I felt ambitious in today’s 8°F temperatures and took a short drive in search of winter birds and outdoors adventure. After some internal debate, I settled on the Central Park of Morris County vicinity as I thought the diversity of trees and grounds might yield cold weather wildlife sightings.
The last time I visited this area, the final remnants of the Kirkbride building of the former Greystone Psychiatric Park was still being cleared away. No public access had been possible due to safety precautions. Ironically I had been subdued by local police for illegal “urban decay exploration” a couple of years back, which I find humorous because all of my time is spent photographing and studying solely nature. This incident is story for another time.
As you can see from my mobile photographs, the former “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out” signage has been removed from the Kirkbride grounds as well as most adjacent lands. I did observe newly posted signs by the Morris County Park Commission alerting hunters that hunting is by explicit permit only.
I only encountered a few species of wildlife on my walk which is fine with me. Pursuing wildlife is mostly just a vehicle I drive to get me outdoors. Today’s sightings included: Red-tailed Hawk, Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, Gray Squirrel, White-tailed Deer (big bucks). I also saw a good deal of Red Fox and Cotton-tailed Rabbit tracks dotting the frozen landscapes.
The former Greystone grounds could use some help combatting invasive plants such as Multiflora Rose and Barberry. However, the wildlife habitat still looked very good to me with mature trees including Pines, Cedar, Spruce, Oaks, and other trees which I have to study up on. Conifers in particular are of high value in our area as they make for great shelter for various hawks and owls. Fox and deer also find good shelter and bedding at the bases of some Conifers.
In my home area, central Morris County, we do not have much acreage of intact forest due to housing developments and extensive highways. Hence, we should conserve each remaining stand of trees and acreage of meadow to provide homes for our native New Jersey wildlife.
After doing a bit of internet research, I found this 2017 press release by the Morris County Government.
“The (Morris County) Freeholders, in June 2016, subsequently approved a long-term management and use agreement with the state to manage the additional 126 Greystone acres for passive recreational, conservation, historic preservation or farmland use by the Park Commission…..”
“Under terms of the management and use agreement, the state would deliver the property to the county in suitable condition for passive public outdoor recreation, such as walking, hiking, picnicking, nature watching, or for conservation purposes. The county could add active recreation uses in the future.”
Active recreation most often means organized sports or playgrounds. Ballfields and playgrounds mean the removal of wildlife habitat and potentially degrading nearby natural lands by way of herbicides, pesticides, and erosion. For those of us who find great value, beauty, and of course the diverse health benefits of natural area it is important that we express our opinions to our voted representatives.
Local governments have tough shoes to fill as they must balance the needs of large populations. However, in the most respectful way possible, nature lovers should “remain voices for the voiceless” and speak up for our trees, waterways, wildlife, and health concerns. It can never hurt to send your local elected officials an email on topics of concern. I plan on forwarding this article to both the park commission and freeholders to congratulate them on the public opening of this land and to speak of the high value of wildlife habitat conservation. Don’t be shy, speak up.
If you would like to stretch your legs and walk these peaceful trails you use Google Maps to navigate to the nearest parking area.
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I volunteered for a few hours of photography and also videography yesterday with the Morris County Park Commission at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham New Jersey. The event, 2016 Maple Sugar Fest, drew out hundreds of local families and got them involved in fun stories, hikes, and even tastings of local Maple products. Maple Syrup use dates back to at least the Lenape natives and is an important part of our local heritage.
My favorite part of the event? Seeing so many happy faces of all ages and colors involved in high quality outdoor education. I could see the faces of future conservationists and environmentalists in the children that attended.