Environmental commission chair details panel’s achievements in 2022

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MANALAPAN — During the Dec. 14 meeting of the Township Committee, Jenine Tankoos, the chairwoman of the Manalapan Environmental Commission, presented municipal officials with the panel’s annual report detailing its busy year in the community.

Tankoos said that during 2022, 10 public meetings were held; one new member was appointed to the panel; 12 applications for development were reviewed at public meetings, with comments and recommendations provided to the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Adjustment and to the applicants.

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She said the commission was the recipient of an Environmental Achievement Award from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. The award was in recognition of the commission’s ongoing efforts to host native plant sales and to provide education to the public about native plants.

A native plant sale was held on June 4 at the commission’s Eco Patio in the Manalapan Recreation Center. The milkweed plants which were featured at the sale to help monarch butterflies were in such high demand that they sold out. At the event, local experts set up educational displays about topics related to landscaping and local wildlife.

Tankoos said the commission is planning for another sale to be held in the spring and possibly another sale in the fall.

She said a webinar about environmentally friendly yards was hosted by the commission
for residents on May 24 featuring a presentation by an educator from the Ocean County Soil Conservation District. The webinar included a virtual tour of a garden with tips about how to create a Jersey Friendly Yard.

She said the commission hopes to have more virtual workshops in 2023 about landscaping
and gardening.

For more information, visit https://mtnj.org/committees/environmental_commission/videos/

At the Eco Patio, commissioners and other volunteers from the community met several times to tend to the demonstration gardens. At one event, the commission partnered with a Girl Scout troop to plant a new garden bed filled with native perennial plants around the kiosk and the Little Free Library.

Tankoos said the commission partnered with the Manalapan High School Environmental Club on additional painting projects at the Eco Patio. The students added a box ball court next to the hopscotch board.

The students also began painting a new mural on the back of the storage Dumpster. The mural is scheduled to be completed in 2023. It includes colorful images of a kite as well as corn plants and an apple tree to represent the Garden State.

The Eco Patio received a donation of a red wagon from a local family to serve as another example of reuse at the site and will be a useful tool at plant sales and gardening events.

Tankoos noted that during 2022, the Township Committee finalized a resolution banning the intentional release of balloons on township property. In addition, the rules and regulations for the Manalapan Recreation Center were amended to ban the intentional release of balloons.

“The Environmental Commission greatly appreciates these rule changes by the Township Committee which were conducted in response to information presented by the commission about the negative consequences of releasing balloons into the environment.

“Balloons get entangled in power lines causing power outages on a regular basis  throughout New Jersey and helium balloons eventually fall back down becoming litter which harms animals and causes pollution.

“The commission looks forward to continuing the discussion of how we can further work together to reduce balloon releases in our town,” Tankoos said.

In other news:

• The commission continued to supply an Environmental Tip of the Month, which is artistically designed and widely distributed to residents;

• The commission participated in Manalapan Day, creating a booth with an educational game and educational displays that proved to be popular with a steady line of visitors waiting for a turn to participate;

• An assembly was held at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School for 170 students and the commission provided a presentation addressing several topics. The commission arranged for teachers to receive free materials through the Planet Bee Foundation for students to make seed balls with native plant seeds to bring home for planting;

• The commission collaborated with the township forester on a project to increase habitat for bluebirds at the Manalapan Recreation Center with additional trees and nesting boxes.

After the commission unsuccessfully applied for a grant from the Audubon Society, the township forester secured a sponsorship from Jersey Central Power and Light to cover the cost of the project and to provide the labor of planting the trees. A nesting box was donated by a local naturalist.

The heat wave and drought over the summer put tremendous stress on the new trees and unfortunately they may not survive;

• The commission’s intern created a public service announcement about the state’s new plastics law and the PSA won a statewide contest on Earth Day. A link to the PSA was distributed to residents;

• In collaboration with the New Jersey Bluebird Society, the commission began planning and preparing for a workshop to be held for residents on Jan. 21, 2023 to teach about the importance of bluebirds and how residents can create nesting boxes and habitat for them;

• On Arbor Day, the commission assisted the township forester with her educational event for kindergarten pupils at Milford Brook School.

Tankoos said, “The Environmental Commission looks forward to another productive year in 2023 and appreciates the tremendous support it received in 2022 from the Township Committee, the administrative staff, the Department of Public Works and the township forester.

“We would also like to especially thank our Township Committee liaison, Committeeman Barry Jacobson.

“We rely heavily on the generosity of time and service of people in our community. We
extend our appreciation to them as we could not accomplish what we have without them.
If anyone would like to contact the commission about volunteering, please email us at mec@mtnj.org.

“Tonight we, the Manalapan Environmental Commission, would like to present to the township in appreciation of all the support provided to us, the Environmental Achievement Award we received from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. It is this support that makes the native plant sales and related educational projects possible,” Tankoos said.

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