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Many Ways to Celebrate Earth Day in Union County

April 22 is Earth Day, and more than a billion people all over the world are expected to participate. Union County residents can take part in this unique global celebration by joining in local environmental activities throughout the month of April.

“Union County has long been identified with the movement to preserve open space for nature conservation and public recreation. In our generation the annual Earth Day celebration provides everyone with a chance to build their own environmental legacy for the future of our community,” said Commissioner Chair Rebecca Williams. “Earth Day truly is every day in Union County.”

Nature Appreciation: Residents and visitors can plan a trip to Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, located in the Watchung Reservation at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside. Admission and parking are free, and the interactive exhibits provide many opportunities for self-guided learning. For details visit ucnj.org/trailside.

Union County’s Tree Trails offer additional opportunities for self-guided learning. The Sensory Friendly Trail, on the grounds of Trailside, also provides new learning experiences for different abilities. More details about trails and paths in Union County parks are available online at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

In May, Trailside will also host Union County’s annual Wild Earth Fest with lots of family friendly exhibits and activities on local environmental topics including energy, recycling, land and wildlife conservation, and pollution. Details are coming soon.

Learning about Trees: The Master Tree Stewards of Union County is a volunteer program run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, supported by the Commissioner Board. Certified Tree Stewards visit 4th grade classrooms each spring to teach a fun, interactive lesson about trees. To arrange a visit, or to inquire about joining as a volunteer, contact Union County 4-H Agent Jim Nichnadowicz at jnichnadowicz@ucnj.org.

Watershed Ambassadors: Schools and organizations can contact Union County’s Watershed Ambassadors for an educational visit, or to help organize cleanups and other watershed activities. This federally funded program is administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection through the Rutgers Cooperative Extension. To contact a Watershed Ambassador in Union County email Cassidy Anastasio at wma7.njwap@gmail.com or Ginny Rockey at wm9.njwap@gmail.com.

“Earth Day Every Day:” The Commissioner Board also supports the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program, which offers live and pre-recorded webinars on a range of topics from native plants to recycling and composting. To sign up for webinars visit envirostewards.rutgers.edu/earth-day-every-day. To inquire about joining the program as a volunteer next year, contact Michele Bakacs at bakacs@njaes.rutgers.edu.

Master Gardeners of Union County: This Rutgers Extension program trains volunteer gardeners at all skill levels, from beginner to expert. To inquire about joining next year contact Madeline Flahive DiNardo at mflahive@ucnj.org. The Master Gardeners are currently planning their annual plant sale and fund raiser to be held in May. More details are coming soon.

Recycle Right: April is a good time to download the free Recycle Coach app, which provides recycling news and schedules tailored to each town along with details about countywide programs. For more information visit ucnj.org/recycling. On April 5 and 11 the Union County Bureau of Recycling and Planning will also present live webinars on recycling and the “bag ban,” hosted by the Libraries of Union County Consortium and the Clark Public Library. Schools and organizations can schedule an event with the Recycling Bureau by contacting Heather Miara, heather.miara@ucnj.org.

Prepare for the “Bag Ban:” April is also a good time to plan ahead for the statewide bag ban, which goes into effect on May 4. The Commissioner Board has joined in the effort to encourage residents to stock up on reusable shopping bags. Groups and organizations can share Union County’s new “Grab a Bag” PSA, posted on the County’s YouTube channel, unioncountynj.

Plant This, Not That: Gardeners can help restore pollinator populations by including native plants in their spring gardening plans. Union County’s free downloadable “Plant This, Not That” native plants guide is available at ucnj.org.

Spotted Lanternfly Prevention: The flat, grayish egg masses of the spotted lanternfly can be found on tree trunks, stones, lawn furniture, cars, bicycles and other outdoor surfaces until mid-May, when they begin to hatch. Scrape them off and crush them to prevent another infestation of this destructive, invasive species. For sample photos and more details visit the Union County Green Connection.

Adopt a Park/Adopt a Trail: Volunteers work year-round in Union County parks to clear away litter and debris, restore native plants, and help ensure that visitors can enjoy rustic trails and walking paths. For more information visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation/adopt-a-trail-adopt-a-park.

Union County also provides support for local Earth Day activities in April, including:

  • Annual Multi-Park Cleanup in Summit, April 2 (for locations and other details contact summitearthdaycleanup@gmail.com). 
  • Elizabeth River Cleanup at Kean University campus in Union Township, April 22 (sign up on EventBrite). 
  • Rahway River Cleanup with Boy Scout Troop 330 and Cub Scout Pack 30, the Union County Clean Communities Program, and members of the Rahway River Watershed Association, April 23 (for details email rivercleanup@comcast.net).
  • Friends of Rahway River Parkway Cleanup at Rahway River Park, April 23. Meet at Lakeside Picnic Area near the pond in Rahway River Park. No pre-registration needed. For details visit org.
  • Spring Migration at Sandy Hook with the Rahway River Watershed Association, April 24: Join John Parham, a naturalist from Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, on a field trip to Sandy Hook to look for migratory birds. Jordan will share his expertise as an avid birder (sign up on EventBrite).

For other events taking place in Union County, check the website of your local municipality or schools, faith organizations and non-profits.

To find out more about all programs and activities in the Union County parks system, visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation, email parksinfo@ucnj.org  or call 908-527-4900.

Quick links to all environmental programs and activities hosted by Union County are available at The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connection.

Earth Day falls on Friday, April 22. Learn more about events, activities and initiatives globally at earthday.org/earth-day-2022.

For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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