Union County NJ Adopt a Park Vo-Tech traill with text

The Union County Parks System includes 36 parks spanning 6,200 acres. It is a rich and diverse system of parks maintained with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers throughout the year.

Our two main volunteer programs are Adopt-A-Park and Adopt- A-Trail, and we also have a specially trained Chain Saw Crew, which tackles downed trees and other heavy tasks.

Individual volunteers and neighborhood groups, schools and local businesses donate countless hours for plantings, clean-ups and other essential projects that help our parks thrive as centers for environmental conservation, relaxation and recreation for the whole community.

Every year we honor our volunteers with a celebratory dinner, in appreciation of their contributions to the Union County community.

For more information or to join, call the Union County Department of Parks & Recreation at 908-789-3683. 

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Recent Projects – 2017

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union.

Watchung Reservation: Volunteers from Governor Livingston High School, Jersey Cares and the Union County Hiking Club braved freezing cold temperatures in early March to create and install several mini boardwalks along a very muddy section of hiking trail in the Watchung Reservation. They also removed and cut back invasive plants that compete aggressively with native vegetation such as phragmites, Japanese honeysuckle and pachysandra.

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Warinanco Park: Students from the Kean University Center for Leadership and Service spent a chilly winter morning in February spreading seeds and straw alongside a stream bed in Warinanco Park, in hopes of sprouting a colorful burst of native wildflowers and grasses this spring. They also removed litter and debris from the area as part of an ongoing stream habitat restoration program. February’s “hard frost” seeding will help ensure that the seeds germinate properly when temperatures warm up, resulting in a lush, healthy habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. The Kean group is a regular participant in the Union County Adopt-a-Park program. Any individual or group is welcome to join Adopt-a-Park. For more information call the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-789-3683 or visit online at ucnj.org/parks.

 2016 HIGHLIGHTS  

In 2016, community and corporate groups provided more than 830 participants for 45 projects in parks throughout the County.

Two individual volunteers adopted the bike path in Lenape and Black Brook parks, contributing an additional 100 hours of service removing tires, shopping carts, litter and floatables from the Rahway River. They also regularly blow leaves off the path, remove graffiti from signs, report downed trees and broken fences and mow the grass adjacent to the path.

Another river adopter in Union Township removed many bags of trash from the Rahway River, and a long-time steward coordinated his 18th annual Rahway River Cleanup at Bloodgoods Dam in Winfield Park.  Hundreds of volunteers turned out to remove trash from the Rahway River in Clark, Winfield and Rahway. 

The Kean University Earth Day Cleanup in April is also a success story. About 70 students removed trash and recyclables from the Elizabeth River.

The rivers have seen a dramatic drop in trash and floatables over the years thanks to our volunteers! 

Recent Projects – 2016

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union.

Warinanco Park: A large group of student volunteers from the Kean University Center for Leadership and Service braved the December cold  to work on a stream habitat. The formerly buried stream was uncovered or “daylighted” several years ago in a restoration project. Daylighted streams have many environmental benefits including flood mitigation and water quality improvement. The volunteers spent the day raking leaves and picking up trash from the stream, to expose the soil of the banks in preparation for a hard-frost seeding of native grass and wildflowers. 

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Watchung Reservation: A multi-age civic partnership is transforming a roadside parcel of County parkland near the Trailside Nature & Science Center into a lush, natural habitat for the endangered Monarch butterfly and many other valuable pollinators. Preliminary work on the meadow took place in October with a generous grant from the Trailside Museum Association for seeds and milkweed seedlings. Girl Scouts from Mountainside and Westfield planted the milkweed seedlings. The Mountainside Fire Department provided the water supply. Later this winter the habitat will be seeded with other pollinator-friendly native plants.

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Warinanco Park: Many thanks to students and staff from the Kean University Center for Leadership, who bundled up and took rakes and clippers in hand on November 20 to prepare Chatfield Garden for chilly weather. The enthusiastic group removed old vegetation and helped to ensure the plantings overwinter properly. Chatfield is a formal garden located in Union County’s Warinanco Park. A favorite spot for photographers, it was originally designed as a tulip garden. It is now home to perennials that flower all season long, attracting butterflies and other valuable pollinators. 

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Ash Brook Reservation: More than 40 volunteers gathered in Union County’s historically significant Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains in November to help prevent flooding on a popular hiking trail Formerly known as Ash Swamp or Ash Brook Swamp, the Reservation is credited with enabling the Continental Army to escape annihilation in 1777, during the sprawling Battle of Short Hills. The volunteers, who were coordinated by Union County Trail Steward Marc Grobman, also cleared debris from trails in other areas of the Reservation. More details…

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Photo credit: Carl Nuzman. 

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Michael S. Bezega Park: Merck employees and interns pitch in regularly to help keep our Union County parks beautiful. This big group visited Michael S. Bezega Park in Rahway and did a tremendous amount of work cleaning up litter and recyclables, clearing trails and spreading gravel and woodchips, cutting away invasive plants, and removing downed tree limbs. Volunteers with Union County’s Adopt-A-Trail Chainsaw Crew provided an assist, by cutting larger limbs into smaller pieces.

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Warinanco Park: Many thanks to the hardworking and enthusiastic Adopt-A-Park crew from Phillips 66 who removed trash and recyclables in and around the stream bank at Warinanco Park earlier this week. The group also cut and removed invasive plants and gathered fallen tree branches. Phillips 66 is among the regular participants in Adopt-a-Park. 

Adopt a Park Phillips 66

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Passaic River Park: A big group of 13 volunteers from L’Oreal USA’s New Jersey headquarters pitched in with the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission to do trail maintenance at Union County’s Passaic River Park in Berkley Heights in June. They did a fantastic job refreshing the trail with gravel and woodchips as well as freeing native plants of invasive vegetation.  (photo: Rich Leister)

LOREAL AAP JUNE 2016

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2015 Projects 

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union.

Ash Brook Reservation: These students are taking sustainability studies at the Union County Vocational-Technical High Schools campus, and in December they put ideas into action by pitching in to remove invasive plants from nearby Ash Brook Reservation. They also improved access by building up parts of a walking trail to avoid mud damage. This is just the latest in a regular series of Adopt-a-Park conservation projects the students are undertaking at Ash Brook.

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Warinanco Park: This fall an enthusiastic group of students from Abraham Clark High School in Roselle helped to prepared the wildflower meadow area at Warinanco Park for the winter. They worked hard to cut and remove invasive plants, spread mulch and pick up many bags of litter and recyclables. The meadow has become an important habitat for birds, butterflies and other valuable pollinators, and thanks to the extra TLC from Abraham Clark, the flowers will be back next spring for everyone to enjoy. Many thanks to all the students for lending their energy the Union County Adopt-a-Park program!AAP AC collage

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Echo Lake Park: Volunteers from The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and the financial services firm Round Table did a great job last month pitching in with our on-going effort to keep the shoreline at Echo Lake Park free of debris and invasive species. They tackled porcelain berry, ailanthus, mulberry, oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose and mugwort to name a few, and they cleared the path around the shoreline from leaves and encroaching vegetation. Special thanks also to Barbara McCloskey of The Land Conservancy, a longtime Adopt-a-Park Partner, who coordinated the group.

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Echo Lake Park: A spirited team from the global company Mondelez International came to Echo Lake Park in October, where they helped to restore the shoreline at the Upper Lake. They worked together — and very enthusiastically — to remove invasive plants, spread mulch and pick up litter and recyclables as well as repair the fencing. Their participation made a tremendous difference in the accessibility, look and enjoyment of Echo Lake Park.

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Ash Brook Reservation: The ecosystem in Union County’s Ash Brook Reservation is a bit healthier today, thanks to students from the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools District in Scotch Plains, who undertook a conservation project as part of their Sustainable Sciences curriculum. They removed  barberry, winged euonymus and other invasive plants, and they built up a section of trail to improve access.

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Cedar Brook Park: Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield got a huge dose of TLC from a wonderful group of volunteers from Barclays in September. Several of the crew donned hip waders and plunged into the lake in order to pluck out invasive aquatic plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce, while others picked up litter, spread mulch, cut down weeds and repaired fencing. Thanks to these hard working folks the lake and its surroundings are healthier and happier. A big thank-you also goes to Jersey Cares for organizing the outing, and to our new Watershed Ambassador, Cynthia Romero, who supervised much of the work with an assist from our Horticulture staff.

AAP Barclays Cedar Brook collage

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Echo Lake Park: Echo Lake has been receiving much TLC from Kean University. Last week, students from Dr. Daniela Shebitz’s Conservation Biology course gave native plants along the upper lake a bit more breathing room by removing knotweed, mugwort and other invasive plants. The work involved a shoreline restoration buffer zone where many native trees, shrubs, perennials and aquatic plants were installed back in 2009.

Union County NJ AAP Kean conservation collage

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Echo Lake Park: Students from Kean University’s Center for Leadership & Service have been among our most active Adopt-a-Park volunteers. In September they pitched in again with a shoreline cleanup at Echo Lake in Mountainside, where they pulled out invasive plants like mugwort, porcelain berry vine and knotweed. Aggressive species crowd out wildflowers and other valuable plants in County parks, and these young people have been a big help in keeping them under control. 

AAP collage Kean sept 2015

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Warinanco Park: A multi-age group from Dr. Klein’s Ophthalmology office in Elizabeth worked tirelessly at the wildflower meadow in Warinanco Park in August. They cut and weed-whacked invasive plants that compete aggressively with native plants, removed litter and recyclables, and spread mulch. Thanks to Roberto Polo for organizing the event, and as always thanks to the Union County maintenance and horticulture staff for supporting the effort by providing tools and equipment, and picking up bags of debris.

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Warinanco Park: A big group from Phillips 66 tackled a big job in Warinanco Park early in August. They removed litter, dead trees and invasive plants from a previously buried stream in the park, which was “daylighted” about seven years ago as part of a restoration project. Thanks to the contributions of volunteers like these, the stream is a successful example of daylighting and a beautiful addition to Warinanco Park.

AAP Phillips 66 Warinanco Stream collage

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Cedar Brook Park: A big group organized by Jersey Cares dodged the torrential downpours, heat and humidity of August 19 to help spruce up the shoreline restoration project at Cedar Brook Park. In between whacking weeds and pulling out invasive plants the volunteers also had time to paint plant ID signs and put together personal care kits for those in need. A big thank you to all who participated! (Photos: Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union)

AAP Cedar Brook Park Union County NJ

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Warinanco Park: Andrea Rodas, a student at Elizabeth High School Upper Academy, spent part of her summer helping the meadow habitat in Warinanco Park to flourish. She picked up litter and pulled out invasive species, enabling pollinator-attracting native flowers to grow.  (Photos: Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union)

AAP HS Student Warinanco Park

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Watchung Reservation: Saturday, August 1 was Union County’s Saturday Trail Work Day. A group of 19 volunteers came out for this project, which they found through the volunteer matching organization Jersey Cares. They did a great job removing fallen trees and cleaning out drainage pipes and ditches in the Watchung Reservation. (photos: Betty Ann Kelly/County of Union)

Union County NJ Adopt a Park August 1 2015