Dismal Swamp Preservation Act Approved by Metuchen Council

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Thumbnail image for Dismal-Swamp_entrance.jpg

(picture: Former sign at entrance to Dismal Swamp--courtesy of Metuchen Boro)

 

At Monday night's meeting, the Metuchen Borough Council unanimously agreed to support the Dismal Swamp Preservation Act, a two-part plan by former Metuchen Mayor John Wiley and Assemblyman Peter Barnes III. The act will create an interlocal service agreement between the towns that the swamp runs through--Metuchen, Edison and South Plainfield--as well as legislate authority on a state level to maintain conservation efforts of this last significant natural area in northern Middlesex County.

 

According to the Boro Hall website, the "Dismal Swamp represents one of the last remaining wetland ecosystems in a highly urbanized environment. It has been designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency as a priority wetlands area. Dismal Swamp covers nearly 650 acres of which 12 acres are located in Metuchen. Our portion includes an upland area containing a deciduous forest. The swamp supports a diverse and extensive number of wildlife species."

 

At present, the nonprofit Edison Wetlands Association and the NY/NJ Baykeepers are just two of the area environmental groups that have lobbied for years to protect what is now an unmanaged swamp vulnerable to the dangers of poachers, pollution and ATVs, as well as destructive development and encroaching sprawl. It is a natural mall of interesting creatures--25 mammal species and 24 reptile and amphibian species are among the inhabitants of the Dismal Swamp.  Designated Federal Priority Wetlands by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the swamp even houses an endangered species--the loggerhead shrike--along with an estimated 165 species of birds.

 

Hidden away in the midst of all this is the Triple C Ranch, a 40-acre working farm--leased to the Edison Wetlands Association and organization head Bob Spiegel, the farm runs programs for children and welcomes visitors of all ages to enjoy the pigs, cows, hens and ponies that populate the property. They hope to create and maintain additional campsites and walkways, biking, hiking and riding trails as well as extensions of the existing Greenway. "[We] seek to dramatically increase public awareness, enhance visitor access, and further promote [the] Ranch and Nature Center--currently the sole public entry point for hiking trails in the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area--as a birding, nature study and environmental education destination," Spiegel has said. Mr. Spiegel voiced his concerns in person in front of the Council before the act was approved.

 

There is even archeological importance in the leftovers from former inhabitants of "the Diz," as locals call the swamp. Columnist David Wheeler wrote in May, "With such an abundance of wildlife, the earliest area residents viewed the Dismal Swamp as an outdoor supermarket. At least five prehistoric sites have been discovered here, including clamshell mounds, fire pits and thousands of arrowheads, some of which are on display in the Edison Municipal Building. Long after the hunter-gatherers moved on, dairy farms moved in, but fortunately the Diz was left largely intact."

 

This act will facilitate a managerial program run by representatives from all three municipalities. This committee would attempt to keep privately-owned lots from being developed and tipping the scales of uneasy balance in the swamp. A non-political, non-polarized attempt between all the areas that benefit from the beauty and recreational opportunities of the Dismal Swamp will help maintain what Barnes, one of the two main creators of the Act, told the Council, "is an oasis, a place we can all be proud of."

 

Environmental Impact of any trails or paths that might be created for public use would be a main consideration but the ultimate goal is for the Swamp to be enjoyed by everyone. "It's a gem and we have to do everything we can to preserve it," Councilman Richard Dyas proclaimed.

10 Comments

I don't know where you got the idea that you can't access the swamp from Metuchen. There is access from Metuchen through the preserved section owned by the Borough or by walking along the "Black Road" (former Lehigh Valley RR right of way) behind St. Joes.

You can't access it from Metuchen itsself, but from Edison via the Triple C ranch. It is open to the public on weekends.
206 Tyler Rd. Edison NJ 08820
Metuchen borders the swamp off New Durham Rd.

I think that's right.

It was somewhat unclear from the presentation, but I think the interlocal agreement can be used either way - on its own or as a supplement to the Act.

The Act, if passed, would establish the Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission, "to provide comprehensive regulatory authority and regional planning for the area with a primary focus on protecting and preserving the ecological, historical, and recreational values of the area."

The Commission would create a Master Plan that would apply to the Swamp and the "buffer zone." The commission would take the place of the municipal planing boards of the three towns with regard to any applications for development on non-residential property located in the swamp proper or the "buffer zone." So if you live in the "buffer zone" within 1000 feet of the swamp and you want to put on an addition, you would still go through your town, not the commission.

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A3500/3072_R1.PDF

I got the impression from what former Mayor Wiley said that the interlocal agreement was something that the three towns could adopt themselves in the event the Act did not pass the legislature.

The act protects and the agreement facilitates management of the site.

I thought they said the interlocal agreement was separate from the Act and was an alternative in the event the Act did not pass.

In the northwest corner. Drive to the end of Liberty Street to see the trailhead. The sign in the picture isn't there anymore - must have been stolen. Unfortunately there is no safe place to park. The tractor trailers use the circle at the end to turn around.

Go to Google maps and enter 258 Liberty Street as the address, then click street view and pan around.

You can also enter from Durham Ave between Weston Street and Lisa Lane. On google maps, put 346 Durham Ave in as the address.

Where exactly is the swamp in Metuchen?

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  • Anonymous: I don't know where you got the idea that you read more
  • Anonymous: You can't access it from Metuchen itsself, but from Edison read more
  • Anonymous: I think that's right. read more
  • Anonymous: It was somewhat unclear from the presentation, but I think read more
  • Anonymous: The Act, if passed, would establish the Dismal Swamp Preservation read more
  • Anonymous: I got the impression from what former Mayor Wiley said read more
  • Anonymous: The act protects and the agreement facilitates management of the read more
  • Anonymous: I thought they said the interlocal agreement was separate from read more
  • Anonymous: In the northwest corner. Drive to the end of Liberty read more
  • Anonymous: Where exactly is the swamp in Metuchen? read more

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