurricane Sandy at the Willows at Fosterfields Living Historical Farms in Morris Township, or take a trip underground for a tour of the Vail House basement at Historic Speedwell in Morristown. Tour ‘Greystone’ once known as the New Jersey Asylum for the Insane opened in 1876 at Central Park of Morris County.

Kids can enjoy ‘Tale of the Missing Stable,’ using historical maps, measuring tapes, rope, and stakes to plot out the dimensions of the now missing horse stable at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township. At ‘Recycling the Past’, kids can be involved in learning about treasures in recycling at Historic Speedwell in Morristown.

The Morris County Park Commission received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

For more information on ‘No Place Like Home’ programs, visit

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Morris County Park Commission, is one of the region’s best park systems in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,600 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.
Great Swamp Thwarts Efforts to be A Designated Airport
MORRISTOWN, NJ – Since opening its doors 50 years ago, the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Township has been a place of preservation and education. The facility of the Morris County Park Commission, comprising 44 acres on the eastern edge of the nearly 8,000-acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, has been working diligently to uphold its original mission to protect the land and encourage responsible environmental practices.

And during this milestone year in 2013, the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center is celebrating over half a century of accomplishments, including the big win against the NYNJ Port Authority’s plan to build a 10,000-acre jetport on the land that has since been preserved as a valuable wilderness area.

In 1959 newspapers leaked the news that a plan to replace Morris County communities with a jetport was in the works, resulting in a flurry of resistance. Residents, legislators, and even Congress joined forces to save a quality of life that the Port Authority hoped to pave over. In 1963 the Morris County Park Commission received a grant from Green Acres to open an environmental center—now known as the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center—to offer people a place to enjoy and learn from the natural world that was being threatened. This park facility fueled more enthusiasm to oppose the potential development, and in 1964 the Port Authority suffered defeat when the first portion of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established as protected land.

The success of the grassroots efforts in the 1960s can still be appreciated today along the 1.4 miles of pristine trails at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center. A variety of plants, animals, and ecosystems are flourishing in the park thanks to the attention that is given to the health of the area. A walk through the park’s hardwood forest, meadows, marsh, swamp, and around the pond will offer views of myriad wildlife and blooms including painted turtles, blue flag iris, red maples, red-winged blackbirds, and mountain laurel.

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center is more than just a pretty place, though. The Morris County park, situated between populated towns and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, acts as a buffer for potential environmental threats, such as invasive species and water pollution, that might alter the ecological balance in the park and make its way to the refuge. So the outdoor education center focuses on tackling problems before they escalate and educating the public about why these issues are important.

Water quality is one such issue that needs attention. The water that enters the Great Swamp eventually exits into the Passaic River, a resource that provides over one million people with drinking water. So monitoring the water quality in the park is not only crucial for the health of the environment, but also for the health of the people living within the watershed.

Wetlands, such as a swamp or marsh, act as natural water purifiers by trapping excess nutrients in the runoff from surrounding areas. Pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants that wash over impervious surfaces will either enter the waterways or soak into the ground. If this water passes through the wetlands, much of the harmful substances get absorbed, filtering out cleaner water.

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center offers programs for schools, scout groups, and the general public about natural history, water quality, and many other environmental topics. By informing community members of what resides in the park and what areas need special attention people will be better equipped to make positive choices in their lives that affect the preserved wilderness.

Important work is happening every day to keep all the parts functioning in the Great Swamp ecosystem, and after 50 years of service the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center has a lot to celebrate. To honor its rich history and toast to many more successful years, the center will be throwing a party on April 27 for everyone to experience the wonders of the park……

Join the party as we celebrate this wildlife oasis with live animal shows by Eyes of the Wild, live music from Big Jeff, guided tours, myriad educational displays and hands-on activities to engage all ages. See for yourself what lives in the pond depths, make a “birthday card” to add to the Swamp Celebration Quilt, and, of course, have a piece of cake! Visit storytellers, play nature games, and get to know the groups from around the area who continue to work to preserve the Great Swamp. A variety of delicious, healthy food and beverages will be for sale.

Entrance to the event costs $3 per person, ages 2 and older, and supports future programming and exhibits at the Great Swamp OEC. Free parking is provided across the street at the Chatham Presbyterian Church with shuttle busses bringing visitors to the site.

The Morris County Park Commission, the largest park system in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,600 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.
Historic Sites Opening Day Saturday, April 6
MORRISTOWN, NJ – On Saturday, April 6, Historic Speedwell, Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, and Cooper Gristmill will open their doors for the season!

Visit Historic Speedwell in Morristown from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., tour the brand-new, hands-on, state-of-the-art exhibit that continues the story of the electromagnetic telegraph from 1838 to present. Discover this 7.5 acre National Historic Landmark known as the ‘Birthplace of the Telegraph’ and Morristown’s special place in the Industrial Revolution. The landmark site preserves the restored estate of Stephen Vail, proprietor of the Speedwell Iron Works. Don’t miss a trip to the Factory’s lower floor to learn about the building’s industrial past. Enjoy activities and a specialized Vail House tour that incorporates this year’s theme, Wedding of the Century. Capture the flavor of life during the early to mid-19th century at Opening Day at Historic Speedwell.

Join in celebrating the 35th season at Cooper Gristmill located in Chester Township, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn the Gristmill’s history and watch as the Fitz waterwheel grinds grain seeds into flour. The last tour of the Gristmill begins at 3:30 p.m.

Take a horse-drawn wagon ride at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township, from 10:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., and explore the methods, equipment, crops, and enterprises of Fosterfields in the early 1900s. At 1 p.m., celebrate Caroline Foster’s 136th birthday with a slice of cake in the Farmhouse. For additional information, or to request a Historic Sites calendar of events, please call 973-285-6550, or visit

The Morris County Park Commission, the largest park system in the state of New Jersey, currently protects and maintains 18,600 acres at 38 distinct sites and a year-round calendar of events and activities.