60 Years Later, the Battle to Save the Great Swamp Remains an Environmental Victory
“PLAN JETPORT IN MORRIS COUNTY” On December 3, 1959, this startling headline appeared in the Newark Evening News revealing the Port of New York Authority’s intent to claim 10,000 acres in Morris County to build the world’s largest regional airport. The proposed plan would obliterate this serene, sparsely settled marshland and eliminate countless varieties of wildlife. In its place would be multi-lane highways and asphalt. Angered, confused, and concerned residents responded to this news by launching a monumental, unyielding battle that led to the triumphant saving of the Great Swamp. December 3, 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of that first newspaper article that sparked what is still referred to today as the greatest grass-roots effort ever made by residents to protect a natural habitat.
The Great Swamp Partners, a collaboration of non-profit and government organizations located within the Great Swamp Watershed, announced today that they will offer the public six family-friendly, indoor and outdoor experiences in the month of December. “This anniversary serves as a reminder of what we could easily have lost were it not for the diligence and determination of the people of this community 60 years ago,” stated Sally Rubin, Executive Director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association. “We encourage everyone to come out and participate in these special events that were specifically planned to celebrate the beautifully preserved surroundings right here in our backyards!”
The Great Swamp Partners invite the public to experience the beauty of the Great Swamp and all that it offers at the following programs:
Friday, December 6-29: 42nd Festival of Trees 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM. Kick-start your holidays with a visit to the Environmental Education Center and check out the indoor exhibit of themed and festive trees decorated by various community groups and individuals. Be sure to check out the tree designed by the Great Swamp Partners titled, “The Plane Truth.” Enjoy live holiday music on select weekends, and the Snowflake Café on all Saturdays and Sundays. (Festival of Trees is closed December 24-25 in observance of the Christmas holiday.) Location: Somerset County Park Commission Environmental Education Center, 190 Lord Stirling Road, Basking Ridge, NJ. Registration is not required. Suggested donation of $5 per person. For more information, contact 908 722-1200 ext. 5002.
Sunday, December 8: Hawks Eagles and Falcons Oh My! 11:00 AM. Learn about awe-inspiring wingspans, super speed, precision vision and other amazing adaptations these daytime (diurnal) raptors use for hunting and survival. We’ll discuss some Raptor Trust success stories and investigate some of the inspiring local efforts to help conserve birds of prey. Location: 1452 White Bridge Rd., Millington, NJ. Ages 7 and up, $10 per person. Space is limited. Register at TheRaptorTrust.org or call 908-647-1091.
Saturday, December 14: Behind-the-Scenes Talk & Tour at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (GSNWR) 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Grab your camera and join the adventure as we lead you on a special journey through the wildlife management area, not typically open to the general public. Staff and volunteers from GSNWR and GSWA will help identify wildlife and migratory birds and you may even spot a bald eagle or two! Following the hike, Nic Platt, Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) Board President, will provide a brief history of the Great Swamp that nearly became a jetport. This tour is co-sponsored by GSWA and GSNWR. Location: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Bluebird Parking Lot, 197 Pleasant Plains Road, Harding Township. Please check refuge Facebook page for weather-related cancellation: https://www.facebook.com/GreatSwampNWR Registration is required. Register at GreatSwamp.org or 973-538-3500.
Sunday, December 15: Movie Showing “Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport” 1:00 – 3:00 PM. NJ Audubon will be showing the movie, Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport. This one-hour documentary, narrated by Blythe Danner, recounts the struggle that took place to preserve the Great Swamp after the Port of New York Authority announced their plan to construct a 10,000-acre jetport in its place. The film features in-depth interviews with residents, historians, and officials recounting the epic battle that took place between 1959 and 1968, resulting in an environmental victory. Location: NJ Audubon, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, 11 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, NJ. Registration is required. To register please call NJA at 908-396-6386.
Saturday, December 21: Saving the Swamp Walk and Talk, 2:00 – 3:30 PM. Celebrate the saving of the Swamp with a visually stunning slideshow of the Great Swamp wildlife, a crisp afternoon stroll along the trails, and a special visit from a LIVE OWL from The Raptor Trust. Location: Morris County Park Commission’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (OEC), 247 Southern Blvd., Chatham, NJ. This event is co-sponsored by the Morris County Park Commission OEC and The Raptor Trust. Please call 973-635-6629 to register.
Saturday, December 21: Jockey Hollow Then, Now, and What Might Have Been, 1:00 – 3:00 PM. Enjoy an afternoon of nature and history exploring Jockey Hollow’s past, its present, and what might have been if the landmark victory over the jetport never happened, and the Great Swamp didn’t exist. This special event is provided in partnership with Morristown National Historical Park and Great Swamp Watershed Association. Location: Morristown National Historical Park Jockey Hollow Visitor Center, (appx.) 600 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, NJ. Registration is required. Register at GreatSwamp.org or 973-538-3500.
Who Are the Great Swamp Partners?
The Great Swamp Partners alliance was formed to bring together like-minded environmental organizations associated with the Great Swamp, working together to provide a greater impact. Consisting of seven non-profit, county, and federal government partners, each of these organizations works independently of one another with its own mission, offering public educational and recreational activities in the Great Swamp region. As a group, the Great Swamp Partners are dedicated to protecting and enhancing the natural resources necessary to maintain ecological balance for present and future generations while providing recreational, historical, and educational learning opportunities for the public. Great Swamp Partners Organizations:
- Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) GreatSwamp.org, Morristown, NJ
- Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (GSNWR), fws.gov/refuge/Great_Swamp and Friends of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, FriendsOfGreatSwamp.org, Basking Ridge, NJ
- Somerset County Park Commission Environmental Education Center (EEC), SomersetCountyParks.org, Basking Ridge, NJ
- New Jersey Audubon (NJA) Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, NJAudubon.org, Bernardsville, NJ
- Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (OEC), MorrisParks.net, Chatham, NJ
- The Raptor Trust, TheRaptorTrust.org, Millington, NJ
- Morristown National Historical Park, nps.gov/Morr, Morristown, NJ