Plenty of ways to volunteer at Somerset County parks

Date Published: 
Sat, 05/23/2009

The Somerset County Park Commission is all about people

, the people who enjoy the parks and the hundreds of volunteers supporting staff to enable the commission to provide the extraordinary array of programs, events and services that the community expects.

Volunteer contributions enable the commission to continually reach higher standards of quality programming. During 2008, more than 250 individual, group and corporate volunteers contributed 4,699 hours of service, saving the Park Commission the equivalent of nearly $111,000 in salaries.

Volunteers served as docents at the Leonard J. Buck Garden and as program assistants in the Therapeutic Recreation program; they taught piloting skills at the model airplane flying field; they groomed and tacked horses and acted as Teacher Assistants at Lord Stirling Stable; they served as Naturalist Assistants, helped at special events, weeded gardens, and helped with the removal of invasive plant species at the Environmental Education Center; and they patrolled and helped maintain the trails at various Somerset County parks.

The Friends of Lord Stirling Stable annually donate the proceeds of special events to help maintain the horses and facility. In 2008, a gift of $17,173 was presented to the commission and the purchase of two new horses and one pony for the program valued at $4,920 was made possible by the Friends.

Several Eagle Scouts candidates made improvements to the county park system to fulfill their project requirements. At the Environmental Education Center, Peter Laciano planted shrubs and cleared the drainage ditch around Katydid Bridge. Mathew Gerecht and Tim Esposito installed coir logs and planted shrubs around Branta Pond. An extension of the Lord Stirling roadside deer exclosure was installed by Paul Maschia, and Michael Saitta cleaned bird boxes. The compost garden display was cleaned and the information kiosk painted by Brendan Leigh.

Eagle Scouts played an integral part of the Park Rangers volunteer program where Frank Gianotti built Wood duck boxes at Washington Valley Park; Dallas Harvey built Wood duck, bat, and Bluebird boxes at Natirar; Tom Patterson refurbished fencing at the North Branch Park horse rings; Tom Segar refurbished the dock at Quail Brook Golf Course; Nolan Woodbury built Wood duck boxes at North Branch Park and Chipman Tract; Pat Casterline made improvements to the Powder Mill Pond trail at Colonial Park; Brian McFadden built Wood duck boxes at Neshanic Valley Golf Course; and Chris Cox replaced wildlife viewing blinds at Colonial Park.

Corporate volunteerism was also prominent. Groups from Jersey Off-Road Bicycle Association and the Volunteer Park Patrol helped maintain trails at the Sourland Mountain Preserve, Washington Valley Park, and Duke Island Park.

On National Trails Day, Park Rangers and volunteers installed two new boardwalks and replaced several erosion control devices in Washington Valley Park. Park Rangers also coordinated the Adopt-A-Boulder Program, during which volunteers from Eastern Mountain Sports, Rockville Climbing Center, Jersey Off-Road Bicycle Association, and the Volunteer Park Patrol cleared a trail through a boulder field. In addition, the Volunteer Park Patrol could frequently be seen patrolling the trails looking for safety hazards and trail erosion problems.

Volunteers from Philips Lighting Corporation cleared invasive plants and installed coir logs in Branta Pond for erosion control at the Environmental Education Center. The corporate and community partners of Park Commission programs and facilities are both generous and dedicated to providing a better quality of life. During 2008, $40,000 of in-kind sponsorship and financial contributions was received, enabling the Park Commission to enhance the quality of programs and events offered.

A family of volunteers that deserves recognition for the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the Therapeutic Recreation program is the Hughes Family of Hughes-Plumer. Serving as corporate partners for the past eighteen years of the Pro/Celebrity Golf Tournament which directly benefits the participants and enhances the programs and services offered.

For information on volunteer opportunities for individuals, groups, or companies, call Jean Stamey, volunteer coordinator, at (908) 766.2489, Ext. 322, or NJ Relay at 711 for individuals with a hearing impairment. Information on Somerset County Park Commission programs and activities may be at somersetcountyparks.org.