County celebrates conservation corps

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OLD BRIDGE – The Middlesex County Conservation Corps celebrated its 10th anniversary at the John A. Phillips Preserve in honor of National Public Lands Day.

The Phillips Preserve in Old Bridge was the sight of the very first event of the Conservation Corps in 2006 and served as this year’s site for a nationwide service event on Oct. 1, during which volunteers give back to their public lands from national parks down to local parks, according to information provided by the Middlesex County Office of Communication.

The late Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel founded the Conservation Corps as a way for Middlesex County to address its growing responsibility for managing the land acquired under the Middlesex County Open Space and Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. He defined the mission of the Conservation Corps as “to protect and preserve our natural areas from misuse, polluters and the forces of nature,” according to the statement.

Middlesex County has crossed the 8,000-acre mark of preserved open space that has been acquired or is under contract for purchase.

“To fulfill our responsibility as stewards of these lands, the Middlesex County Conservation Corps has been charged with the care and management of them, by performing projects that maintain and improve the quality of the open space and allow public access,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said.

Freeholder Charles E. Tomaro, chair of the county’s Infrastructure Management Committee, highlighted some of the organization’s accomplishments, including:

  • 6,000 individuals have logged more than 60,000 hours of work with the Conservation Corps;
  • Nearly 113,000 pounds of trash and recyclables collected from open space, including 871 tires that were recycled;
  • More than 2,000 plants, shrubs and trees planted as part of habitat restoration projects;
  • 5 miles of newly constructed hiking trails, bringing the total of marked and maintained trails for public use to 30 miles; and
  • Wildlife enhancement projects that removed 63 acres of invasive plants and provided over two dozen bird nesting boxes

In addition, the Youth Corps provides paid opportunities for high-school and college students. The Youth Corps works weekends during the fall and spring, and full time during the summer.

“The Middlesex County Youth Conservation Corps continues to be one of our more popular programs and with good reason,” Tomaro said. “The Youth Corps is a responsible and economical way of carrying out our land management goals while allowing the county’s youth to become involved in their community and help to improve its environment.”

The Middlesex County Conservation Corps has two additional volunteer events scheduled: the annual Beach Sweep on Oct. 22 at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park in South Amboy/Sayreville, and the Fall Trails Day on Nov. 19 at Davidson’s Mill Pond Park in South Brunswick.

For more information or to register, contact Griffith Boyd at the Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation at 732-745-3064.