Sunday, March 27, 2022

Roaring Rock Park tree replanting

Township residents hiking along Dick Flint Trail Roaring Rock Park Washington Township Warren County NJ
Township residents lending their time and talents to make Roaring Rock Park a special place
Township residents volunteering at Roaring Rock Park

Washington Township, Warren County NJ, organized a Trail Day at Roaring Rock Park on March 26, 2022.  The day started out somewhat rainy and dreary, but spirits were lifted as Trout Unlimited and Team Support Roaring Rock Park volunteers arrived by the carload.  Soon enough over 25 volunteers were on hand to tackle two important activities...

Stream Restoration / Tree Replanting

Volunteers from local NJ Trout Unlimited Chapter plant native trees along Brass Castle Creek within Roaring Rock Park March 26th 2022
Trout Unlimited planting native trees along Brass Castle Creek

The first major activity, a stream restoration effort, was led by members of the Ridge and Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU).  This local TU chapter coordinated a tree replanting effort within the June 2021 logging site at Roaring Rock Park with Washington Township via its Passive Recreation Area Coordinator.

Trout Unlimited planted replanted poplar and oak trees at RRP June 2021 logging site
Replanted poplar and oak trees at RRP June 2021 logging site

TU is a national organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring trout streams and their watersheds.  In order to achieve their goals, local TU chapters conduct habitat improvement projects, stream restoration projects, stream clean-ups, and educational programs such as Trout in the Classroom, among other activities.

Approximately 35 trees, mostly poplar and oak, were replanted along an access road which the loggers used to haul out mature, healthy trees of the same species for sale on the timber market during the June 2021 commercial logging activity.   The specific location is the logging site east of Brass Castle Road, between Harmony Brass Castle and Hartmans Corner Roads.   This is the logging area which came uncomfortably close to Brass Castle Creek, generating concern about soil erosion.

Brass Castle Creek is one of a small number of classified streams in New Jersey supporting native brook trout, capable of natural reproduction.  Team SRRP raised concerns last year about the creation of logging haul roads, and their negative effects not only on the park terrain, trees and wildlife, but also the risk of silt being deposited in the creek due to storm water runoff.   

Brass Castle Creek segment close to where tree replanting took place
Brass Castle Creek, close to where tree replanting took place

This section of Brass Castle Creek, in particular, has ideal sun shade and water temperature characteristics that support fish populations living within it.  Another adverse result of commercial logging within the park is mature tree removal decreases the shade providing canopy, thus removing important temperature regulating effects on the creek.   Brook trout are particularly sensitive to warm water temperatures.

Team SRRP contributed funding to TU to support the acquisition of the trees used in the replanting project.

RRP Trail Clean up

Team SRRP volunteers at March 26 2022 RRP Trail Cleanup
Team SRRP volunteering at March 26 2022 RRP Trail Cleanup

As Team TU was planting trees, Team SRRP and volunteers led by Washington Township's Passive Area Recreation Coordinator hiked along the Dick Flint Trail, widening the paths by cutting back invasive plant species such as Japanese barberry.   

Japanese barberry is a particularly aggressive shrub introduced from Asia in the late nineteenth century as an ornamental to be used in gardens.   Over the last one hundred years the species has made its way outside of backyard gardens and into forests across the eastern United States.   Once barberry establishes a foothold on the forest floor, like most invasive species it crowds out native plants and tree saplings.  Not only does Japanese barberry have strong thorns, which are a painful nuisance for hikers and discourages deer from browsing the plant itself, it also has characteristics that attract ticks.  Pennsylvania plans to ban the commercial sale of barberry in 2023.

We had good volunteer attendance which allowed canvassing the full length of the trail with the clean up effort.   Area residents who value local Warren County parks can contact Washington Township's Passive Area Coordinator to learn about upcoming trail days.

Township residents hiking along Dick Flint Trail Roaring Rock Park Washington Township Warren County NJ

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

We changed our name !

Support Roaring Rock Park website name change announcement December 2021

What happened to the websites?

As we decided to change our name, we also decided to change the website names to reflect that decision. An unfortunate side effect of that website name change is that it creates a bunch of broken links, which use our prior website name, to blog posts that have been shared around social media sites and email newsletters.

We did move over the old blog posts to this site. If you find yourself reading this message, rather than a specific blog post, you may scroll down through the list of posts below to find what interests you.

.. and when you are through ..

Click on this link to take you to our new landing page!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

2021 FMP concerns, requests and call to action

Ladies of mystery Save Roaring Rock Park
Concerned Township residents showing their support!
Washington Township, Warren County, NJ

The following is an archive of our "About Us" page, as it existed during 2021 when Washington Township Warren County had an active Forest Management Plan with Gracie and Harrigan, a forestry consultant. At that time, the Township was embarking on the first year of a ten year commercial logging plan for Roaring Rock Park. After nine months of public lobbying, Township terminated the FMP by adopting Resolution 21-193.

What are our main concerns?

  1. The Township Committee has developed a forest management plan without visible notice to the public or adjacent landowners.    After this issue was brought to the Committee's attention during open public meetings in March 2021, the Township still proceeded to start commercial logging in June 2021 ("Phase One") without prior notice to public.   Even after a request made in an open public meeting, they have rejected the public's reasonable request to implement stakeholder management and proactive communications.
  2. The June 2021 logging activity at the park occurred during the summertime, during peak vegetative growth and wildlife reproductive seasons.    Forest Management activities are typically performed during winter months.    The Township and its logging contractors clearly disregarded what is usual and normally performed, despite the Plan referring to "Best Practices" will be utilized in the park, 
  3. The June 2021 logging activity cut ten foot wide access roads where pristine forest floor once lay.   Moreover, these access roads come very close to Brass Castle Creek with its natural reproducing trout populations.   The access roads lay well within the 300 foot activity free buffer typically specified by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP),
  4. Access roads created by contractors
    close to Brass Castle Creek

    Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township, Warren County NJ
  5. By bulldozing these access roads so close to Brass Castle Creek, the summertime rain season is creating muddy conditions around the logging area.  These conditions pose soil erosion and silt runoff threats to Brass Castle Creek and its native fish populations, 
  6. The repeated removal of trees , which typically weight over 1000 pounds, over access roads by the heavy “skid steer” machinery will damage the established and sprawling root systems of the trees which exist adjacent to the access roads.   By damaging their root systems, these trees that are not subjected to harvesting will likely die a slow death ("die off") compounding the total tree loss in the forest,
  7. Shallow root system of trees in Roaring Rock Park
    Shallow root system of trees
    Roaring Rock Park, Washington Township, Warren County NJ
  8. Removal of trees open up the forest canopy to sunlight, and when sunlight increases on the forest floor the invasive plant species that now exist at Roaring Rock Park will flourish and increase their foothold.    As the FMP and its amendment do not provide for control of invasive plants, the remaining native plants will be further overrun by invasive species,
  9. It is clear that the logging contractor is removing mature, healthy tree trunks and logs from the site.    During Phase One logging in June 2021, the loggers left an amazing amount of tree crowns (tree tops) which have been cut off the trees prior to their removal.   These crowns have been left piled deeply in the woods, trampling the forest floor habitat.  These piled branches and leaves will add to the forest floor fuel load as they dry, compounding the risk of wildfire.    You often hear one of the benefits of FMP is to reduce forest fire hazard.   This particular activity is increasing the fire load and threat.  
  10. The current FMP, and its amendment in June 2021, do NOT specify remediation of the site after logging activities cease.  Therefore, there is no proactive plan to remediate the soil erosion and run off conditions created by the summertime rain storms on the access roads.   These muddy access roads will continue to pose these threats until the forest "naturally recovers" as indicated in the Plan and its amendment.    The threats to Brass Castle Creek will only be remediated by Mother Nature and on her timetable, and it is uncertain when she will get around to it,
  11. Deer population in New Jersey poses a threat to vegetation.    Deer are particularly fond of tree saplings and small plants for a food source.   As stated in point #8, the Township and its logging contractors are making a conscious decision to let the forest "naturally recover."   What this means: if the trees are to regenerate without planting, seeds must sprout and saplings must develop, and browsing deer will naturally attack them for a food source.   Therefore, the FMP plan for forest regeneration will be compromised by browsing deer.   Note the FMP does not address deer population control. 

What are our requests of Washington Township Committee?

Area residents speak out on July 20 2021
Area residents speak out
Open Public Meeting on July 20th 2021
  1. IMMEDIATELY CEASE, and DO NOT ENGAGE IN FUTURE, summertime logging activities (in other words: follow FMP best practices!),
  2. Create and implement a proactive stakeholder management plan which now does not exist.    The Township does not inform the public of activities it takes in a public park whose maintenance is funded by public tax dollars,
  3. Through stakeholder management, inform the public of future logging activities, BEFORE THEY START,
  4. Meet with the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and their subject matter experts in forest ecology to collaborate on a forest management plan that is ecologically focused and provides for sustainable forest regeneration, with minimal threats to the wildlife that live inside the park.

What can you do ?

Team SRRP at NNO Aug 2021
Team SRRP present in the local community
National Night Out, Washington Township, August 3rd, 2021
  1. Visit and use Roaring Rock Park.    If you do not know where it is, click HERE to pull up a Google Map of its location.   Use the hiking trails that were built from years of volunteer labor.   If you are a fisherman, enjoy fishing Brass Castle Creek.
  2. Consider visiting the June 2021 logging sites at the intersection of Brass Castle and Brass Castle/Harmony Roads, and on the eastern side of Brass Castle Road between Brass Castle/Harmony and Hartmans Corner Roads.  Stare at the logging access roads at these locations.  Observe the conditions left by the logging contractors after they finished harvesting fifteen acres during a few weeks in June.   If you do so, be mindful as you walk around the logging sites.
  3. Read the blog posts on this site from Sara Webb, Ph. D., Professor emeritus of Biology, Drew University, and John Trontis, former Assistant Director of NJDEP Division of Parks and Forestry, that convey their concerns about the Roaring Rock Park FMP.
  4. Consider the opinions of those who believe that FMP will help the forest grow stronger after the harvesting of trees.
  5. Then imagine, and visualize in your mind, how the results of a few weeks of logging in June 2021 will scale across Roaring Rock Park over the ten year duration of the Forest Management Plan.
  6. Then ask yourself:  will you and your children, decades from now, be able to enjoy Roaring Rock Park as it currently exists?  Or will your and your children's experience of the park be different as it struggles to "naturally recover?"  Will "different" be "better"?  Will you and they be satisfied, in the end, from the results of ten years of "forest management" being started by the Township and its logging contractors?
  7. If, after you do these activities, you find yourself as concerned and fired up as we are now, engage Washington Township Committee during their regular open public meetings which occur the third Tuesday of each month, starting at 7:30 PM.   Tell them during the open public comment part of the meeting agenda the concerns now in your mind.    If you can not attend in person, or if public speaking makes you anxious, write them a letter with your concerns and ask them to enter it into the public record.
  8. Washington Township, Warren County NJ Municipal Building
    Washington Township, Warren County, Municipal Building
    211 Route 31 North, Washington NJ, 07882

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Township Committee TERMINATES RRP Forest Management Plan

Roaring Rock Park Autumn 2021
Roaring Rock Park - Autumn 2021
Washington Township, Warren County, NJ

During the November 16th, 2021 open public meeting, Washington Township Warren County NJ Committee unanimously voted to adopt Resolution 21-193 ...

Washington Township Warren County NJ Resolution 21-193 that terminates Roaring Rock Park FMP

... terminating the Forest Management Plan designed for Roaring Rock Park.  As an outcome, we do not anticipate further logging of the park as outlined under this ten year plan.

Team SRRP thanks the Committee for their decision, and those of you who donated their time and resources to get to this point!

What lies next ?
Blue Trail descent Roaring Rock Park Autumn 2021
Descending the Blue Trail towards Brass Castle Creek
Washington Township, Warren County, NJ

Our team intends to evolve towards being more proactive, constructively engaging the Township to preserve and improve the park and other passive recreational sites like it.   We hope you will join us as we move forward.  Check back here frequently, follow us on social media using the links at the bottom of this page and look for future email newsletters to learn more.

Again -- THANK YOU for your support!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

An educator critically reads the forest management plan

Sarah Hare Hope NJ

Sarah Hare, a reading specialist and Hope New Jersey resident, provided these public meeting comments during the March 16th, 2021 Township Committee meeting, reflecting on her impressions when she gave a critical reading of the Township's forest management plan.

Sarah Hare March 16 2021 Township Meeting comments

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Hurricane Ida's impact on the June 2021 logging sites

Hurricane Ida's impact on Roaring Rock Park's June 2021 logging sites

If you are curious how the remnant of Hurricane Ida impacted Roaring Rock Park, let's take a look. Members of visited RRP on Sept 3rd to survey the June 2021 logging sites. The aftermath of the storm on the logging areas is not pretty, but fully expected.

After the Washington Township's logging contractors bulldozed access roads at the sites, they used skid steer machinery to haul out tree logs towards awaiting tractor trailers.   This hauling activity left ruts in the access roads. Since no remediation was performed after work wrapped up, drainage issues on these roads now exist.

Hurricane Ida's impact on Roaring Rock Park's June 2021 logging sites

Storm water, which had previously flowed downslope directly into Brass Castle Creek, is now impeded from doing so because of the presence of the rutted access roads. Washington Township has NO PLAN or commitment to go back and remediate conditions at the June 2021 logging sites.

Hurricane Ida's impact on Roaring Rock Park's June 2021 logging sites

Since no site remediation was performed, soil erosion conditions exist. As a result of the heavy rains, loosened soil and the tree tops left by the logging contractors have washed down into Brass Castle Creek.

With no plans to remediate this site, soil erosion conditions will persist.

Keep in mind: 

  1. The Forest Management Plan is a 10 year plan; 
  2. The June 2021 logging activity is only Phase 1; 
  3. Phase 2 is planned to start fall / winter 2022;
  4. Intense summertime storms will keep occurring;  
  5. Snowmelt will yield similar results.

It is not hard to imagine the scale of devastation ten years of "Forest Management" will have on Roaring Rock Park if future logging activities are executed, by the Township's logging contractors, as they have during Phase 1, June 2021.

Residents are urged to contact Washington Township and voice opposition to Roaring Rock Park's "Forest Management Plan" before it wreaks more devastation on the forest, the wildlife it hosts, Brass Castle Creek and its native fish species.

Hurricane Ida's impact on Roaring Rock Park's June 2021 logging sites

Visit our web site to learn more about our concerns, what we are doing about them, and how you can help.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Logging Inappropriate for Roaring Rock Park

Have you heard about the current logging underway at Roaring Rock Park, the beautiful, 400-acre wooded preserve in Washington Township, Warren County, NJ? Much has been said lately about severe environmental damage that would result if the Township’s “Forest Management Plan” (FMP) is enacted. Without stakeholder input, residents and environmental groups only recently heard about the FMP, although the project had been in development by the Township for at least five years. I initially thought it might be an opportunity to improve this woodlot. As a former Assistant Director of the NJDEP Division of Parks & Forestry and an experienced and nationally-certified parks & recreation professional serving as land manager and agency head on municipal, county and state levels for 42 years, however, I found this FMP sorely lacking.

NJ Highlands Coalition representatives and I advised the Township to limit their logging to winter months to minimize erosion and soil compaction when the soil is frozen and the vegetation is dormant. They said they would reassess the situation and wouldn’t proceed without further study. We recommended the following FMP amendments:

  1. Develop a forest restoration plan to replicate the existing eastern deciduous forest ecosystem.
  2. Develop a strategy for addressing invasive plant species, which spread to fill in the holes after the trees fall. 
  3. Develop a deer management plan, as deer will decimate any native seedlings that manage to grow in those opened areas.

A robust, fully funded restoration plan that includes invasive plant and deer management is absent from the FMP.

With experience operating deer management programs, I offered to assist the Township in developing a no-cost and effective deer management plan. In addition, highly qualified experts from the NJ Highlands Coalition had offered to conduct - also at no charge - surveys of rare plants and wildlife species of special concern.

June 2021 logging activity Roaring Rock Park close to Brass Castle Creek
Logging activity
close to Brass Castle Creek

We warned the Township that 10’ wide corridors would have to be cleared to accommodate the “skid steer” machinery used to drag out heavy tree trunks. The weight of the machinery and trees would compact the root systems of the flanking tress, and eventually cause their death. We reminded them that Brass Castle Creek is a Category 1 stream, worthy of the standard DEP 300’ activity-free buffer. It’s also one of only 36 exceptional waterways statewide designated with special regulations as Wild Trout Streams by the DEP Division of Fish & Wildlife, who rated Brass Castle Creek as “excellent” and “optimal” to support the habitat of sensitive species like Brook Trout and Northern Two-lined Salamander, after inspections conducted in 2016 and 2018.

I was shocked to see “Phase I” logging begin on June 21st, the worst possible time of the year because spring and early summer is songbird nesting season. Trees with dozens, if not, hundreds of nests were toppled. It’s also when amphibians, reptiles and sensitive aquatic species emerge. Now, conditions due to logging are horrendous. Multiple haul roads were cut, but no remediation was done to restore muddy road conditions. With heavy summer rain events, mud and silt will run unchecked into Brass Castle Creek. The logger seems to care only about taking marketable logs off site, as all of the tree crowns are piled deeply on site, crushing forest floor habitat. Those piles of drying branches and leaves will add to the forest floor fuel load, compounding the risk of wildfire.

The evidence of critical destruction is apparent on the forest floor. My question to the Washington Township Committee, and indeed, the public who elected them is will you allow this tragedy to continue, or will you do the right thing by promoting reforestation and stopping further logging? What will it be?

John G. Trontis, CPRP
Certified Professional Recreation and Parks

Before his retirement, Trontis was the Assistant Director of the New Jersey DEP Division of Parks and Forestry. Prior to that role, he was Director of Parks and Recreation for Hunterdon County.  Despite being a retired full time public servant, he keeps himself busy as a Trustee of the Warren County Parks Foundation and a District Firewarden for the NJ Forest Fire Service.  He currently resides in Washington Township, Warren County, New Jersey.

BE ADVISED: The NJDEP neither endorses nor opposes the views expressed in this article or the activities of in this matter.

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