Environmental action gathered force in Union County during the 1920’s, when local conservationists worked to create a system of five county-owned public parks. Their efforts placed Union County among the first counties in the nation to set aside land for nature conservation and outdoor recreation.

In 1941 Union County established the first nature museum in New Jersey. Union County now has 36 parks that provide many opportunities for the public to enjoy our natural heritage and learn about the importance of a healthy environment.  

During the 1990’s Union County began acting in other key areas including waste-to-energy, recycling, urban forestry, green purchasing, and LEED construction standards. Other highlights include a public referendum that established the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, a major expansion and upgrade of the Trailside Nature and Science Center, and a resolution supporting the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Freeholder Board will continue to seek opportunities to expand Union County’s environmental initiatives, assist local municipalities with their sustainability efforts, and advocate for state and federal policies that foster improvements in the health of the environment and the quality of life in our community.

In 2019, Union County will focus on the following programs as part of Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski’s 2019 Initiatives:

  • Ride sharing pilot program
  • Styrofoam recycling
  • New recycling display at Trailside Nature and Science Center
  • Recycling initiative for seniors
  • Support for Recycle Right! campaign
  • “Reel In and Recycle” campaign to collect used fishing gear in parks
  • Redesign of Green Connection web page
  • Updates to the UC Means Green community garden grants program
  • Trail improvements in various Union County parks

Following are permanent Union County programs and policies related to environmental conservation and sustainability:

Open Space Trust Fund established in 2000 by popular referendum

Preserve Union County grants for local historic preservation projects added to Trust Fund 2004

Greening Union County grants for local tree planting programs added to Trust Fund 2004

Arbor Day tree donations and annual poetry contest for local schools

Tree replacement on County property

LEED construction standards

Green Purchasing

Countywide recycling programs and support for local recycling initiatives

Trailside Nature and Science Center environmental education

UC Means Green community garden grants established 2016

UC Kids Dig In school garden grants established 2017

Community volunteers and community engagement:

Adopt-a-Park/Adopt-a-Trail volunteers in County parks

Boy Scout and Girl Scout projects in County parks

Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County:

  • 4-H Clubs
  • Environmental Stewards
  • Master Tree Stewards
  • Master Gardeners/Union County Demonstration Garden
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