Union County’s roots in the modern environmental movement date back to the 1920’s, when local conservationists became alarmed over the rapid pace of development in the region, and the consequent impact on natural habitats and local waterways. They lobbied to create a system of five county-owned public parks, making Union County one of the first counties in the nation to set aside land for open space preservation.
In 1941 Union County established the first nature museum in New Jersey, following the national “Trailside” model of nature museums that help communities learn about their natural heritage.
Union County now oversees a network of 36 parks that provide many opportunities for the public to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the importance of a healthy environment.
From the 1990’s to the present day, Union County government has been in the vanguard of other key environmental 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 in 2000, a major expansion and upgrade of the Trailside Nature and Science Center, and a resolution supporting the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Commissioner 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.
Permanent Union County programs and policies related to environmental conservation and sustainability include:
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
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