Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Christ Church Newton Offers Evensong in Anticipation of Epiphany

NEWTON, N.J. – In anticipation of the Feast of the Epiphany, Christ Episcopal Church in Newton will offer Choral Evensong on Twelfth Night, the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, Thursday, Jan. 5, 7 p.m. 

Evensong, the choral version of the evening prayer liturgy used in the Anglican tradition, will be sung by the Christ Church Newton Senior Choir under the direction of music director Joe Mello. The choir will chant the evening service by Merbecke and offer the anthem “Arise, Shine, for thy Light is Come” by Healey Willan. Christ Church Interim Rector Tim Mulder will preach. 

The event is free and open to the public, although a free-will offering will be taken. Christ Church is located at 62 Main Street in Newton. For more information about Christ Episcopal Church call 973-383-2245 or visit www.christchurchnewton.org.

FREE Kayak Rentals Offered at White Lake  

Warren County and the NJ Youth Corps are pleased to continue the Kayaking Program at White Lake.  The popular program runs from May 4th through September.  Kayaks will be available for use on Tuesdays from 4-7pm and rentals are free to the public. 

All participants must bring a completed Release and Liability Waiver before the kayak trip. Please download and print the form, fill it out, and bring it with you. Copies of these forms will also be available on site.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there will be a limited number of kayaks available by RESERVATION ONLY to ensure adequate social distancing.

To make a reservation, contact Aaron Rosado, Preserve Manager of White Lake. Rosado runs this program and is responsible for the care and maintenance of White Lake.

“I am the eyes and ears of White Lake”. Rosado explains.  

About Rosado, after completing AmeriCorps, Rosado discovered what he wanted to do. “I want to help others by maintaining and showcasing our public lands. I believe the outdoors are therapeutic and can change one’s perspective entirely.” Rosado said.

For more Information, https://warrenparks.com/kayak-rentals-2/ OR call 973 937-8748, Monday-Friday from the hours of 9am-3pm.

Some rules for White Lake

White Lake Fun Fact: 

The name “White Lake” comes from the white chalky material that lines the bottom of the lake. This is called “marl”. Marl is composed of freshwater shells and clay and long ago was processed for use in fertilizer and cement. The water takes on a tropical coloring on account of the sunlight hitting the white shells on the lake bottom.

White Lake is deep and covers 69 acres. It is part of the 469-acre White Lake Natural Resource Area, a gem within the Warren County Park System. Ample parking is located in Hardwick Township, off Route 521 (Stillwater Road), about three miles from Blairstown. The property has a dock, hiking trails and fields of beautiful wildflowers. Motorized boats are not allowed.

More can be learned about White Lake by visiting the website warrenparks.com

Kayak Fun Facts: 

Kayaks have been used for 4,000 years. In Munich, Germany, you can see the world’s most seasoned, enduring kayaks. These kayaks are from the year 1577.

Kayaking helps control the heart rate and it is scientifically proven that this sport is very beneficial.

Kayaking elevates endorphins, which improves the mood of the paddlers.

Moonlight Paddle Program 

Soil Contamination Issues Persist in Blairstown

In early 2020, over 200 tandem dump trucks arrived at 50 Mt. Vernon Road carrying loads of dirty fill to be left on the residential property. 

Blairstown Tax Map / Photo by A. Tironi, June 2022

Containing pieces of glass, asphalt, seashells and solid waste, the dumped material was originally tested in 2021 by LSRP Brockerhoff Environmental Services. 

The 2021 report found mercury, chlordane and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon contaminants above Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) standards in its sample collections. Due to these contaminants, Brockerhoff classified the dumping as a hazardous waste spill

Since those original testings, another LSRP has been assigned to the property. Peak Environmental visited the site early this year to collect additional fill samples from 26 test pits that were dug deeper and ranged over a larger portion of the property. 

Mike Suk, 50 Mt. Vernon neighbor and homeowner, came before the Blairstown Township Committee (BTC) to provide updates on these soil contamination issues at a meeting on June 8.  

Suk informed the BTC that contamination results from the 26 test pits, most recently inspected, are in and he is currently waiting on the finished report.

According to Suk and his communications with Brockerhoff, the original LSRP planned to remove all contaminated soil and test the aquifer— if affected it could contaminate all wells in the surrounding area. 

However, under the supervision of Peak Environmental, an aquifer contamination test may not be recommended. It is routine for LSRP’s to create specific Mitigration to Ground Water standards depending on site conditions, that may not be skewed by DEP standards. 

At the BTC meeting, Suk read an excerpt from an email sent to him by the DEP.

“While [the DEP] cannot predict an LSRP’s actions, for your planning purposes you should be aware that it is common for an LSRP not to recommend aquifer testing if residual soil contaminants do not exceed site specific Migration to Ground Water remediation standards.”

Suk told the BTC there’s no guarantee these contaminants haven’t reached water sources. “I don’t want to come back here 20 years from now and find that people in our township came down with some type of cancer or ailment due to us not doing our jobs. 

Suk stated that he and other concerned Blairstown residents are “dead set on having every bit of that soil removed from that property.” 

The Blairstown Land Use Board’s Soil and Fill Ordinance states, “unregulated and uncontrolled placement and movement of soil and other mineral deposits can result in conditions detrimental to the public safety, health and general welfare.” 

All soil movement and filling operations must be approved by the Township Zoning Officer or Township Engineer. With this in mind, Suk requested the township engineer and environmental engineer assist in overseeing Peak Environmental’s report and its remediation plan. 

Mayor Robert Moorhead assured Suk, “that report will be looked over carefully.”

Poor Air Quality from Planned Warehouse Traffic Through Knowlton?

It’s difficult to measure the distance a home run covered if you know where it landed but not where it started. For the same reason officials in Knowlton want establish a baseline for air quality on Route 46 before the influx of trucks expected with the planned warehouses in White Township and Mount Bethel, Pa.

Mayor Adele Starrs said the township has requested that an air quality monitor already in place from the state Department of Environmental Protection be adapted to measure small particles associated with highway exhaust.

The monitor was originally put in place to measure air quality while coal-fired power plants in just across the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side were operating. The plants have since been decommissioned but in an ironic twist, could become the site of future warehouses that would generate their own air-quality issues.

“Having that data is really important,” Starrs said, of the measurements that would be taken before the traffic patterns change. “We will need that as a baseline for comparison.”

While the full scope and timetable of the warehouse construction has not yet been determined, Starrs said state and county officials have estimated the projects could add as many as 15,000 vehicles to Route 46 through portions of Warren County. The same roadways currently see a daily traffic volume of between 11,000 and 14,000 vehicles, according to the Warren County Transportation Master Plan.

The microscopic particles generated by vehicle exhaust, frequently referred to as PM 2.5 because of their size, indicating the size, include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen monoxide. The particles, which measure 2.5 microns or less, can also include water vapor, mercury and unburned fuel. For comparison, there are 25,000 microns in an inch.

The monitors being requested by the township would need adjusted to be able to detect particles of that size.

Once a baseline has been established, officials would then be able to determine any changes in the amount of pollutants after highway traffic increases.

Live Music Revival Kicks Off at the Ramsayburg Homestead in Knowlton

Dancers enjoying the good vibes from the band, Yarn, at the Kickoff Concert at the Ramsayburg Homestead, June 15th, / Photo Credit: J. Phalon, June 2022

The Ramsayburg Homestead Summer Concert Series continues with blues guitarist Toby Walker July 25, at 3 p.m.

On the banks of the Delaware River, the Ramsayburg Homestead Amphitheater is celebrating the return of live music following the pandemic. Organizer Jeff Rusch said 2022 is his first year at the helm of the series, and that he was pleased to be a part of the revival of live music on the Delaware.

Several hundred people attended the opening show, featuring the band, Yarn, at Ramsayburg Homestead on June 15th / Photo Credit: J. Phalon, June 2022

“It’s really great to see the turnout,” Rusch said, of the several hundred people who attended the opening show on May 15, with the band Yarn and their Highways of Americana show.

Yarn played at Ramsayburg Homestead to appreciative onlookers. / Photo Credit: J. Phalon, June 2022

A veteran D.J. and music guy, Rusch said the contacts he has made over the years have helped him attract talent to the Knowlton Township venue.

Jeff Rusch, a veteran ‘music guy’ from radio, in charge @ Ramsayburg Homestead at the Yarn concert, May 15th. / Photo courtesy of S. Rusch, June 2022

Walker’s solo show on June 25 will be preceded by a guitar workshop at 1 p.m. More information on the workshop can be found at his website, LittleTobyWalker.com.

Through stories and songs, Walker brings listeners along on his journey through the Deep South, where he learned the roots of the Blues. He counts Blues guitar legends Etta James and James “Son” Thomas among his mentors.

Walker uses a variety of instruments during his show, including Toby uses a variety of instruments, including a one-string diddley bow, National Steel guitars, harmonicas and even a cigar box guitar.

A donation of $10 is suggested for the show, and concertgoers are welcome to bring lawn chairs and even arrive up to an hour early and bring a picnic to the natural amphitheater at Ramsayburg.

Located on Route 46, just south of the Delaware Water Gap, the Ramsayburg Homestead and its structures are all that remains of the 55-acre tract originally settled in 1795 by Irish immigrants James and Adam Ramsay. There, the brothers found a tavern that they continued operating, and added a store followed by a post office, lumberyard, sawmill and blacksmith shop.

The buildings still standing on the remaining 12 acres of the estate were built between 1800 and 1870 and include the tavern building, cottages, barn and other outbuildings.

The New Jersey Green Acres program took possession of the property in 2000 and included it in the Beaver Brook Wildlife Management area, the state Department of Environmental Protection lacked the resources to maintain the structures on the land. The Knowlton Township Historic Commission stepped in and arranged a lease of the property to preserve the buildings

with multiple state, federal and private grants. The hamlet is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The layout of the property offers access to the Delaware River for canoes and kayaks and also offers pristine location for outdoor music.

Other artists scheduled for the concert series this summer and fall include the jazz of the Karl Latham Quartet on July 16, the Alex Radus Band on Aug. 28 and Don Elliker with his band, Me and My Big Ideas, on Oct. 1.

Blairstown Honored Those Who Sacrificed All at the Memorial Day Parade on May 30th

After skipping 2020 for the pandemic and a saturated day last year, the Blairstown Memorial Day parade kicked off under bright blue skies and sunshine the afternoon of May 30. Sponsored by the Givens-Belet Post 258 American Legion since 1945, the events began with veteran memorial services at Cedar Ridge Cemetery with the parade then winding north on Route 94 to Footbridge Park.

Live Entertainment Venues

1. CENTENARY STAGE COMPANY @ The Lackland Performing Arts Center 


LOCATION: 715 Grand Ave, Hackettstown, NJ 07840
PHONE: 908-979-0900

Centenary Stage Company produces full-scale productions with its mainstage Equity Company and with the Young Performers Workshop, as well as offering concerts and special events in the new state-of-the-art Lackland Center featuring a 485-seat theatre and a 120-seat Black Box space for smaller productions.

2. DuBOIS THEATRE @ Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the ArtsBlair Academy


LOCATION: 2 Park Place, Blairstown NJ, 07825
PHONE: 908-362-6126

Blair’s lively arts scene features student concerts and theatrical productions, professional art exhibits in the Romano Gallery, annual Bartow Series performances and workshops, and more. Our community celebrates the arts, and we encourage everyone to experience and participate in our many on-campus arts events.



LOCATION: 5 S. Greenwood Ave, Hopewell, NJ 08525
PHONE: 609-466-1964

The Hopewell Theater is a 180-seat theater featuring independent films, live music, comedy and performances. With flexible seating options, from intimate banquette table seating to traditional fixed theater seats and a balcony.



LOCATION: 234 Spring Street, Newton NJ, 07860
PHONE: 973-940-NEWT (6398)

The Newton Theatre is a beautifully restored 600-seat performing arts center in the heart of Sussex County, presenting diverse programming, including world-renowned music acts, comedians, family shows and much more, in an intimate setting.  Iconic performers such as Judy Collins, Lyle Lovett, Kansas, Arlo Guthrie, Jon Anderson, and The Glenn Miller Orchestra have all graced the stage.



LOCATION: 23 Lake Shore RoadBud Lake, NJ 07828
PHONE: 973-691-2100

Pax Amicus is a first-rate community theatre specializing in contemporary comedies, dramas, and musicals for the public with cast-calls open to all adults over the age of 16.



LOCATION: 30 Main Street, Blairstown, NJ 07825
PHONE: 908-362-1399

Roy’s Hall is a forum for artists who best exemplify world traditions, reflect contemporary trends and explore artistic frontiers, and by nurturing the artistic and cultural life of its own community in and around the Skylands region of New Jersey.



LOCATION: 1686 Country Road 517Hackettstown, NJ 0784
PHONE: 908-280-3654

Rutherfurd Hall is a cultural center and museum owned and managed by the Allamuchy Township Board of Education. For ten years it has provided educational and enrichment programs to the public. Information regarding Rutherfurd Hall consort series and theatrical performances please see our calendar.



LOCATION: 552 River Road, Shawnee on Delaware, PA, 18356
PHONE: 570-421-5093

The Shawnee Players, consisting mainly of local actors and actresses, performed here to enthusiastic audiences from 1904 to World War II.  In 1943, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians began to broadcast their famous radio programs from the Hall.



LOCATION: 524 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA, 18360
PHONE: 570-420-2808

The Sherman Theater first debuted on January 7th, 1929; exposing the Stroudsburg area to newfound cultural beginnings on opening night with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Through the decades, the theater became the central point of the community. The Sherman Theater is proud to have served our community by featuring demanded artists, assisting in the betterment of the community, and always having our doors open for the public!



LOCATION: 45 Main St, Stanhope, NJ, 07874
PHONE: 973-347-7777

The Stanhope House is a small venue located in a quiet New Jersey town. In the past, it focused on blues music, but now shows range from rap to pop punk and folk. Be sure to check out the beer garden during the warmer months!

Sophomores Help Pope John Baseball Secure 7-6 Win on Senior Night, May 17th

Anyone that has seen the movie ‘Miracle on Ice’ has heard the famous question – “Do you believe in miracles?” That’s what the fans were saying on May 17th as the Pope John Lions defeated the Roxbury Gaels 7-6 on a two-run walk-off single from Sophomore Brandon Weir.

Two other Sophomores would be the key to win as Sophomore pitcher Parker Rutowski held the Gaels to only one earned run. To set up Weir’s walk off single, Sophomore Marco Bonfiglio walked after a stellar 8-pitch at bat. The Lions were able to tie the game in the bottom of the first inning with a sacrifice flyout by Senior Frank Ciccone, scoring Senior Gabe Weir.

Gabe Weir scoring the tying run in the First inning / Photo Credit: A. Nowel, May 2022

The score stayed tied at 1 until the Gaels added two runs in the third inning and another two runs in the fourth inning. With the Gaels leading 5-1, the Lions faced a tough predicament. The situation would get worse as the Gaels would add another run in the top of the sixth inning, but Rutowski would work his way out of the inning to limit the damage.

Pope John Sophomore Pitcher Parker Rutowski dominating on the mound / Photo Credit: A. Nowel, May 2022

“Pitching well felt good since this one of the first times I came out and dominated,” said Rutowski. “I was a little nervous to pitch the top of the seventh, but I knew that we could hit and trusted my teammates to finish the job after I did my job.”

The Lions’ offense finally came alive when Gaels Junior pitcher Justin Ford couldn’t find the strike zone. Sophomore Mac Tufts was able to get on base to get the inning started and came around to score when Freshman Jack Portman stayed patient at the plate, drawing a RBI walk. Junior Brian McKenna would also be patient and win the battle at the plate with a RBI walk.

Pope John Sophomore Mac Tufts at bat in the sixth inning / Photo Credit: A. Nowel, May 2022

The Gaels would get out of the inning with only this damage done, but the Lions’ weren’t done. Going into the top of the inning, Lions Head Coach Sean Bierman thought about taking out Rutowski, but decided to keep him in. Rutowski shut down the Gaels one final time, giving the Lions an opportunity to complete the comeback.

Tufts, again, got on base to start the inning followed by Senior Nolan Niziol hitting the ball into the right-center gap for a RBI triple. McKenna came to the plate and doubled Niziol in and suddenly it was a 1-run game.

With two outs and a runner on second, Bonfiglio came to the plate. He had struck out both times in the game, but he worked the count to 3-2. Bonfiglio fouled off the next three pitches and stayed patient, walking to bring up Brandon Weir.

Pope John Sophomore Brandon Weir after the win / Photo Credit: A. Nowel, May 2022

“I felt a lot of anticipation, waiting during Marco’s [Bonfiglio] at bat,” said Weir. “I’ve known Marco for a long time, and I know he could get the job done in stressful situations and that’s what he did.”

All nerves would be settled as Weir hit a hard ground ball off of the glove of the shortstop and into the outfield. McKenna scored easily, but Junior pinch-runner Ayden Alexander would be waved home by Coach Bierman in a close play. The throw was too late and the Lions ran onto the field in celebration.

The Seniors were exceedingly grateful to Weir for winning the game, but also felt happy to have won this big game at home and on Senior Night.

“It felt great, I was honestly excited to be out there,” said Senior outfielder Steve Mesaros. “I’m really glad we were able to battle and win.”

Gaels Head Coach Ryan Roumes was upset about the loss, but felt his team still played well even though they didn’t pull out the win.

“We hadn’t been playing too well lately, but we came and played well for a while in this game,” said Coach Roumes. “Pope John [the Lions] gets all the credit, they battled and they came back hard.”

Deadline Extended for Applications to the Warren County Community College Trustee Board

PRESS RELEASE: Warren County, NJ (June 1, 2022) – The Warren County Community College Trustee Search Committee has extended its application deadline to June 30, 2022, seeking persons interested in serving as Trustees of the Warren County Community College.

Applicants shall have been residents of Warren County for at least four years, and cannot currently hold any elected public office or be employed by Warren County or Warren County Community College.

College trustees must be available approximately 20 hours per month. Trustee duties include: fiscal and operational oversight of the institution; setting policies and procedures to be implemented by the college administration; evaluation of the college president and appointment of other staff; determination of the educational curriculum and programs consistent with the institution’s mission; development and approval of master planning concepts; and preparation of reports to New Jersey Higher Education, the Warren County Board of County Commissioners and the community in general.

Interested applicants are required to submit resumes, a letter outlining their interest and ability to fulfill the role of WCCC trustee, and any other pertinent material by Thursday, June 30, 2022.  Please send applications to Chairperson, Warren County Community College Trustee Search Committee, c/o Board of County Commissioners Office, 165 County Route 519 South, Belvidere, NJ  07823.

Jersey Shore and Lakeshores Declared Ready for Summer

PRESS RELEASE: NJ DEP (May 24. 2022) – Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette says New Jersey is ready for a stellar summer season following review of water quality monitoring and visits to both the Jersey Shore and North Jersey lakeshores ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the outdoor summer season.

Coastal monitoring flights and preseason sampling confirmed that beaches and water quality are in great shape, Commissioner LaTourette announced during the annual State of the Shore event in Asbury Park, which followed the Commissioner’s visits to Greenwood Lake, Lake Musconetcong and Lake Hopatcong Tuesday, May 24th.

During the event, Commissioner LaTourette noted that Governor Murphy announced that entrance to all state parks, forests and recreation areas will be free this summer for all visitors, regardless of state residency.  Anyone who already purchased a 2022 annual State Park Pass will automatically receive a full refund. Other individual park fees remain in place, including but not limited to camping, interpretive programs, and mobile sport fishing permits.

The State of the Shore address is held every year heading into Memorial Day weekend to update the public on the status of beach readiness and water quality monitoring. The annual event is sponsored by the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, which is made up of academic institutions and organizations dedicated to coastal and marine research, education and outreach. State of the Shore has taken on even more importance as New Jersey grapples with the adverse impacts of climate change, including coastal erosion and increasingly hot summers.

Overall, New Jersey’s beaches are healthy due to a combination of relatively mild winter storm seasons the past four years and continued efforts by federal, state and local governments to bolster state beaches through beach renourishment projects, according to findings by the Sea Grant Consortium.

“New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium is honored to release the State of the Shore report once again,” said Dr. Peter Rowe, Executive Director. “Our beaches are what defines our beautiful coastal state and this report is integral in examining their condition. As you will read in the report, New Jersey’s sandy shores are in good shape and ready for the 2022 summer season.”

“In spite of two back-to-back late season Nor’easters, state and federal investments in beach nourishment in the decade since Superstorm Sandy, along with a mild winter have left the majority of New Jersey’s beaches in good condition heading into the Memorial Day weekend,” said Dr. Jon K. Miller, the Coastal Processes Specialist for New Jersey Sea Grant Consortiumand a Research Associate Professor, as well as Director of the Coastal Engineering Research Group at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, Hudson County.

The Murphy Administration has also made support for New Jersey’s inland lake communities a priority, and Commissioner LaTourette kicked off the summer season along New Jersey’s lakeshores with a visit to Greenwood Lake, Lake Musconetcong and Lake Hopatcong. These lake communities are go-to destinations for summer recreation and key drivers of local economies.

“We were extremely pleased to welcome Commissioner LaTourette back to Lake Hopatcong,” said Martin ‘Marty’ Kane, Chairman of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.  

“It is wonderful that the Commissioner visited three of our public lakes to see for himself the many challenges they are confronting. Through collaboration with the DEP staff and our local officials, we are starting to see real progress with many important projects to ensure Lake Hopatcong remains one of the state’s real treasures.”   

“The Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board, the municipal representatives, Assembly members and state Senators are extremely pleased with the genuine concern and interest shown by the Commissioner,” said Earl Riley, Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board Chairman.

“We all look forward to a growing positive relationship between the local lake communities and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.”

About Coastal Monitoring

The Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program is one aspect of the comprehensive New Jersey Beach Monitoring Program which evaluates water quality; conducts aerial visual assessments of coastal waters and shoreline conditions; tracks chronic water quality problems in partnership with DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring and local health authorities; and uses prison inmates to remove floatables and other debris from tidal shorelines.

Debris removal enhances the beauty of natural resources, protects wildlife habitats and provides safer navigation in state waterways. Last year, the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program collected and analyzed 3,753 ocean, bay and river water quality samples. New Jersey in the last three years has had zero ocean beach closures as a result of exceedances of the primary recreation bacterial standard. Several ocean closures last summer stemmed from heavy rains that led to Combined Sewer Overflows from the New York / New Jersey Harbor. A combination of wind direction, surface currents and tides pushed floatable materials onto New Jersey beaches after the heavy storms.

Advisories and closures are rare, generally occurring after heavy rainstorms that can carry nutrients and bacteria in runoff from pet waste and wildlife such as gulls, geese and other warm-blooded animals into recreational waters. Bay and river beaches that do not have good natural circulation are more likely to experience closures.

The most significant impact on water quality at recreational bathing beaches continues to be nonpoint source pollution transported by stormwater and discharging through outfalls to waterways which can increase bacteria concentrations near stormwater outfall pipes. The Beach Monitoring Program will continue Source Tracking Projects to find and eliminate nonpoint source pollution impacting recreational bathing beaches.

In addition, the DEP’s efforts to combat non-point source pollution include the state rules and guidance for stormwater management, development and implementation of Long-Term Control Plans to address CSOs, and 319(h) Water Quality Restoration Grants to mitigate Nonpoint Source Pollution.

Visitors can get up-to-date information on all water sampling results and beach notifications by visiting https://njbeaches.org/. The public can use this website to get beach status information (open, under advisory or closed), reports, and fact sheets, as well as a link to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission website to purchase a Shore to Please license plate.  Proceeds from the sale of these plates fund the work of the New Jersey Beach Monitoring Program.

Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep 

Local Candidates for the 2022 Primary Elections, Tuesday, June 7th:

A. Blairstown Township Committee – (Vote for one)

  • Republican G. Eric Lohman G. – Eric.Lohman@gmail.com
  • Republican Karen Lance – kbartlettlance@yahoo.com

B. Frelinghuysen Township Committee – (Vote for two)

  • Republican Robert H. Stock – rhstockftc@gmail.com
  • Republican Keith C. Ramos – kramosftc@gmail.com

C. Hardwick Township Committee – (Vote for one)

  • Republican Nichole L. Meuse – nichole.meuse@gmail.com

D. Knowlton Township Committee – (Vote for one)

  • Republican Frank C. Van Horn – Fmvanhorn@earthlink.net

Countywide, Democratic candidates are only running in the municipalities of Alpha and Washington Boro.

E. Warren County Clerk – (Vote for 1)

  • REPUBLICAN(S): Holly Mackey hollymackey519@gmail.com
  • DEMOCRAT(S): No Petition Filed
  • Warren County Sheriff – (Vote for 1)
    REPUBLICAN(S): James J. McDonald Sr. macj7601@hotmail.com
    Todd W. Pantuso toddpanz@gmail.com
    DEMOCRAT(S): No Petition Filed
    Warren County Commissioner – (Vote for 1)
    REPUBLICAN(S): Jason J. Sarnoski sarnoski@hotmail.com
    DEMOCRAT(S): Theresa Bender Chapman tbc4commissioner@gmail.co

Check your sample ballots for the voting place and options. Visit https://www.warrencountyvotes.com/elections/ for more information or contact the Warren County Clerk’s office:


Warren County Clerk
Warren County Courthouse
413 Second St.
Belvidere, New Jersey 07823




Warren County Clerk

Blairstown Tax Hike Approved in 2022 Municipal Budget 

On May 11th the Blairstown Township Committee voted with a 3-2 majority to approve the 2022 municipal budget, which brings a $450 tax increase to the average property owner.  The vote took place following an animated public hearing where Blairstown taxpayers raised questions and concerns regarding this year’s tax bill. 

The first resident to speak, Joe Rich, asked the Township Committee for a budget break down. “The public deserves an explanation”, stated Rich. 

Blairstown Auditor John Mooney reiterated the township’s financial situation. He described that after years of balancing the budget off of the NJ Energy Receipts Tax afforded to the township by Yard’s Creek, the stagnant State Aid is no longer the financial savior it used to be. When the township’s savings began to run dry, a municipal tax was introduced. 

Mooney explained, “We have started addressing the capital needs of the town which kind of have been put off…going out taking care of the roads, taking care of a bridge, taking care of vehicles, equipment and maintenance items.” 

Under the 2022 Municiple Tax Budget, $767,375 is devoted to Capital Projects. “We are finally being fiscally responsible with our spending,” stated Mayor Robert Moorhead. 

Resident Wayne Dixon asked the Township to take a closer look at its Capital Fund allotment. 

Dixon pointed out, “I noticed that every single year, we’re spending $76,000 to buy a new police car. We have eight vehicles lined up back there— some old, some new. Is that totally necessary? Can we buy one every other year?” 

According to Committee member Charles Makatura, the short answer is no. 

“When you take a patrol car out…that car runs for the entire shift, you don’t shut them off. There’s so much electronics in them now you can’t shut them off, they’ll overheat. They don’t have the lifespan that an ordinary automobile may have,” said Makatura. 

Dixon then moved on to question open space and historic farmland preservation. In 2022, nearly $170,000 will go towards the acquisition and protection of undeveloped land. 

“We take tax dollars, and we go out, buy a piece of land…And the first thing that happens with our property is that it comes off the tax rolls. So, the taxpayer has put tax dollars up front, and they lose the tax revenue on the back end. That doesn’t sound like a really good idea,” said Dixon. 

Mayor Moorhead disagreed with Dixon on the value of these types of investments. 

“You will always get pushback from me if you’re gonna question open space…the most valuable thing we can do for generations to come is to preserve what we have. And that is our open space,” said Moorhead.

Blairstown resident Rita Gross stood up and stated, “But we have so much property in Blairstown, but we still have no place to walk.” 

She continued, “We have Sycamore Park, we have Footbridge Park – which is underwater half the time, and we have no walking trail.” 

The Mayor assured Gross that two new pieces of open space – the property across the street from North Warren Regional High School and the stretch of farmland between First Hope Bank and the Blairstown Dairy, would both host a one mile walking trail. 

At the conclusion of the public hearing, a vote was taken. Mayor Moorhead, Deputy Mayor Walter Orcutt and Committee member Makatura voted in favor of adopting the budget. Committee members Joanne Van Valkenburg and Debra Waldron voted against it.

Grand Opening Day of the “Blairstown Farmers Market” – Saturday, June 4th

Tis the Season to buy fresh local produce plus so much more at the Blairstown Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 9:30 to 1 PM, starting June 4th.

The Blairstown famers Market has been a successful Market providing locally grown and produced food to our community for the past 15 years. Most vendors at the market are 25 miles of Blairstown.

The vendors offer everything from abundant produce, meats, local honey, artisan deserts and breads, fruit and eggs plus pickled and prepared foods. Special market events will take place throughout the market season. Every market day features live music and children’s activities.

The farmers market will be having its Grand Opening Saturday, June 4th, 9:30 AM to 1 PM. The market season runs from June to October 29. Remember BYOB, bring your own bag please. 

The Market is located at 5 Stillwater Road (Route 521) across from the Blairstown Elementary School and next to the Blairstown Firehouse. Except for handicapped visitors, parking for non-vendors is at the school.  

In 2007, a group of people got together and decided Blairstown needed a farmers’ market. The first Market was at the Givens Bellet. It grew organically into the thriving market we all look forward to today. After a couple of years, the Market outgrew the space at Givens Bellet. It was moved to its present location in town.


Kendrya Close, executive director of The Foodshed Alliance said, “When we started the market, we only had eight farmers.”

“From our first Market Day, our community supported the Market,” She elaborated. “The Farmers’ Market is successful because of the vibe. It is a gathering place, a community event where you can have friendly conversations with your neighbors and help support your local farming community.  This makes for an ideal family friendly experience! I like to think of our Market as “The little market that could.” 

The Blairstown Farmers’ Market will again accept EBT/SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) participants this year. Simply bring the EBT card to the Foodshed Alliance table. The Market Manager will swipe the card for the amount that is needed and give Tokens that can be used to buy groceries from participating fresh food vendors at the Market.

This year, SNAP participants will receive $20 extra in free “Good Food Bucks” each Market Day to spend on fresh produce. This benefit is made possible thanks to a grant from the Garden State Good Food Program, administered by City Green, a nonprofit working to improve access to fresh, locally grown foods.

Close works with Lisa Kelly, Development and Communications Director. They have been working together from the start. The dynamic duo has seen The Foodshed Alliance evolve into a 501C3 food and farm organization. The goals of the organization are to create sustainability in this beautiful region.  

L-R: Lisa Kelly and Kendrya Close outside their office at 326 High Street in Hope / Photo Credit: MB Journe
  • Another successful endeavor, the Foodshed Alliance now owns preserved farmland in Sussex County where it leases 66 acres to nine new sustainable farm businesses. 
  • Did you know The Foodshed Alliance has a “Gleaning” program? This program was created so volunteers may harvest the extra produce from the farms. Foodshed works with Local Share. 

Local Share, is an organization that connects food pantries, also known as Food Banks, with local farms so that crops left after the harvest don’t go to waste. If you are interested in volunteering to help with gleaning (aka harvesting) and/or delivering food to our pantries, please see the foodshedalliance.org/ website.

Throughout the market season the following vendors may be found at Blairstown Farmers Market: 

  • Apple Ridge Farm
  • Dove Education
  • Godlewsky Farm
  • Seeds to Sew International
  • Heaven’s Gate Llama Farm
  • Hope Cress Farm
  • Imperfectphil
  • Jersey Pickles
  • LovelyLou Mama Crochet
  • Jimmy’s Mushrooms
  • Kaleidoscope Learning
  • Kimball Farm
  • Manskirt Brewery
  • Miner’s Daughter
  • Orlando’s Bakery
  • Paulinskill River Photography
  • Rosie’s Empanadas
  • Top of the Mountain
  • Valley Fall Farm
  • Mike’s Pasta
  • Untamed Ferments
  • Breadlock Botanical

The Market is the creation of The Foodshed Alliance. “The Foodshed Alliance grew out of a dream of a self-sustaining rural economy,” states their website.

Venomous Snakes – Things We Should All Know Now

A Message from Blairstown’s Animal Control Officer, Scott Hendricks:

There are a number of different types of snakes in our area. The two that are venomous to humans are the Timber Rattler and the Copperhead. In the spring the snakes emerge from their dens. They like rocky areas for their dens, so the Kittatinny Ridge is a prime habitat for snakes. 

We are nearing the start of the snake’s emergence phase. The emergence phase can start in early April and continue through May. Both gravid (pregnant/with eggs) females and males and non-gravis females begin to move, shed, and forage for food beginning in the May timeframe.  

Looking at the two charts, the months of June – August (are when) the snakes are active, and this is the time to be vigilant. The following charts show the seasonal cycles. 

As they begin to forage for food and to mate, they move into areas that are inhabited by humans. It is  important to be aware of your surroundings and alert for any snakes in the area. This is especially true if  you are hiking in the woods. 

All snakes are beneficial to our environment since they are an important player in the population control of mice, voles, insects, etc.

It is illegal to kill, harm, harass, handle or collect ANY of New Jersey’s snakes  (and their parts) under the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. 

Contact Info:

Hardwick, Frelinghuysen and Knowlton are served by Animal Control Officer Alan DeCarolis

He can be reached @ 908-377- 0808

Tragic Accident at Blairstown Airport Results in Death of Bergen County Pilot

Around 2:30 p.m., Sunday, May 15th, a glider in final landing approach at Blairstown Airport, crashed short of the runway. Despite the efforts of the Blairstown police, fire and EMT responders, soon on the scene, the pilot could not be resuscitated.

The deceased was a 70-year-old resident of Ho-Ho-Kus and student of Jersey Ridge Soaring on his second solo flight of the day. 

Observers of the accident reported that a wing of the plane seemed to clip a prominent tree on approach causing it to rotate and drop nose-first to the ground. The glider crashed inside the township owned, fenced storage area across Lambert Road opposite the airport runway.

In an email reporting the tragic event, Kevin Martin, owner of the glider operation said the student had begun learning to soar with them in 2021 and first soloed in November. He was well known and liked around the airport, and drew great joy from his flying, learning, and interactions with his fellow pilots. 

Martin said he was a conscientious student who took his aeronautical education very seriously and often participated in the winter online ground school and glider simulator training.  

The causal details of this incident are unclear. The NTSB is investigating.

Tranquility & Culture Planned for Blairstown’s Farm Meadows Community Park in 2023

Blairstown farmland to become a public garden in 2023.

Farm Meadows Community Park, a hub for tranquility and culture, will be established in Blairstown within the following year. The park will be governed by the Farm Meadows Park Advisory Committee, which will operate under the Town’s Open Space Committee.

Soon to be located in the stretch of farmland between First Hope Bank and the Blairstown Dairy, this piece of protected open space will host walking paths, extensive horticulture and opportunities for artistic exhibition.

Stretch of farmland designated for passive recreation in 2023 / Photo Credit: A. Tironi. May 2022

Spearheaded by Rosalie Murray and Monika Hamburger, local residents with an affinity for gardens and design, plans for the new park envision a large walking path that would edge the 62 acres with intimate lanes branching from the main path.

These smaller adjoining paths would be lined with flowering trees and lead to attractions such as a children’s garden, a decorated pergola or a water feature. The entire park would be a botanical garden containing native plants of all varieties. 

Murray and Hamburger imagine a space dedicated to lifetime sports: tennis, badminton and handball. Blueprints for the Park feature open areas for kite flying, Tai Chi, and family picnics. They plan for stone tables and chairs to be scattered around the property for card games, chess and checkers.

The two ladies are looking for local contributions—  local artists to display their work and musicians to play throughout the day. 

“The park will be a celebration of our community,” explained Hamburger. 

Murray added, “There’s a lot of very talented people in our community and we want to enlist them.”

The Farm Meadows Park Advisory Committee identifies four major sources of funding for this project. The first would be from community members – people who can lend expertise regarding architecture and construction. 

The second would be the township Department of Public Works for the creation of a walking path. 

The third is through grants such as the New Jersey Recreational Trails Grant or  Arbor Foundation Grant. 

And finally, utilizing allocated open space funds, Blairstown’s 2022 Municipal Tax Budget sets aside over $169,000 for the preservation of open space and historic farmland. 

“It is time to spend some [money] on a community park. Our Citizens need and deserve a reward which they can enjoy for the support they have given through the Open Space tax,” stated Murray. 

Proposed Blairstown Budget to Move Tax Rate Higher

The Blairstown Township Committee and Auditor John Mooney introduced the 2022 Tax Budget in a meeting Wednesday that calls for increasing the tax rate from 9.9 to 25 cents this year.

Ordinance 2022-02 proposes an exceedance of the municipal budget appropriation limits by 3.5% instead of the 2.5% allocated by the state. To the average local taxpayer assessed at $250,000 to $300,000 property value, the tax bill would estimate $741 in 2022. Last year taxpayers in this bracket owed only $292.

Up until 2018, Blairstown residents paid no local or municipal taxes. This tax break was possible because the township hosted Yard’s Creek and therefore earned an Energy Receipt Tax which could fund Blairstown’s budget in its entirety.

The Energy Receipt Tax allocated by the State has remained the same despite inflation. In an effort to protect the local tax rate, the BTC began to utilize surplus or fund balance, but it wasn’t enough.

Three years ago, a five-cent local tax rate was created which rose to 9.9 cents in 2021.

This year’s budget is looking at a 15.2 to 25 cent tax rate. If the BTC moves forward with a tax rate over 10 cents next year, the township will be subject to a 2% cap on an increase in the tax levy as sanctioned by the state of New Jersey.

By raising the local tax rate and taking advantage of historically low interest rates in bonds, Blairstown township can now begin to fund Capital Projects such as fixing roads, buying equipment and building up the municipal coffers.

Committeemember Joanne VanValkenburg acknowledged the financial severity of the situation. “My concern is (Public Notice about the increase.) This is going to be a nightmare come August and September when people get their tax bill.”

To this, Mayor Robert Moorhead stated, “In all fairness, it’s less than the cost of DIRECTV…it’s less than they pay for satellite TV.”

VanValkenburg responded, “You know, to us up here, maybe $10 a month, $50 a month, $100 a month is peanuts. But to many in the public, that is not peanuts.”

The Blairstown Township Committee will hold a Public Meeting on May 11 so Blairstown residents can ask questions and raise concerns on the 2022 budget and potential tax increases.

Nick Morro: A Lion that Never Quits

Nick Morro is a Senior at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey.
Commuting every day from his home in Blairstown to the school can be challenging. The
addition of a knee injury that has inhibited his ability to make this commute alone would make most people give up.

Playing on Pope John’s baseball team has given Morro an outlet and being taught by his coaches to never quit when the going gets tough, helps Morro to never quit.

“Morro takes ball 4 during a game on a drizzly Saturday morning” / Photo Credit: A. Nowell 2022

From the time he stepped on the field, Morro fell in love with the game. Pope John’s baseball program was Morro’s next step after 8th grade, and he was ready to play for Coach Vincent Bello. “Three years with Coach Bello really helped me improve my baseball game,” said Morro. “We have a new head coach, Sean Bierman. He played at big level schools, so he knows what it takes to play at the next level.”

Coach Bierman played baseball at Vanderbilt University, one of the most prestigious baseball schools in the country. He joined Coach Bello’s staff as an assistant coach last season and was promoted to head coach when Coach Bello left for a high school job in Florida.

The coach that has had the greatest impact on Morro was Coach Benny Perez. Coach Perez played independent baseball in Puerto Rico after graduating from Marist High School in Bayonne, New Jersey, and playing one season at New Jersey City University (NJCU).

“Coach Benny has coached me since 6th grade, and he’s always putting [the things he’s talking about] toward life too,” said Morro. “He and the other coaches always give me good life lessons.”

“Nick has been a 3-year starter for our Varsity team,” said Coach Perez. “Nick has contributed tremendously, regarding teamwork and leadership, not only on the field, but off the field as well.”

Morro is moving on from Pope John baseball after this season and attending Fairleigh Dickinson University where he’ll continue to play ball for their team.

“Morro sets for a pitch against High Point” Photo Credit: A. Nowell 2022

Morro’s teammates have seen a kid that works hard and is successful, carry it with him in social interactions. Nick Buchman, a Senior pitcher in his 4th season playing for the Lions alongside Morro, has grown close as a teammate and friend to Morro said, “Nick [Morro] and I have been friends since 8th grade/Freshman year, and my Senior year wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t there,” said Buchman. “I wish he was still on the field with us, it’s a shame he got injured. I think, personally, Nick’s a great kid. He has a great work ethic, and I think he’ll come back from this injury even better.”

Morro is sidelined due to an injury to his knee but hopes to return to the field soon and roam the outfield with the same dominance that he left on the field. A keystone in the Lions’ offense and defense, Morro is ready to finish his high school career with the success that the Lions are hoping to acquire this season

NJDOT to Look into Possible “Sudden Failure” of Route 80 Retaining Wall

As reported by Bruce A. Scruton in the New Jersey Herald –

A state Department of Transportation internal committee met this week to advance a project to study damage to a retaining wall that supports a raised section of Route 80 near the Delaware Water Gap, which may be “subject to sudden failure,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

The committee received approval for its request for $5.5 million in state funds to inspect the wall and come up with solutions to address the problem, which includes the deterioration of the wall and a minimum 12-inch-deep crack.

The estimated cost of the repairs to the wall’s crack and deterioration stands at $51 million.

The “failure” warning was included in the project description from the meeting’s agenda,  which also stated the retaining wall “does not meet current serviceability requirements due to its minimal reinforcement,” and that a failure “is a risk to the traveling public and could result in a closure of I-80.”

The retaining wall stretches for more than a quarter-mile around the base of Mount Tammany, an area known as the S-curves that was built in the 1950s.

This file photo from March 2022 shows the "erosion cave" repairs made to the retaining wall on I80 in the Delaware Water Gap. The photo also shows water stains of a leak (left of repair) through the wall and evidence of water coming from weep holes (right of repair) installed as part of the project.

The engineering study will take a look at the retaining wall issues that were discovered by crews making repairs to a nearby section of the wall that had been scoured or eroded by water coming down from Mount Tammany. The mountain is located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap and is maintained by the NJDOT.

The scour, known by locals as the “erosion cave,” is at milepost 1.4 of the wall, which is 1,470 feet long, 13 to 18 feet tall and consists of 49 individual panels.

According to an NJDOT memo, “upon clearing vegetation west of this wall repair, additional wall deterioration, with a minimum 12-inch-deep crack adjacent to the wall shear key, was observed.” The memo also stated the wall “does not meet current serviceability requirements due to its minimal reinforcement. Due to the tied-back construction of the existing wall, it could be subject to sudden failure, which is a risk to the traveling public and could result in a closure of I-80.”

A video taken in 2020 by local residents as part of their effort to draw attention to the “erosion cave” and other problems with the 75-year-old road and wall, shows the crack existed at that time. 

When the wall was constructed, a drainage system was included that would collect and control the water flowing off the mountain to channel it into the river.

However, breaks and cracks in that system of mostly concrete pipes allowed water to get into the fill. The water, seeking a path to the river, pushed down to the bottom of the wall and eroded parts of it away.

Over the years, other breaks and cracks in the drainage system allowed water to get into the fill behind the wall that holds up the highway.   

A retired civil engineer who worked for public entities looked at the information that the engineering study will include and said he thinks the water has built up behind the wall, creating more pressure on the structure.

The S-curve on Route 80 west at the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area.

The engineer, who asked that his name not be published, said the concrete, like a piece of chalk, can take a lot of pressure, but is also “brittle” and can break without warning.

As part of the repair project, the contractor drilled a series of “weep holes” in the retaining wall. Those holes are attached to perforated piping and provide a route for water trapped behind the wall to flow through the wall to reduce the pressure.

“However, that’s just a temporary measure,” the engineer said. “It’s a sign that there’s water back there.”

The engineer also said he thinks there was minimal steel used in building the wall and in anchoring it to the base of the mountain. 

While there are strict federal laws on how often inspections need to be conducted on bridge structures, there is no similar law on how often retaining walls need to be inspected.

The study is needed since the structure is likely nearing the end of its useful life and was built to standards of the 1950s, not modern standards, the engineer said. He added he does not think there is immediate danger, but a full inspection needs to be done.

Additional photos provided to the Ridge View Echo by Tara Mezzanotte. Follow up interviews will be conducted with State & County Officials on this matter.

Blairstown Committee Offers No Solutions for Maple Lane Residents’ Flooding Problems

At the April 20th regular town meeting, Donna Holsterman and Mark Scialla came before the Blairstown Township Committee (BTC) for a second time to discuss flooding on Maple Lane.

A 30+ year resident of Maple Lane, Holsterman described how the next-door property used to be a depression where rainwater would collect. When developers came to build Scialla’s house, the land was filled in without any accommodating drains.

Both residents described how several days of heavy rain will cause Scialla’s basement to fill with water that must be pumped out. This water, sometimes four feet deep, then deposits onto Holsterman’s front lawn. According to the Warren County Board of Health, this creates an issue that can lead to leach field failure.

They’ve asked the Blairstown Township Committee to place a pipe at the end of their property lines which would deposit the water to a wooded area owned by residents across the road.

Mayor Robert Moorhead and Deputy Mayor Walter Orcutt are against the installation of a pipe.

“You can’t let water run onto someone else’s property just because it’s on your own,” stated Moorhead.

However, on Maple Lane, there are several drains that deposit water from one side of the road to the other through a connecting pipe. And, when the fire department is called to pump the standing water, it’s pumped onto the road and drains into that same wooded area.

Orcutt asserted that installing a pipe where the water collects will not alleviate the problem as the pipe would be too low to pitch water across the road.

“I couldn’t disagree with you more,” Scialla replied.

Moorhead claimed Maple Lane flooding occurs only during the winter months when the ground is frozen.

Holstterman, living on the property year-round. insists this is not a seasonal issue. He asserted that Maple Lane was repaired a few years ago and because of those township repairs, the road sits higher than the property low point, trapping the water Scialla pumps onto Holsterman’s front lawn.

A representative of French & Parello Associates, an engineering consultant company, met Scialla on his property to evaluate the issue and spoke with the BTC on his findings.

At the township committee meeting, Orcutt claimed the Engineer agreed that a pipe would be insufficient. Scialla countered saying the Engineer agreed the position of the township road exacerbates the issue. French & Parello did not write up a report on this particular site visit.

The Blairstown Township Committee left Scialla and Holsterman with no solutions.

Moorhead stated, “I have no suggestion to mitigate the water in your basement.” Apparently in agreement, Orcutt said, “We can’t get in the business of worrying about when your basement is flooding.”

Developers Denied a 40-Cabin Retreat in Frelinghuysen. Crowded Meeting went ’till Midnight

Brag Farm Retreat was denied a use variance, April 4th, to develop a retreat on the former 178-acre Sugarbarb property off Silver Lake Road, in Frelinghuysen.

Russ and Natalia Brag of Columbia proposed building 40 A-frame cabins, a 2-story, 7,500 square foot Clubhouse and a 6,000 square foot dwelling on a separate 27-acre flag lot. According to their use variance plan by Finelli Consulting Engineers, all were shown surrounding the existing 5-acre lake on the property and/or scattered along new drives throughout the heavily forested lot and pastures.

The Sugarbarb Farm property currently has three dwellings, a barn, 10-stall horse stable and several outbuildings. The property is zoned AR-6, Agricultural Residential 6-acre minimum lot size.

The Land Use Board meeting was held in the Frelinghuysen School Auditorium, April 4th, because a large crowd was anticipated since the Brag Farm Retreat application attracted an overflow crowd to the Town Hall last month. Indeed, a large crowd showed up and the meeting went nearly to Midnight.

Application documents also showed that Brag Farm Retreat wanted to host artists’ retreats, a small art gallery, painting classes and various art installations throughout the property.

Because it was a “d”, or use variance, the applicant needed at least five (5) affirmative votes from the seven members comprising the Board’s Zoning representatives. They failed to get that with four voting against the proposal.

Prior to the determination against the application, opponents to the development questioned how the shared septic systems for each structure would protect fragile ecosystems known to be onsite, as well as traffic.

Because they were seeking use variance approval to be followed up with the more in-depth testimony for their hoped-for Site Plan review, Brag Farm didn’t present an Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), Letter of Interpretation (LOI) or Traffic Study.

INTERESTING FOLKS: Karin White, a Renaissance woman

“Karin White sees the beauty in the discarded.” / Photo Credit: MB Journe 2022

Karin White is a Renaissance woman who transforms the old into new by combining a love of art with a passion for recycling old things. As defined by Merriam-Webster, a Renaissance woman “is interested in and knows a lot about many things.” Indeed, she has managed to combine her successes in art with a successful business to enrich her family and friends. 

White is a jewelry artist, working with semi-precious metals, gemstones and a variety of discarded items. She incorporates found objects, natural gemstones, silver and silverware, copper and bronze. When inspiration strikes, she gathers some items at garage sales and creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewelry using recycled and natural materials. Her work can be seen at Gallery 23 in Blairstown. They have an online store at www.Gallery23.net.

She said she’s met many people selling her art at music festivals and street fairs. Her work has been sold at stores, home parties and she has taught jewelry making.

White is also well known for selling real estate. She currently works for Burgdorf Real Estate ERA in Hope, New Jersey.  She was the secretary for the Warren County Board of Realtors for many years. White has won the NJAR Circle of Excellence Award for the past five years. This prestigious award recognizes realtors who are experts in their field.   

“I have real estate customers who have bought jewelry from me in the past” said White.  “I have sold my jewelry at music festivals. This was ideal, enjoying the music while working and dancing to my favorite bands. I have met so many people with this career. The same people who bought a spoon bracelet from me, trusted me and wanted me to help them buy or sell their home.” 

In 2020, White’s love of antiques spurred her to buy a neglected historic home in Hardwick. Known to be constructed by a Wheelwright, named Wildrick, over 200 years ago, she’s been dutifully restoring its quaint charm and structural integrity of the three-story barn.

A stay-at-home mom for 15 years, White has three children – Daniel, Michael and Grace; each of whom she’s raised to be creative and compassionate. Her daughter Grace has her mother’s artistic talent, making stunning illustrations of animals. White’s involvement in the lives of her children and our community is extensive. She was the president of her PTA for many years. 

A philanthropic woman, she was asked to design spoon bracelets for a church organization to raise money to aid refugees in Africa. Several hundred spoon bracelets were created and sold to support the people in need.

White is always willing to lend a hand. She volunteered at her children’s school and is a longtime member of the Blairstown Historic Preservation Communitee. Many have been enriched by her willingness to serve.

White grew up in an artistic family. Her childhood home was filled with paintings, sculptures and photography reflecting generations of family artists. White’s mom and grandmother inspired her to paint. Her great grandfather worked in copper and metal. Her father repurposed and built beautiful furniture and household items.   

“I grew up going to estate sales and flea markets. My mom would pick things off the side of the road,” White giggled. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This was before garbage picking was cool.”

“I decided to take my mom to a bead store for a jewelry making class for Mother’s Day. This outing jump started my jewelry business,” she reminisced. 

Together they learned the technique of metal clay jewelry. The process involves metal clay that is stamped with a design from an antique button collection. The clay is fired in a kiln which transforms the clay into a silver pendant. The pendants are high quality – 999 silver. Each participant went home with a completed necklace. 

White was hooked. She started making gifts for family and friends. Soon many of her acquaintances wanted to buy her work.  

She is a graduate of Montclair State University with a major in art and photography. Her formal training in the arts and her family background transformed her life as a Renaissance woman of today.   

White recalls fondly, “Being a stay-at-home mom, I had the time to make presents for friends. It was very encouraging that my hobby was appreciated. This built my confidence.” 

“I love making jewelry and it was fun selling my line. My spoon bracelets were my signature piece, it was fun buying heirloom spoons and repurposing them into bracelets,” said White. 

Her father passed away after a long illness.  At the same time, her marriage of many years was coming to an end. She credits her art with helping her heal in these trying times.   

White is truly a Renaissance woman, dovetailing all her gifts and talents into a phenomenal artistic lifestyle thus adding rich color and texture to the local environment and providing a valuable service to others. 

White’s unique creations / Photo Credit: MB Journe 4/2022

“Please Do Not Hurt Me or My Mom.”

“We just temporarily moved to the neighborhood so we can be safe,” conveyed the harmless baby fox kit / Photo Credit: Antler Ridge 2022

If you have suddenly seen a fox in the yard near your home, there is a good reason for this. It is denning season.

Between the end of March and early April, a mother fox will give birth to between 4 and 5 kits. A coyote will often find a fox den, dig out the babies, and kill them. A mother fox knows this and will frequently choose a den site close to people, away from where coyotes generally go. It is not unusual for a fox to den under a porch, shed, garage, barn, or side of a hill, trying to keep her family safe.

Please allow these short-term accommodations because this is not a permanent situation. If you are lucky enough to see how beautiful an adult fox is or witness the kits playing (at a distance of course) you will be glad you did!

It is not uncommon for Red Foxes to change dens several times during the season, so you may not see them for long. Kits do not leave the den until they are about a month old. Foxes do not live in a den year-round, only when a mother has babies. During the summer as the kits grow older, you will see less and less of them, and by September everyone will have packed up and moved on.

If you see a fox during the day, it does not mean she is rabid. A mother fox works tirelessly to feed her kits and will often be out during daylight hours foraging for food. Foxes are omnivores, generally feeding on berries, grasses, and small rodents.

They are solitary and prefer to be left alone. They do not want to hunt and eat your children or mate with your dog. A fox simply wants a safe place to raise her family. Please allow her to do that.

Adult red fox / Photo Credit: Antler Ridge 2022

The Paulins Kill Flooded Footbridge Park, April 9th weekend.

The National Weather Service reported that at 6:15AM, Sunday, the flood stage of the Paulins Kill was at 5.04 feet. The flood stage is 5 feet. One local resident reported waking up to 55 inches of rainwater in her basement from groundwater, flooding important utilities.

Footbridge Park was flooded. Seen here on April 9th / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn
Lonely park benches / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn, 4-9-2022
High water engulfs Footbridge Park, April 9th weekend / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn
Turbulant waters @ Footbridge Park, Saturday, April 9th / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn 2022
This young teen from Hardwick couldn’t resist / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn, 4-9-22
Playground underwater @ Footbridge Park, April 9th / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn 2022

Opening Day of Fishing Season in Blairstown

Many fisher folk could be seen throughtout the area Saturday, April 9th for Opening Day of Fishing, luring fish despite turbulant water from heavy rainfall.

Young Grayson of Blairstown hoped to catch Trout or Bass on Saturday, for the First Day of Fishing in New Jersey / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn 4-9-22
Stephen and his son, Grayson, brought their gear to Footbridge Park / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn, 4-9-22
Stephen & Grayson took their chances fishing in the very turbulant Paulins Kill, on Saturday, April 9th. / Photo Credit: D.L. Dunn, 2022

2022 Brings Some Changes to Township Governments


As is customary in New Jersey, weather permitting, Township Governing bodies meet on or soon after January 1st their annual Reorganization Meetings to swear in new members to their respective Township Committees, give public notice of the names / contact information for municipal officials and the forthcoming Committee meeting times and dates.

The Ridge View Echo hereby offers this useful information to keep everyone informed about who is running their towns. This information and more data is available via the Towns’ websites and is required by law to have been posted in their respective municipal buildings and Official newspapers.

Blairstown Township

The Township of Blairstown is governed by the Township form of government, registered voters directly elect members of the five-member Township Committee. The Committee selects the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, from amongst themselves, annually at the reorganization meeting held annually on January first. It is at the reorganization meeting when newly elected members of the Committee are sworn-in, committee assignments are delegated, and members of Board/Committee are appointed.

The Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor (in the absence of the Mayor), serve as the presiding officers at Township Committee meetings, administers oaths of office and execute contracts/agreements along with the Township Clerk, who serves as the Governing Body’s representative/liaison to the various departments of the Township.

The Township Committee governs through the adoption of policy ordinances (municipal legislation) and resolutions (codified actions) of the municipality.  In the Township form of government, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor do get the opportunity to vote.  In the Borough form of municipal government, the most prevalent form in the state, the Mayor can only vote in the event of a tie.   

Kristin Shipps, RMC, CMR
(908) 362-6663 x 230clerk@blairstowntwp-nj.com

Monday – Friday
8AM – 4PM

106 Route 94, Blairstown, N.J.  07825
(908) 362-6663 (OFFICE)

Committee Members

Committee Term Expires December 31, 2024
Contact: rmoorhead@blairstowntwp-nj.com
Committee Assignments:

Deputy Police Commissioner

Water Utility (primary)
Personnel (primary)
Emergency Management (primary)
Blair Academy (primary)
Intermunicipal, County, State & Federal Liaison (primary)
Fire Department (primary)
DPW (alternate)
Finance (alternate)
Open Space (alternate)
Municipal Court (alternate)
Rescue Squad (alternate)
Blairstown Elementary (alternate)

Committee Term Expires December 31, 2024
Contact: cmakatura@blairstowntwp-nj.com
Committee Assignments

Police Commissioner
Animal Control Officer (primary)
Municipal Court (primary)
Rescue Squad (primary)
Class III Land Use Board member
Buildings & Grounds (alternate)
Water Utility (alternate)
Emergency Management (alternate)

WALTER ORCUTT- Deputy Mayor 
Committee Term Expires December 31, 2023
Contact: worcutt@blairstowntwp-nj.com

Committee Assignments: 
DPW (primary)
Finance (primary)
Open Space (primary)
Buildings & Grounds (primary)
Class I Land Use Board member
Personnel (alternate)
Blair Academy (alternate)
Intermunicipal, County, State & Federal Liaison (alternate)

Fire Department (alternate)
Paulina Dam liaison (alternate)

Committee Term Expires December 31, 2022
Contact: jvanvalkenburg@blairstowntwp-nj.com

Committee Assignments: 

Recreation (primary)
COAH (primary)
Main Street (primary)
North Warren Regional (primary)
Paulina Dam Liaison (primary)
Senior Citizens (alternate)
BEC (alternate)
Blairstown Historical (alternate)

Committee Term Expires December 31, 2023
Contact: dwaldron@blairstowntwp-nj.com

Committee Assignments:

Blairstown Elementary (primary)
Senior Citizens (primary)
BEC (primary)
Blairstown Historical (primary)
Recreation (alternate)
COAH (alternate)
Main Street (alternate)
North Warren Regional (alternate)

2022 Township Committee Meetings will meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month and will begin at 7:30 PM:

January 12, 2022
January 26, 2022- Cancelled
February 9, 2022
February 23, 2022
March 9, 2022
March 23, 2022
April 13, 2022
April 27, 2022
May 11, 2022
May 25, 2022
June 8, 2022
June 22, 2022
July 13, 2022
July 27, 2022
August 10, 2022
August 24, 2022
September 14, 2022
September 28, 2022October 12, 2022
October 26, 2022
November 9, 2022
November 30, 2022 (5th Wednesday due to holiday)

Frelinghuysen Township

Frelinghuysen Town Hall

Frelinghuysen Town Hall in Johnsonburg” Photo Credit: B. Barbour, 2022

Township Clerk

Donna Zilberfarb, RMC

Phone: (908) 852-4121
Fax: (908) 852-7621
Email: clerk@frelinghuysen-nj.us

Committtee Members:

Business Hours
Monday – Friday
Closed for lunch

Mayor – Keith Ramos
email: kramosftc@gmail.com

Deputy Mayor – Chris Stracco
email: cstracco@daypitney.com

Committeeman – Todd Mcpeek
email: tjmcpeek50@gmail.com

Committeeman – David Boynton
email: dcboynton@hotmail.com

Committeeman – Robert Stock
email: rhstockfc@dldunnllcgmail-com

#2022-01 SETTING MEETING DATES FOR FRELINGHUYSEN TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE WHEREAS, Section 12 of the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975, requires that at least once a year, not later than January 10th of such year, every public body shall post and mail to newspapers designated by said body, a schedule of the location, time and date of each meeting of said body during the succeeding year. 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Frelinghuysen Township Committee that the regular public meetings of the Frelinghuysen Township Committee will be held on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 210 Main Street, Johnsonburg, New Jersey. The full regular meeting schedule is as follows: 

Regular Meeting Dates for 2022:

January 19, 2022
February 16, 2022
March 16, 2022
April 20, 2022
May 18, 2022
June 15, 2022
July 20, 2022
August 17, 2022
September 21, 2022
October 19, 2022
*November 9, 2022
December 21, 2022

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the following dates during the calendar year of 2022 are hereby designated as the workshop meetings of the Mayor and Committee of the Township of Frelinghuysen, to be held on an as needed basis. 

Workshop Meeting Dates for 2022:

January 12, 2022
February 9, 2022
March 9, 2022
April 13, 2022
May 11, 2022
June 8, 2022
July 13, 2022
August 10, 2022
September 14, 2022
October 12, 2022
*November 21, 2022
December 14, 2022

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that unless otherwise specified, all workshop meetings will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 210 Main Street, Johnsonburg, New Jersey. Work meetings may be subject to cancellation. Formal action may be taken at any regular or workshop meeting. Executive sessions may be conducted by the governing body at these meetings. *Denotes change in meeting dates due to the League of Municipalities Conference.

Hardwick Township

*Kristin Shipps, Township Clerk, RMC

Email:  clerk@hardwick-nj.us
General Information:  908-362-6528 X 8
Office Hours: 

Hardwick Office Hours: Thursday 10:00 am to 2 pm

Blairstown Office Hours: Monday – Wednesday and Friday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Hardwick Township Commitee

"Hardwick Township Mayor Chris Jacksic being sworn in by NJ State Senator Steven V. Oroho at the Reorganization Meeting." Photo Credit: C. Jacksic, 2022
“Hardwick Township Mayor Chris Jacksic being sworn in by NJ State Senator Steven V. Oroho at the Reorganization Meeting.”  Photo Credit: C. Jacksic, 2022

The Township Committee is comprised of three Committee members who are elected at large for staggered terms of office. Each year voters elect one of the members to a three (3) year term on the Township Committee. In January, the Committee reorganizes selecting one of its members to serve as the Mayor and a second member to serve as the Deputy Mayor. The title of Mayor is a largely ceremonial position responsible for chairing meetings, acting as the Committee president and representing Hardwick’s interests at regional and state functions. The Township Committee adopts an annual budget, approves contracts and authorizes the payment of bills. The Committee further appoints the professional staff, consultants and members of various advisory committees and boards. The Township Committee is responsible for the adoption of local ordinances governing such diverse issues as land use and general nuisances.

Committee Members:

CHRIS JACKSIC – 2022 Mayor
Mayor’s Term expires December 31, 2022 (Committee Term expires December 31, 2024)


908 362-6018  
973 477-9111 Cell

Committee and Department Liaison Assignments: Mayor, Municipal Attorney, Municipal Clerk, Animal Control & Licensing Clerk, Public Safety/Court, Emergency Management, 9-1-1, Police, Fire, EMS, Board of Health 

JOHN LOVELL – 2021 Deputy Mayor (Committee Term expires December 31, 2023)


908 362-1485
201 230-4005 Cell

Committee and Department Liaison Assignments: Deputy Mayor, Engineering Department, Insurance, Public Works, Road Department, Building/Grounds, Finance Department, Auditor & CFO, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Open Space Committee 

KEVIN DUFFY – Committee Member (Committee Term expires December 31, 2022


#908 625-7450 Cell

Committee and Department Liaison Assignments: Committee Member, Agriculture Comm., Zoning Code, Enforcement, Land Use Board, Environmental Comm., Affordable Housing, Hardwick Seniors

Knowlton Township

Paulins Kill Viaduct

“Paulins Kill Viaduct – Knowlton’s spectacular landmark”

Photo Credit: P. St. Andre

Info @ a glance:

Municipal Building
628 Route 94
Columbia, NJ 07832
908-496-4816, FAX: 908-496-8144


MAYOR – Adele Starrs,

Email: adelestarrs@gmail.com

Knowlton Township Committee Members & Meeting Dates:


Phone #


Term Exp

Adele Starrs, Mayor



Debra Shipps , Deputy Mayor



Kathy Cuntala



James Mazza



Frank Van Horn



Meeting: 2nd Monday of each month and 4th Thursday of each month at 7 p.m.

* (Meetings, unless otherwise noted, are held at the Municipal Building.)

Municipal Clerk – 

908-496-4816 ext. 6


Zero-Emission Vehicle Standards Adopted by State to Improve Air Quality, Fight Climate Change, and Promote Clean Vehicle Choice

PRESS RELEASE: (TRENTON) – Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today announced the filing of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule for adoption on December 18, setting the state on the road toward better air quality and cleaner choices for new car buyers while combatting the worsening climate crisis. New Jersey joins a growing number of states that are requiring vehicle manufacturers to make zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) an increasing percentage of their new light-duty vehicle sales beginning in model year 2027, ramping up to 100% ZEVs by 2035.The rule does not impose obligations on consumers or car dealers and provides compliance flexibilities for manufacturers.

It requires manufacturers of passenger cars and light-duty trucks to meet an annual ZEV requirement intended to increase the percentage of electric vehicles sold in New Jersey. The rule also ensures that traditional gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles are manufactured to meet more stringent exhaust emission standards, which will positively impact air quality in New Jersey communities, especially those near high-traffic corridors. The rule will take effect starting in model year 2027, providing time for auto industry transition and continued development of charging infrastructure and a more robust and cleaner electrical grid in New Jersey.

It does not ban gasoline cars, nor does it force consumers to buy EVs. Rather, the rule will provide certainty to vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, utilities, and charging infrastructure companies to make the long-term investments that will be crucial to large-scale deployment of light-duty ZEVs and consumer choice.

“By filing the landmark Advanced Clean Cars II rule, New Jersey builds upon its standing as a national leader in climate action and its participation in the global Accelerating to Zero commitment,” said Governor Murphy. “The steps we take today to lower emissions will improve air quality and mitigate climate impacts for generations to come, all while increasing access to cleaner car choices. Indeed, together with my Administration’s continuing investments in voluntary electric vehicle incentives, charging infrastructure, and the green economy, these new standards will preserve consumer choice and promote affordability for hardworking New Jerseyans across the state.”

“Cleaner cars and trucks mean cleaner air for our children and families, because the tailpipes of our own vehicles are a leading cause of poor local air quality,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “As New Jersey transitions to a zero-emission vehicle future, we will improve our quality of life and public health. At the same time, we will reduce climate pollutants from the transportation sector, the greatest source of planet-warming pollution in New Jersey and the nation.”

The rule will be published in the Dec. 18 edition of the New Jersey Register. A courtesy, pre-publication copy of the rule will be posted in early December to the DEP Rules and Regulations webpage.“Today’s action by Governor Murphy and the New Jersey DEP is a major step in our fight against the worsening climate crisis,” said U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. “This rule will reduce climate pollution while also saving New Jerseyans money at the pump and spurring investments in building clean cars right here at home. Paired with the investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, New Jersey’s action will accelerate the process of transforming our transportation sector for the benefit of public health and the environment.”

“As Newark continuously moves toward a healthier and more economically successful community, we welcome the Advanced Clean Cars II Rule, knowing it will reduce emissions that degrade our environment and cause respiratory problems like asthma,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “As the largest automobile transportation hub and energy generation center in the state, Newark has much to gain through this rule, through greater investment into ZEVs, more jobs for city residents, and more availability of these vehicles for motorists. I congratulate Governor Murphy and thank the EPA for this planet-friendly initiative that benefits people right here in our community and beyond.”

“New Jersey is taking bold action right here at home under the leadership of our governor Phil Murphy,” said Mayor Hector C. Lora, City of Passaic. “By adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II Rule and implementing zero-emission vehicle standards, our state is leading the way in improving air quality, combating the climate crisis, and promoting clean vehicle choices. This initiative not only benefits the health and well-being of our residents in NJ but also sets a strong example for other states to follow. For urban municipalities like mine and so many other underserved and vulnerable communities around our State it really does mean the world to know that when it comes to our planet our leaders are looking out not just for our today but for everyone’s tomorrow as well. Together, we can create a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come.”

“As Mayor of the City of Plainfield, I wholeheartedly commend Governor Murphy and the Department of Environmental Protection for their forward-thinking and crucial adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II Rule,” said Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. “This landmark decision marks a significant step in our collective journey toward a cleaner, more sustainable future. In Plainfield, we are not only supporters of this vision but active participants in this environmental revolution. Our recent acquisition of 21 hybrid vehicles to replace our municipal fleet is a testament to our commitment to improving air quality, fighting climate change, and embracing clean vehicle choices. By aligning our local efforts with the State’s ambitious goals, Plainfield is decisively moving towards a future where environmental sustainability and public health are paramount. Together, we are setting an example for other communities to follow, ensuring a healthier, cleaner New Jersey for generations to come.”

“I am very pleased to see the continued efforts by Governor Murphy to promote clean energy technologies and to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions in New Jersey in a reasonable and thought out manner,” said Princeton Mayor Mark Freda. “Being such a densely populated state, reducing these emissions improves our environment, helps us address climate change and helps to improve everyone’s health.”

“Clean cars will help improve air quality in our urban centers that make up the most densely populated state,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. “I applaud Governor Murphy’s efforts to move us in forward gear for this effort.”

“The adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II program in New Jersey is a historic and monumental step in our transition toward a cleaner transportation sector, and carbon and co-pollutant emission reductions. ACC II will provide increased consumer choice to make EV’s more accessible to New Jersey residents. This is a huge win not only for the environment, but for public health and the communities who suffer every day from the pollution from congested roadways,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Murphy for prioritizing New Jersey’s public health. We look forward to seeing a lot more zero-emission vehicles on our roads in the very near future.”

“The electric vehicle revolution is upon us, and the benefits are far-reaching — even for those who never plan to get behind the wheel of an EV. By adopting Advanced Clean Cars II standards, New Jersey is making a commitment to cleaner air, improved public health, and climate change mitigation,” said Kathy Harris, Senior Clean Vehicles and Fuels Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Thanks to these standards, New Jersey will have avoided at least 175 premature deaths and at least 170 hospital visits from polluted air by 2050. The program will also bring cost-savings to New Jersey vehicle owners of nearly $60 billion by 2050.”

“This is a big moment for cleaner cars in New Jersey. Electric vehicles are reaching an inflection point and as we are likely experiencing the hottest year on record yet, this is the time to reduce climate pollution,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “New Jersey was one of the first states to adopt Clean Cars standards 20 years ago and today’s decision for New Jersey to join the bevy of other states to adopt the latest Clean Cars standards will put 40% of the nation’s auto market on an accelerated EV adoption pathway. Gov. Murphy, the entire Murphy Administration and the NJDEP deserve tremendous credit for ensuring that New Jersey adopted the program this year, ensuring that more electric vehicles will be available for New Jersey drivers.”

“Today NJ takes its rightful place as a leading state in the exciting electric vehicle transformation,” said Pam Frank, ChargEVC-NJ CEO. “All of us will benefit from cleaner air and by the purchase of home-grown electricity that pumps millions of dollars back into New Jersey’s economy.”

“Adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II rule will get more clean vehicles on the roads and deliver better air quality and cost savings for New Jersey businesses and consumers,” said Alli Gold Roberts, senior director, state policy, at Ceres. “New Jersey businesses, including members of Ceres’ Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance, support ACC II because it will help them gain access to the volume and variety of EVs they need to meet their corporate sustainability and climate goals. By taking this step, Governor Murphy has solidified New Jersey’s position as a global climate leader and a smart place to do business.”

“As a network of companies committed to advancing market innovation and policy change for a more sustainable economy, we applaud the Murphy administration’s decision to adopt ACCII standards,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. “Consumers and companies are experiencing first-hand how EVs are cleaner, technologically superior, and less costly to operate and maintain than internal combustion engines. By accelerating the growth of the EV market, ACCII will spur continued investment and innovation in the transition to a clean energy transportation sector. Thanks to this decision, New Jersey can look forward to increased economic development, more good-paying jobs, and cleaner air.”

“This policy shows that New Jersey will not back down from fossil fuel industry pressure and misinformation,” said Alex Ambrose, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II initiative will lead to a cleaner, greener, and safer New Jersey. Transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles means everyone in the state will breathe easier, especially those who live in communities closest to congested roads and highways. Thanks to the Murphy Administration, the Garden State is once again a leader in advancing clean energy policies.”

“The transportation sector is the largest source of climate-harming pollution in New Jersey, generating roughly 40% of our emissions. We are pleased Governor Murphy is taking important steps to advance and adopt the Advanced Car II standards to improve air quality and public health as well as saving drivers money over dirty fossil fuels from the pump,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “Not only do EVs cost less over their lifespan than a fossil-fuel powered car, they do not spew out toxic pollutants that affect the health of our communities. This is a critical moment for New Jersey to join the wave of states moving towards a clean transportation future, provide business with certainty, and to ensure New Jersey can access the full range of economic and public health benefits of the transition.”

Emissions from the transportation sector constitute the largest source of climate pollution in New Jersey at 37% of those emissions. By increasing ZEV sales and the stringency of the multi-pollutant exhaust emission standards, the state will also reduce emissions of localized air pollution from nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that will provide important public health benefits, especially in urbanized areas and overburdened communities. With the new rule, vehicle manufacturers must ensure that 43% of their annual production volume in 2027 is ZEVs. The percentage increases each year, peaking at 100 percent in 2035 and thereafter. 

The adoption of the Advanced Clean Car II rule is an evolution of rules adopted by the DEP in 2006 which incorporated, by reference, California’s ZEV requirement and emission control standards for all model year 2009 and subsequent passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Consumer demand for electric vehicles continues to rise. The number of EVs in New Jersey has grown to more than 123,000, representing 12 percent of new vehicle sales.

Since just last December, sales have surged 50 percent. In 2007, New Jersey’s Legislature passed the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA), N.J.S.A. 26:2C-37 et seq., which recognized that climate change, primarily caused by emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, poses a threat to the planet’s ecosystems and environment. In 2019, the Legislature amended the GWRA to require the State to develop programs to reduce emissions of both greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants through a comprehensive strategy. 

In 2020, the Department released the GWRA 80×50 Report, which analyzed New Jersey’s emissions reductions, evaluated the plans for further reducing emissions, and presented a set of strategies across seven emission sectors, including transportation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 2006 levels. A successful EV transition through the Advanced Clean Car II rule depends on adequate access to charging infrastructure and sufficient charging points across the state, including home charging, which is the most convenient and frequently used, and usually the least-cost source of electricity for charging.  

The Murphy Administration, through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Board of Public Utilities, Economic Development Authority, and Department of Transportation continues to advance funding and initiatives to develop charging infrastructure. Since 2019, the State has funded 2,980 charging stations with 5,271 ports at 680 locations.The Administration continues to work toward the development and expansion of wind, solar, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies in New Jersey, while ensuring that infrastructure, interconnection, and electricity supply meet the increased charging demand of ZEV users.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is dedicated to protecting New Jersey’s environment and public health. The agency prioritizes addressing climate change, protecting New Jersey’s water, revitalizing its communities and managing and promoting its natural and historic resources.For the most recent information about the DEP, follow its Twitter feed at @NewJerseyDEP or visit www.nj.gov/dep.

Warren County Updating Regs to Streamline County Planning Board Process

PRESS RELEASE: (WHITE TOWNSHIP, NJ – November 21, 2023) – The Warren County Planning Board’s Development Review Regulations are being updated with changes that will help make the process faster and easier for applicants.

The changes will promote “ease of use and transparency,” Commissioner Director Lori Ciesla said after the Board of County Commissioners voted to adopt the revisions, adding, “This will help everyone understand what the (planning) board actually does.”

The Development Review Regulations were last revised in May 2020 but this is the first major update in nearly 22 years.

The changes are intended to:

  • ·       Streamline the land development process for applications.
  • ·       Simplify and create efficiency in procedures.
  • ·       Empower a Development Review Committee, which will meet twice a month, to approve applications.
  • ·       Allow digital submissions for review and processing, with only one paper copy of plans required.

·       Focus the Planning Board on long range and master planning activities.

“We’re moving the technical aspect to the staff where it belongs, and the county Planning Board can proceed with planning,” Commissioner James R. Kern III noted. The timing is perfect for an update, he added, as the state is updating its master plan in 2024.

“Modernization is going to make it easier for our homeowners and small businesses, Commissioner Jason J. Sarnoski said, as it will allow for scrutiny of larger developments and promote longer term planning “to make sure we keep Warren County safe and rural.”

Sarnoski added, “Having the same scrutiny over a small driveway permit as we have for a warehouse development just doesn’t make sense.

Warren County Planning Department records show the county received 30 new applications so far this year and has 196 open applications, with an upward trend in application activity.

The county Planning Board must revise its bylaws to reflect the development review changes, which would be implemented in February 2024.

County Planner David Dech said the Development Review Committee authorized under the new procedures would be appointed at the Planning Board’s reorganization in January.

“It should improve the development review process because we will be meeting twice a month. The applications should be processed in a more expeditious manner,” Dech said.

Dech and Assistant Director Ryan Conklin presented the proposed changes during a public hearing held during the Commissioners’ November 21, 2023 meeting. The changes are available on the county government website in a link found on the Planning Department’s main page at www.warrencountynj.gov/government/planning-department.

Art Charlton


Warren County Public Information Department

Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership

Open Public Records Act, Custodian of Public Records


908-475-6580 / 908-475-6577 FAX

Christ Church Presents Nine Lessons & Carols

PRESS RELEASE: NEWTON, N.J. – Christ Episcopal Church in Newton will present the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, on Sunday, December 17, at p.m. 

The worship service includes nine Bible stories interspersed with Christmas carols which depict the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus. The renowned Christ Church senior choir and youth choir will perform accompanied by organ, piano, string quartet, harp and soprano saxophone, under the direction of choirmaster Joseph Mello and youth choir director, Deborah Mello. Works by Vaughan Williams, Warlock, Shaw-Parker, Cleobury, Forrest, Rutter and Chilcott will be presented along with settings of traditional carols and anthems. There will be several opportunities for the public to sing the carols.  

The format for the service was based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for Christmas Eve, 1880 in TruroCornwall. It has since been adapted and used by other churches all over the world. 

The Rev. Chris Streeter will preside. Piano and organ accompaniment will be provided by Diana Greene. The event is free and open to the public, although a free will offering will be taken. Christ Church is located at 62 Main Street in Newton. For more information about the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, call Christ Episcopal Church at 973-383-2245 or visit www.christchurchnewton.org.

Frelinghuysen Allocates Funds from Land Sale

Frelinghuysen received $1.4 million for the property, acquired in a tax sale for $1. Photo by Joe Phalon.

Frelinghuysen Township recently sold property it acquired several years ago in a tax sale for $1.4 million, and now town officials are planning to use those funds to pay down the municipal debt, make an allocation to the new fire department and applying some to the town surplus to address some immediate needs.

Mayor Keith Ramos said at the November 8 township committee meeting, where the proposal was passed, that during the past few years, $2.6 million in debt has been retired, a trend he said he’d like to continue by applying $1 million of the property sale proceeds to go toward reducing existing debt.

Ramos proposed directing $200,000 to the township’s fire department, which was established last year and is currently renovating the old town garage into a firehouse and outfitting fire trucks that have been donated.

“They’ve been pretty fiscally responsible, and this would give them a lot of breathing room,” Ramos said.

He said the department itself has not cost local taxpayers any significant money because the costs so far have been offset by savings on payments to neighboring fire departments.

The remaining $200,000, he said, should be directed toward the town’s budget surplus to be earmarked for renovations to the township municipal building.

In August, the township sold at auction a 30-acre parcel of land on Route 94 for $1.4 million. That bid was a half-million more than a bid from a May 10 auction of the same lot. That deal fell through, however, when the buyer failed to make a 10% down payment by the end of day the auction was held.

Frelinghuysen came into possession of the tract in February 2015 for $1 after a tax sale.

Jingle on Main to Kick Off With Santa and De-CAR-ations

Shoppers peruse shopkeepers at last year’s Jingle on Main. Photo by Joe Phalon.

Do you have more Christmas lights than good taste? Can your Yuletide decorating talents be seen from space? Have you ever wanted to take your Festival of Lights on the road?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Main Street Blairstown on Jingle Eve has a place for you and your high-wattage vehicle, tricked out in lights to welcome Santa the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Blairstown’s iconic Jingle on Main, organized by the Blairstown Enhancement Committee, has grown into a two-day holiday experience. On Jingle Eve, the Friday after Thanksgiving, the community comes together for the village tree lighting, cocoa, Christmas carols and a visit by Santa.

Santa will be escorted by vehicles large and small, decked out to the halls in lights. Any vehicle is welcome to arrive at the Blairstown Post Office by 5:45 p.m. though it’s preferred that you register ahead of time on their handy-dandy entry form. Be as bright and gaudy as you want, but remember—it is a family event!

The following day marks Jingle on Main, the best local shopping event in North Warren, with more than 70 vendors, live music, food trucks and family fun all day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Knowlton Township Elementary BOE Calm Before the Holiday Rush

Upcoming Dates:
Knowlton families can enjoy some wintry cheer at the holiday concert on December 12 at 6:30 p.m.
● The next board of education meeting will take place on December 18 at 7 p.m.

Mason D. won Knowlton’s Citizenship Award this month for respect, accountability and sportsmanship. Photo by C. O’Chang.

The holiday season can bring both blessings and headaches, especially in an elementary school full of exuberant youthful emotions. The holiday rush hadn’t quite hit the Knowlton Township Elementary board of education meeting on Tuesday, November 21, though the
board did share some updates of interest for the months ahead.

Instructional Updates:

● Educator of the Year nominations – Superintendent Jeannine DeFalco noted that Educator of the Year nominations “have been a little light this year.” Nominations for both classroom teachers and educational professionals will be accepted through November 27.
● Tests ahoy – Prepare yourself, fourth graders. Knowlton will administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to fourth graders on February 15. This nationwide assessment helps educators and policy makers check how schools are doing at the local, state and national level. It’s not designed to give individual scores, which should take the pressure off the fourth graders.
● New standards incoming: Vice Principal Dana Carroll announced that new standards are incoming for English language arts (ELA) and math. Kindergartners and first graders will learn about money in their math classes. In ELA, phonics will return after an absence of a few years. Knowlton is one of many schools moving toward a more phonics-based
reading approach after several recent studies showing its effectiveness. The new standards will be in place next September.

Giving and Fundraising Updates:

● Two fundraisers finished, one in progress: The baketivity and pumpkin arrangement fundraisers have now finished. Parents can still support the school while beautifying their homes by buying poinsettias, a fundraiser that’s still ongoing.
● Giving for Thanksgiving: The EarlyAct club “has been working diligently” to prepare Thanksgiving baskets for the needy. Donations came from school families, community members with no children attending Knowlton, and local businesses. Their efforts have paid off: “It’s a lot of stuff,” DeFalco said.
● Giving for Thanksgiving, Vol. 2: Not to be outdone, Knowlton staff are busy collecting mittens, scarfs and other cold-weather items for DASACC, the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Warren County.
● Set in stone: Board member Ali Stiehl helped secure a donation of stone for the school garden, which is now prepped for winter.

Building & Facilities Updates:

● Picking up the speed: Knowlton is taking steps to replace their internet service, undoubtedly bringing relief to staff and students alike. Funding and timelines are a factor and the process will be ongoing.
● Searching for funds: DeFalco received a response from the School Development Authority about her request for funds to replace the now-defunct modular buildings with a permanent structure. Unfortunately, Knowlton isn’t eligible for these grants due to its low current and projected enrollment. DeFalco will continue hunting down other opportunities for funding.
● Quotes & more quotes: Board member Todd Spain explained that the facilities committee is getting quotes for several projects: fixing two HVAC units, moving the modular structures toward demolition and replacing the oil tank.

Student Update:

The winner of this month’s Citizenship Award is Mason D., who earned the award for accountability, respect, kindness and sportsmanship.

Holiday Wine Trail Weekend Begins on November 24

Snapshots from Alba Vineyard in Milford, New Jersey. Photo by C. O’Chang, 11/2023.

Holiday decorations and Christmas trees have sneaked into the seasonal sections early this year. But this weekend brings the stuffed stomachs, tryptophan and joyful connection of Thanksgiving, followed by Black Friday, the traditional kickoff of the holiday season.

To celebrate, the New Jersey Wine Growers Association (NJWGA) is hosting its annual Holiday Wine Trail Weekend. A nonprofit coalition of over 60 New Jersey wineries, the NJWGA has invited its members to host family activities, vendors and performers to get the holiday season started.

The 2023 Holiday Wine Trail runs from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26.

Here’s a guide to special events happening at nearby wineries, sorted by distance from Blairstown. Note: don’t forget to pick a designated driver before the tastings start!

  • (12 minutes from Blairstown) Brook Hollow Winery: Corks & Crafts Fair, Saturday, November 25 and Sunday, November 26. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Your favorite local vendors in one location, for all of your holiday shopping needs.” 594 Route 94, Columbia. www.brookhollowwinery.com
  • (16 minutes from Blairstown) Four Sisters Winery: 39th Anniversary Celebration, Saturday, November 25 and Sunday, November 26. Noon to 5 p.m. Live music, tastings, sparkling wine, warm spiced wine, food specials, discounts. Four Sisters Winery, 783 County Road 519, Belvidere. https://www.facebook.com/foursisterswinery/
  • (52 minutes from Blairstown, going south) Beneduce Vineyards, Saturday, November 25, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group therapy. Live music, lawn games, food trucks. Reservations recommended. 21+ only. 1 Jeremiah Lane Alexandria. https://www.beneducevineyards.com/
  • (55 minutes from Blairstown, going south) Villa Milagro, Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Experience a little bit of Christmas South of the Border. Luminarias will light our indoor Cantina, where you will warm to traditional Mexican Christmas music.” Traditional Mexican cookies, spiced mulled wine, case discounts. 33 County Road 627, Phillipsburg. https://www.villamilagrovineyards.com/
  • (55 minutes from Blairstown, going north) Ventimiglia Vineyard, Friday, November 24 and Saturday, November 25, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, November 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Finger snacks and holiday wine tasting. 101 Layton Road, Wantage. https://ventivines.com/
  • (58 minutes from Blairstown, going south) Old York Cellars: Black Friday Weekend at the Winery, Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26. Discounts, live music, wine pairings, brunch and BBQ on Sunday. Reservations recommended. 80 Old York Road, Ringoes. https://www.oldyorkcellars.com/
  • If you just want to taste some wine, you’ll also find tastings at wineries like Little Ridge Vineyard, Alba Vineyard, and Mount Salem Vineyards, all south of Blairstown.

PHALON’S FILE: Remembering JFK on That Day

Walter Cronkite telling the world President Kennedy was dead. Photo: CBS Archive.

One the first, if not the first, news stories I can remember unfolding in real time is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This week will mark the 60th anniversary of that event.

In the intervening years, I’ve watched as the Kennedy assassination has passed through the three basic levels of history: things occurred (1) last week, (2) a long time ago or (3) a really long time ago like when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

Basically, anything that happened before a person was born can pretty much be categorized as option three, the dinosaur level. And I suppose to most post-Boomers, the JFK history is, indeed, ancient history.

But if you were there to see it, you probably have a different perspective.

Even today, the events of September 11, 2001, to me and I’m sure many, many others, seem to fall into the “last week” option, because it still seems like it happened last week. At the same time, there are many Millennials reaching adulthood who weren’t yet born on that day.

To them, I imagine, September 11 takes on a level of abstraction. They didn’t see the story unfold in real time. They did not hear the first reports of a small plane accidently colliding with the North Tower and then the horror of what the crash of the second plane meant.

Though I was 4 years old on November 22, 1963, I had basic awareness of who President Kennedy was. Everybody seemed to like him.

My vague memories of that day began with our neighbor at our back door around lunchtime. She looked upset and told my mother she heard on the radio there was a shooting at the president’s motorcade but knew no more than that.

I, of course, knew very little about what this all meant, but I do remember vividly when Walter Cronkite announced in CBS: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m., Central Standard Time, 2 p.m. Eastern Time, some 38 minutes ago.” He paused for a moment, wiped his eyes then collected himself, realizing what would be expected from The Most Trusted Man in America in the next few days.

That memory I’m sure is conflated with many subsequent viewings of that moment, but I do vividly remember my mother and our neighbor suddenly sobbing. Then everything got weird.

The TV, the core and babysitter of most suburban homes in the early 60s, abruptly shifted to men in suits and ties instead of cartoons and Captain Kangaroo. There were no 24-hour news channels then, so extensive coverage of the events took place on the major networks, much like it did during the days after September 11.

My father brought my brother and me for haircuts at Nick Zisa’s barbershop in Pequannock during what became known as The Four Days between the assassination and the funeral, and one of the few times he was actually home from work during the day as the world came to a brief standstill.

The big TV with the little screen in the barbershop was tuned to the coverage of the unfolding events, and I remember seeing grown men openly weeping, something one did not see in 1963.

An unnerving quiet settled in as the late president’s funeral commenced. I could see no cars on the streets. No sound from the nearby highway. Nobody on the sidewalks. A couple mornings later, my mother told me Captain Kangaroo was back, and all seemed right with the world.

But a sense of the earlier normalcy never fully returned. At 4 years old, I didn’t quite grasp the full meaning of what happened, but even then, I seemed to realize it was a society-altering event.

The next September, when I started kindergarten in Hillview School, our teacher Mrs. Lang hung up a picture of the slain president and explained who he was and what happened.

Adding a bit of confusion to the mix, our building custodian’s name was Mr. Kennedy, and Mrs. Lang bore an uncanny resemblance to Jacqueline Kennedy, but I think I got it all straight.

State Wineries Show Evolution During New Jersey Wine Week

A map of the wineries in North Jersey. The five wineries in the Warren Hills AVA from north to
south are: (11) Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia; (21) Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere; (30)
Little Ridge Vineyards in Phillipsburg; (2) Alba Vineyard in Milford; and (48) Villa Milagro
Vineyards in Phillipsburg. Image courtesy of the Garden State Wine Growers Association.

On Sunday, November 19, the Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA) concluded this year’s annual New Jersey Wine Week celebration.

Since its founding in 1987, the GSWGA has brought New Jersey’s wine makers together during what has been a boom time for the state’s wine industry. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of wineries in New Jersey increased by over 180%, and wine is now the state’s fastest growing division of agriculture.

Yet, for all that exciting growth, Princeton University Professor Orley Ashenfelter sums it up best in his foreword to the 2020 book “Wine Grape Varieties for New Jersey” by saying “New Jersey wines are among the most underrated in the world.”

The world? As in, wines from our dense little corner of the Northeast deserve mention in a conversation about the whole planet?

According to Dr. Lawrence “Larry” Coia, owner of Coia Vineyards and co-author of “Wine Grape Varieties for New Jersey” alongside Daniel Ward, absolutely.

Brothers Nick (behind bar with baseball cap) and Tom Sharko (far right) facilitate a group tasting at Alba Vineyards. Photo by C. O’Chang, 11/2023.

“Our whites, chardonnay, were compared to the best of Burgundy,” he said. “And our reds, cabernet franc, cabernet sangiovese, were compared to the best of the French. And I do mean the best.”

He’s describing a 2012 wine competition known as the Judgment of Princeton.

The contest took its name from the more famous 1976 Judgment of Paris, when California wines competed and won against renowned French wines in a double-blind tasting. The results revolutionized the wine world and elevated California’s reputation as a source of high-quality wine.

In 2012, New Jersey wines got their own chance to compete on the world stage. George M. Taber, a “Time” magazine journalist who had reported on the original Judgment of Paris, organized a blind tasting with the same structure.

This time, New Jersey wines faced more highly regarded (and generally much more expensive) French wines. French wines won the top ranking in both the red and white categories, but our wines tied the fine French wines for the rest of the list, with judges finding them indistinguishable.

This is not a “second place is first loser” situation. It’s like tying for silver medal at the Olympics– proof that you belong with the best of the best. Not shabby for a state that’s 4% the size of France and hardly noticed in the wine world.

Over 10 years later, New Jersey wines can list that achievement alongside gold medals in national and international competitions and ratings of over 90 out of a 100 from big-name wine critics who show up regularly in liquor store blurbs.

If only people noticed.

Warren County: Wine Country

New Jersey’s winemaking brag sheet is impressive, considering the state’s late entry into the game. Though New Jersey winemaking started in the 1700s, Prohibition shattered industry operations and the rigid liquor laws that followed killed almost everything left, limiting wineries in the state to a maximum of one winery per one million people.

That changed in 1981 with the passage of the Farm Winery Act, which lifted the strict limit on wineries. Three years later, New Jersey formally established its first American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

An AVA is a recognized winegrowing region with specific characteristics that affect the final product. The designation lends credibility and can support quality control. Even casual drinkers recognize the AVAs with the best reputations: Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Columbia Valley.

New Jersey’s first AVA had “valley” in its name, too. The Central Delaware Valley AVA includes Hunterdon and Mercer counties, stretching across the Delaware River to include Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

In 1988, New Jersey got its second AVA: Warren Hills AVA, covering 182,000 acres inside the borders of Warren County.

Cape May and the Outer Coastal Plain joined later, for a total of four New Jersey AVAs today.

Though it may not have “valley” in the name, most of the Warren Hills AVA sits in river valleys made by the Delaware and its tributaries, and it benefits from the same geological traits that produce great wine in river valleys around the world.

The owners of Alba Vineyard, situated at the southern tip of the Warren Hills AVA in Milford, have noticed. Alba is a family-owned business modeled after a northern French winery, with owner Tom Sharko, his wife, and two sons, Tom and Nick, all involved in the day-to-day operations. This year, Alba released its 27th vintage.

Tom Sharko, vice president of Alba Vineyards, leading a guided tasting. Photo by C. O’Chang. 11/2023.

According to Nick Sharko, the family grew up with an appreciation of fine French wines and the landscape that produced them. On trips to France’s wine-growing regions, they noticed that some areas had similar geography and climate to Warren County, especially in the Loire Valley.

The Loire and the Musconetcong River Valley share a mineral-rich soil composition that includes granite, limestone and ocean marl left behind by glaciers which are prime conditions for grapes.

Why care so much about dirt? Simple: good dirt makes good wine.

“It translates into the wine, with our white wines exhibiting beautiful acidity, minerality and freshness,” Nick Sharko said. “Our red wines have a nice depth of mineral and earth, as well as some good fruit and tannin structure.”

That lovely, untranslatable word terroir describes the natural characteristics that shape a grape’s development. It’s dirt, and it’s also climate, average temperature, elevation, exposure to sun, exposure to wind. When conditions are favorable, they’re an irreplaceable gift. When they’re not, viticulturists have to adapt however they can.

“It’s like a game against Mother Nature,” Nick Sharko said, a game that changes with each year’s changing conditions. In last year’s drought, his vineyards thrived and the grapes ripened perfectly in the long, sunny days. Grapes don’t like a lot of rain.

So this year, with its periodic downpours and the threat of fungal infections and disease, the Sharkos had a much greater challenge, followed by a greater reward, in Nick’s eyes.

That’s why the Sharkos prefer the French term: not wine maker, but wine grower. The difference between a $200 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle of wine might just be the land it grows on, and the farmer’s ability to work with it.

Cabernet franc vs. chambourcin: the search for New Jersey’s ideal grape

Of course, the winemaker makes choices that affect the final product, too. Two miles down the road from Alba Vineyard, Dr. Audrey Cross and Steve Gambino have run Villa Milagro Vineyards since 2001. They make lively, bright wines designed to accompany food. Their vine rows end about 30 feet from the Delaware River.

Dr. Cross’ resume runs 18 pages long. She’s got a storied career in nutrition, public health policy and a unique bullet point on her resume: she authored the original Food Pyramid. With her background in law, she works on the legal committee for the GSWGA. But her most recent degree was in oenology – winemaking.

Before she and her husband can make the wine, though, they have to get grapes.

“It’s not easy, growing grapes. Probably a degree in viticulture would have been a better background,” she said with a wry chuckle.

Since 1981, New Jersey winemakers have improved their craft by hiring experts, consulting with veteran winemakers in well-established regions and learning through years of trial and error. But one all-important practice still has plenty of differing opinions: which grape variety to plant.

A region’s distinct characteristics lead some grape varieties to thrive better than others. After decades or even centuries of experimentation, the established wine regions have found the varieties that do best with their conditions. In France’s venerated wine regions, the permitted grape varieties are even established by law.

In the Champagne region, you’ll find plantings of chardonnay. In California, cabernet sauvignon. In Oregon, pinot noir.

How about here?

“In New Jersey,” Dr. Cross said, “we can’t agree on anything.”

Part of the problem is the same thing that plagued the Sharkos this year: New Jersey’s humidity and considerable rainfall, which will continue to worsen with climate change.

The good news is that grapes can thrive in New Jersey’s wet conditions.

The bad news is that it’s much harder for the wine grapes that most people recognize. Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay, riesling and malbec, all hail from the European grape species vinis vinifera, a grape suited to dry conditions and long growing seasons.

Some traditional vinifera species can thrive in New Jersey’s climate. Nick Sharko is a particular fan of cabernet franc, the boldest and most structured wine that Alba offers. Unfortunately, not all of the vineyards in New Jersey have the conditions to grow a hearty cab franc.

Many winemakers are tackling the problem of rainfall by planting a more rugged type of grape. By crossing grapes native to the American continent with traditional vinifera species, they get a hardier species.

In good news, these new American-European crosses, known as hybrids, are naturally resistant to disease and cold Northeastern winters. Some, like the red grape chambourcin, are starting to develop recognition locally.

“Some people call it the zinfandel of the East,” Dr. Coia said. “I don’t think it’s exactly like zinfandel, but it’s got a lot of fruity characteristics. A lot of fruit. Good acidity.”

There’s a “but” coming: “The only thing it doesn’t have is tannins.”

Unfortunately, that holds true for many American-European crosses. Wine made from American grapes can be thinner, especially reds, and considered lower quality. Even those that make a balanced wine lack name recognition with customers.

Some winemakers point out the hypocrisy of dismissing American-European grapes just because they’re hybrids. “All grapes are hybrids,” Dr. Coia said. He uses the much-vaunted cabernet sauvignon as an example. Long before the grape conquered California, it was itself a cross between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. 

That may be true according to science and biology, but so far, it’s not convincing to palates and the emotions of wine consumption. Nick Sharko grows American-French grapes like Chambourcin and Traminette (a white) in his vineyard, especially in less favorable spots where the vinifera do poorly. But he’s pragmatic about the place of hybrid wines in his portfolio: “You’re not ever gonna get famous or rich from growing hybrids.” 

The market: a vine waiting to bloom 

Still, the science of making wine in New Jersey is becoming more exact every year. The learning happens in each individual vineyard. At Alba, the Sharkos used to grow all kinds of grapes. Now, they’re down to six vinifera and a couple American-European hybrids. They found out what works– and across New Jersey, within each individual AVA, winemakers are figuring that out and sharing the word. 

“We are over the age where everyone who walked through my door and tasted my wine said, ‘Oh, these are Jersey wines? They’re so good,’” Dr. Cross said. “I never felt happy about that… if you’re in California, nobody comes into your winery and says ‘Oh, your wines are so good. All the other California wines suck.’ You want all of our wines to have a good reputation.” 

She’s seen the quality improve across the board as wine makers bring in professional help and give feedback on each other’s wines, sharing viticultural practices that work. 

Some help comes from the sheer passage of time, according to Nick Sharko. Most of New Jersey’s 60+ vineyards had to start after 1981, usually as family farms that moved into wine and had to experiment to find the best varieties and practices for their region. Grapes are slow-growing compared to NJ’s other fruit and vegetable crops; it takes six years for a newly planted vine to produce enough fruit to harvest. 

The vines at Alba aren’t newly planted anymore. Over half of them will be twenty years old or older next year. “So we’re really just starting to see what the true potential of our vines are,” Sharko said. 

To reach consumers, NJ winemakers couldn’t be in a better location. According to Sharko, New Jersey is the number one consumer of wine bottles that cost over $25. Clearly, New Jersey loves wine– though not always its own. 

Devon Perry, Executive Director of the GSWGA, sees a new generation of drinkers with different preferences gravitating toward local vineyards. With the locavore, or eating local, movement continuing to drive appetites and a movement toward sustainability, drinking local seems like a logical extension. Visitors to a vineyard will “be able to actually point to the vine that grew the grapes that ended up making the wine that’s in their glass,” Perry said, a point that the Sharkos prove instinctively– they can point to the exact terrace that supplied the grapes for their Pinot Noir Reserve. 

“There’s a story behind every bottle of wine in New Jersey,” Perry says. Winemakers are still trying to tell that story to the customers in their backyard– the 44 million people within one tank of gas of New Jersey, according to Perry. 

Nick Sharko, for one, is sick of the discovery story. It goes: “Who would think wine grows in New Jersey? Well, it does, and it’s pretty good!”  

New Jersey wine has been here for decades, he says. And still, 10 years after New Jersey wines held their own against French wines from legendary houses, New Jersey wine accounts for only 2% of wine sales in New Jersey. 

Maybe, he thinks, the story about New Jersey wine has to change.

“The quality level is higher than it’s ever been before,” he said. “But I think we need to maybe get away from, like, ‘Discover this stuff,’ and be like: ‘We’re here. We’ve been here. Come see how we’ve evolved.’”

A Facelift for Frelinghuysen Town Hall?

Frelinghuysen Town Hall
Frelinghuysen Town Hall, 210 Main Street, Johnsonburg, has withstood the test of time for 120 years. RVE stock photo.

Frelinghuysen’s town hall is in need of a nip and tuck. And maybe a few more things.

The township committee at its November 8 meeting moved to begin assessing the needs of the 120-year-old building that has served as the municipal building for the past several decades.

“The town hall is our face to the community,” said Mayor Keith Ramos. “I’d like to start exploring what we can do.”

Ramos said he would like to start with asking local tradespeople and interested residents to examine the building and help determine its needs.

“It will be an ongoing conversation, but I’d like to start getting some people in to take a look at it just off the bat,” he said. “As you can see the ceiling needs to be replaced in here,” he added, pointing to the ceiling of the town hall meeting room, which in the past has served as the school bus garage and later classrooms, when the building was used as a school. Ramos also cited the building’s furnace.

“I think we’ve spent about $12,000 trying to fix this furnace,” Ramos said. “It really needs to come out, and my suggestion is we need to get away from the oil altogether.”

Heat has been sporadic in town hall in recent years, Ramos said, as Township Clerk Donna Zilberfarb, who works in the building full time, “can attest to.”

“Yes, there’s no heat. Thank you,” she agreed.

Among other issues, Ramos said masonry needs to be repointed, siding repaired and several old, unused air conditioning units need to be removed, which could be a complicated process.

The township recently got an infusion of cash from the sale of property on Route 94, which Ramos said he wants to apply to paying down debt, but also to the town surplus, which could provide seed money to get the town hall work started. He added that once a project is progressing, it is easier to apply for grant money.

Ramos pointed to a number of renovations and repairs to homes and businesses that are taking place on Main Street and that the committee should continue that improvement trend with the municipal building.

“I think you see the transformation,” Ramos said, including new signs welcoming people to the township. “A lot of the residents now have seen that we have a sign actually saying you’re coming into Frelinghuysen, which, by the way, helps everybody spell it when they get here.”

Knowlton Gets Report on Farmland Preservation

Land use map of Knowlton prepared by the State Agriculture Development Committee. The red areas indicate land not protected by farmland preservation programs. Photo by Joe Phalon, 11/2023.

Almost one third of Knowlton Township is subject to development, and while great strides have been made to preserve farmland and woodland, the State Agriculture Development Committee wants residents to pay particular interest in that land.

“That’s basically everything in the township that can be developed further,” said longtime resident Bob McNinch, speaking on behalf of the State Agriculture Development Committee. “It’s not preserved farmland, it’s not preserved woodland, it’s not parks. It’s basically everything. All of this can be subdivided and developed in the future.”

During a presentation to the Knowlton Township Committee November 13, McNinch gave an update on progress and challenges in preserving existing farmland within that portion of the township, which includes approximately 4,500 acres of Knowlton’s 15,808 acres.

Currently, Knowlton has 2,600 acres of preserved farmland, in which the owners accept a payment from funds made available from the state and federal governments and agree the land will remain farmland in perpetuity.

McNinch pointed out that unlike government-owned preserved land, such as state and federally owned parks and open spaces lands, preserved farms continue to generate property taxes. The state and federal land encompasses 3,500 while the township owns 94 acres, which are dedicated to parks and open space.

And while many of the 4,500 acres that are privately owned include many plots that could not be developed for a multitude of reasons such as mountainous terrain and wetlands, that figure also includes unrestricted farmland, which by its nature, can be attractive to developers, McNinch said.

“They can be developed into housing subdivisions, industrial, solar complexes, etc.” McNinch said. Half the 4,500 acres are farmland, he said, which could be eligible for the farmland preservation program.

Upcoming projects include making people who own property that might be eligible for the preservation programs aware of them. McNinch emphasized that there is no obligation and that many people have reasons to keep the status quo.

INTERESTING FOLKS: A Detailed Life, Diorama Artist Karen Kaplan Klein

Klein spends many hours in her studio working on minute details of her dioramas. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Karen Kaplan Klein has energy to burn. To say that the (almost) 75 year-old is busy is an understatement. Between teaching, caring for her family and small horse farm, and occasionally travelling the world, her artwork serves as a spiritual anchor to an involved life.

“Ever since I was a child, I knew I was an artist,” she said at her home studio on Artist View Lane in Blairstown (aptly named for sure). “When I was asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ My answer was, ‘I’m already doing it. I’m an artist.’”

Growing up in Rochester, New York, her parents, Leo and Jane Kaplan, encouraged her talents. Her father Leo (1912-2012) was an assemblage artist.

“They would send me to art classes, and I was thankful for that. Because in school there either was no art program, or it was just ‘do whatever you want’ with no direction,” she recalled. “They [teachers] would just give you some paper and paints. As a teacher myself, I want to make sure my students get so much more than that. I want them to be excited about creating art.”

It was Klein’s father who got her into teaching.

“I wanted to do art for a living, but I was not drawn to the commercial side,” she said. “My father knew what it was like to struggle as an artist, and he wanted me to be secure.”

Klein wound up graduating from Long Island University, with a major in art and a minor in education. She’s been teaching for 52 years.

Currently Klein is teaching an art class at the first school she ever taught at in Byram.

“I was the art teacher from 1971 to 1978,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true to be back now, at the ending of my teaching career, to where I started as a rebellious 22 year old.”

Her instruction method is as hands on as her artwork, with the goal of teaching technique as well as having the student feel heard.

“I teach a variety of different styles for different age groups and abilities,” she said. “You really have to individualize the lessons.”

Klein’s students range in age from as young as five to as old as 95.

In addition to teaching at Byram, Klein also teaches art to trauma victims for Norwescap and at assisted living facilities like the Colonial Manor in Hackettstown.

“It’s one of my favorite teaching jobs,” she said.

Residents at Colonial Manor call her program “Sweet Jane’s” in memory of Klein’s mother. Klein also owns Art Magic and runs programs for children at her home studio throughout the year. Students experience working with a range of mediums including clay, paint and copper tooling.

Her process for her own diorama work is intricate and time consuming. She creates original and complex pen and ink drawings with a technical fountain pen. Then the images are scanned and reduced in size. After, they are printed out onto high quality art paper and meticulously cut out with a precision knife. Klein adds color and dry mounts them into place on the diorama. The labor is truly one of love, evident in many of her pieces that have tiny inch-high details and multiple layers. This is not a simple endeavor.

Klein explained the process has changed slightly over the years with technology, especially the ability to scan and reduce her drawings in her studio. There was also a time when she had to go to the library to do research.

“If I wanted to draw an elephant, I would go to the library and sit on the floor surrounded by books trying to find the right image that would inspire me,” she said.

Now with the advent of Google, she says things are a little easier to find.

Klein’s dioramas convey mysteries that the viewer can spend hours staring at trying to crack. One can see why the layers are much more than a part of a highly technical project. Each piece, no matter how large or small, incorporates themes that take the viewer down different roads. In one diorama, an old woman stares out of an intricately cut hole at a figure of a young woman in a veil. Behind the old women is a skull. So much is expressed in the piece. Is it about mortality? Colonialism? Is it humorous? Upsetting? The viewer decides.

In her small dioramas, displayed on a wall in her home, the viewer forgets they are staring into a little box and are transformed into a voyeur interrupting the private intimacy of a small world. The roughly five-by-five pieces are an illusion. The detail of her work, displayed against white backgrounds, tricks the viewer into thinking they are staring into a large space. A clown, no more than three inches high, stands at a podium giving a speech, and you are transcended to a debate hall. Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” stares woefully out of her little box at the viewer and the viewer feels that they are the ones on display. Klein successfully blurs the line between the realities of her subjects and the outside world.

Small dioramas are displayed in the artist’s home. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Her career started taking off in New York City’s Greenwich Village art scene in the 1970s, where her pieces would be displayed in galleries, and she was regularly invited to shows. After she started having children, things slowed down a little. She admitted it could be difficult at times.

“I was exhausted,” she said, after the birth of her first daughter, Lindsay.

Her first husband, Steve Klein (who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 36, leaving her with two small children) would also bump heads with her on the attention she gave her art.

“It could be really hard at times,” she recalled.

Klein eventually married her current partner, Don Jacobson, and they settled in Blairstown with their blended family of five children.

After the death of her first husband, Klein said she didn’t remember doing any artwork that year. But her ability to channel her mourning into expression has grown since then. Klein’s brother, James (Jamie) Kaplan, a schoolteacher, died in 2022. The siblings were close.

“The only way I’ve been able to get through his death is through my artwork. Not only do I need it to live and breathe because I am an artist, but I need it to get through the loss. You need to have something to want to be alive for,” she said.

A piece she has recently returned to is called Roller Coaster.

“I’ve been working on it for almost 10 years,” Klein said. “It is an homage to the 40s and 50s, to our [Jamie and Klein’s] childhood. And I feel like it has been a roller coaster.”

A detail from Klein’s piece Roller Coaster that she has been working on for 10 years. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.
Diorama pieces are cut out and colored before assemblage. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Klein said she draws on lucid dreaming and her spirituality for her artwork. A prominent theme is her use of a black and white checkered floor in many of her pieces. It’s a nod to the story of King Solomon’s Temple whose checkered floor represented the good and evil in every life.

Klein’s clay dioramas (or clayaramas as she calls them) are much more whimsical. They are frequently displayed and sold at Gallery 23 on Main Street in Blairstown. Her pieces are mostly animal themed, and she is obsessed with getting the glaze (colors) right.

“The process is intense,” she said. “Between creating the clay, hollowing it, firing it into bisque, and glazing. I glaze it multiple times to get it right. So now we’re up to two to three firings. I’m also doing luster fires now for silver, gold and copper.”

Bisque firing is a very controlled process, with the clay being heated slowly and then cooled slowly so it can become porous and handle the glaze.

Klein bucks against the trope that artists are free spirited carefree creatures.

“Sure, we’re creative, but artists are obsessive,” she said. “Everything needs to be perfect.”

Klein started using clay around 15 years ago and became addicted.

“I started with a diner piece, and it went on from there,” Klein said.

A piece she did during the pandemic is called Dime Store Boogie Woogie and is on display at Gallery 23.

“It’s my largest piece, and my most serious one.”

Dime Store Boogie Woogie, at Gallery 23 in Blairstown. Photo courtesy of Karen Kaplan Klein.

Klein said she finds clay work enjoyable, and her Christmas ornaments, like The Cat’s Pajamas, have been a big hit with the public.

“Some people buy them just to put on the shelf year round,” she said.

When asked about the future, Klein said she hopes to continue concentrating on her artwork and her spirituality. She traveled to Egypt a few years ago as a scribe for a friend, the author Normandie Ellis.

“I read and write hieroglyphics,” she said. “The Egyptians were drawing their words. The one thing I always say to my students is everybody can draw; everybody can be an artist.”

This may be true, but art collectors you have been warned, a piece by Klein is one to display prominently, look at often, and wonder at the complexities of life.

You can see some of Karen Kaplan Klein’s artwork at Gallery 23 at 23 Main Street, Blairstown.

North Warren Regional Reports Successful Start to Capturing Kids Hearts Program

Why NWR chose the Capturing Kids Hearts program. Photo by: C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

The North Warren Regional School District board of education (BOE) met on November 14, 2023, in the school’s auditorium for their regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m. A detailed overview of the program “Capturing Kids Hearts” (CKH) was presented by Principal Carie Norcross-Murphy, special education teachers Stacey Fluri and Alyssa Wetzel, and Choral Director Jessica Koppinger.

According to their website, CKH is a training and coaching program that helps schools “implement transformational processes focused on social-emotional well-being, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness.”

Teachers and staff were trained in August before the school year began. Norcross-Murphy noted that there was overall support for the program from staff.

The core of the program is based on EXCEL, an acronym for engage, x-plore, communicate, empower, launch. One of the reasons for implementing the program was an increase in HIB cases and hate speech after the pandemic.

“We wanted to establish social norms for behavior. This is nothing new, but it’s a more conscientious effort,” said Norcross-Murphy. She said that every single NWR teacher started the school year off with a social contract for behavior with their students.

This allows the students to know what is expected of them by each teacher.

“And it’s working,” said Norcross-Murphy. “I had a student in the other day for a behavior issue and the first thing they said was ‘Are we going to go over the contract?’”

Teachers at North Warren are also starting their day on a more positive note to set up their students for a successful day. They greet students before they enter the classroom and engage with them by asking them to “tell them something good.” They are also giving more affirmations to students.

“Social-emotional learning is important,” said Norcross-Murphy. “So that when things get out of hand, everyone [student and teachers] can rely on each other [to do the right thing].”

“Good teachers are doing these things already,” added Norcross-Murphy. “You need students to feel safe in order to learn.”

Fluri presented the use of “four questions” to stop disruptive behavior and redirect students to focus. They are:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What are you supposed to be doing?
  3. Are you doing it? Yes or no.
  4. What are you going to do about it?

“I use this at home on my husband and kids too,” Fluri quipped.

The teachers expressed their love of “brain breaks,” where they take students for quick walks outside or do other social-emotional exercises to get students back to a learning mindset.

“Class periods are 58 minutes long,” said Fluri. “That’s a long time to sit at a desk for a child. A 15-minute brain break is a great way to get them back in focus.”

Koppinger said that since implementing the program, her students have been kinder and more respectful when critiquing each other.

“I need the kids to work together to be kind,” she said. “Especially when criticism is involved [referring to the choral program].”

Koppinger noted it took some work to get the high schoolers on board with things like power claps, but it was well worth it.

“The middle schoolers ate it right up, but the high schoolers, some who are bigger than I am, took some convincing,” she said.

The program also empowers kids to take responsibility for their own behavior and foster self-managed classrooms. Koppinger said she has observed her students coaching peers who were being disruptive after their power clap which signals the start of the lesson.

“I didn’t have to intervene,” she said. “They got each other back on track.”

Wetzel said her students were excited about the program.

“I use the story, ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today,’ by Carol McCloud to foster kindness.”

Wetzel also has a clear bucket in her classroom that students put pom poms in when they do an act of kindness as a visual reminder. She said it helped them set a goal for good behavior.

“Of course, it goes both ways, and sometimes we have to take a pom pom out.”

BOE member Dr. Mary Ann Boyd said she appreciated that a safe environment for kids to talk was being fostered and that it was important at this age.

“I am also appreciative that it is teaching face-to-face communication skills,” said Boyd. “It’s so important when today’s social media has corrupted that basic social interaction.”

Dutt thanked Norcross-Murphy and the teachers for their presentation and quoted professional educator Rita Pearson, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

In her superintendent’s report, Dutt said the monthly superintendent cluster meetings were underway. Interdistrict curriculum meetings will also start meeting again in December and January. The interdistrict curriculum meetings, where teachers and administrators from each sending district discuss curriculum, programming and resources had not been active since before the pandemic. This year the team is focusing on English and math in the first session and social studies and science in the second.

“These are great opportunities for the teachers to work with one another for the benefit of the students,” said Dutt.

North Warren is hosting the first session in December.

Dutt also gave a shout-out to Mr. Ramos who sent volunteers to the school on November 10 to complete some much-needed painting projects.

In her principal’s report, Norcross-Murphy said that the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test was administered digitally for the first time and went smoothly. She also noted that the after-school tutoring program had begun. Two teachers will be available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the media center for any student who needs extra help or wants to get ahead. There is no sign-up required. Teachers in the program are certified in math, science, English, language arts, Spanish and social studies.

Norcross-Murphy also reported that the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) workshop held in October went well. NWR gave two successful presentations. Dutt, along with Clinton Township school board President Lana Brennan, Clinton Township Superintendent Dr. Melissa Stager and supervisor of the South Orange Maplewood school district Corrina Pariso, presented “Being A Growth Leader: Empowering your Leadership and Staff.”

Dutt, Norcross-Murphy, and NWR school board member Dr. Kevin Brennan also gave a presentation called “Lead by Design: The Power of a Unified Vision and Goals.” The workshop highlighted the many changes that NWR has been implementing to move towards a supportive and collaborative team culture. The NJSBA invited Dutt back to give a full three-hour presentation on leadership as a result.

Other business included the BOE recognizing Veterans Day, including the military service of the following staff members: Nicholas Arbolino, Robert Cooper, Larry Gregan, Sarina Roman and Jerry Ugrina. The board also recognized the “sacrifice of the military service of its staff, students and community and thanked them for their dedication and service to our country.”

Boyd gave her report on policy updates. A lengthy list of revised and abolished policies can be found in the minutes of the November 14 meeting here.

The next NWR BOE meeting will be on December 11 at 6 p.m. in the school auditorium. Please see the North Warren Regional website for details and the agenda.

Frelinghuysen Junior Girl Scouts Recognized for Bronze Award Project

The Frelinghuysen Board of Education applauds Troop 97721 after unanimously approving their project proposal. Photo by C. O’Chang.

Upcoming Dates to Remember

  • December 6: Tree lighting
  • December 8 at 2 p.m.: Pre-K to third grade concert
  • December 14 at 6 p.m.: fourth to sixth grade concert

Mention the Girl Scouts and most people will instinctively add up the number of Thin Mint boxes they want to order this year.

At the November 15 board of education meeting at Frelinghuysen Elementary School, the Junior Girl Scouts of Troop 97721 brought a more permanent proposal to the table.

Four troop members came to the Wednesday night meeting, all in grades four through six: Maggie, Safiya, Naia and Patricia. They made sure to mention Sabria, too, a fifth member who was unable to attend.

They’d come to propose a project for their Bronze Award project, a substantial assignment that requires Scouts to identify a need in their community and take action to address that need.

With carefully prepared notes and the support of their troop leader Susan, the four Junior Girl Scouts laid out their master plan. Students at Frelinghuysen enjoy playground games like hopscotch and foursquare. The current blacktop is unmarked, requiring students to mark out a new court for every game in chalk.

The Junior Girl Scouts proposed painting two permanent courts onto the blacktop, one for hopscotch and one for foursquare.

The proposed site of a new permanent blacktop courts. Photo from Susan, troop leader of Troop 97721.

The girls had clearly done their homework, including researching the size of a standard court, identifying an ideal location for both courts to avoid clashing with basketball or kickball games, and marking the courts in chalk with the correct measurements for reference photos. Their proposal even covered costs, with a plan to get the money for brushes and paints from community grants.

The presentation met with immediate applause from the board.

“That was so articulate, so much good information shared,” said Chief School Administrator Jarlyn Veras. “I have no questions, because you’ve presented so clearly. So, I’m really, really proud of you.”

The Junior Girl Scouts accepted the praise graciously. But they didn’t come to the board meeting to hear compliments. They came to propose their idea and get an answer.

“Do you approve?” Naia asked.

The board took a quick roll call and approved the proposal unanimously.

“We approve!” board president Kim Neuffer replied with a smile.

The scouts had one last request.

“Can you do the hammer?”

Neuffer picked up her gavel and happily obliged.

The proposal is a major win for the Junior Girl Scouts, who came up with the idea a year ago but had to wait while Frelinghuysen searched for a new chief school administrator. If all goes well, students will be able to enjoy their permanent new blacktop courts by the end of the year.

In other news:

In her CSA report, Veras noted with appreciation the number of parents who came to parent-teacher conferences two weeks ago. She also noted the success of the school’s annual Veterans Day observation.

The school recently met with the Frelinghuysen Environmental Commission to form an ongoing partnership.

“We’re looking forward to collaborating with them and bringing some fun science experiences into our school, perhaps assemblies or lessons,” Veras said.

Discovering the Pawpaw Fruit

Have you had this rare fruit?

About three inches in size, the fruit can be green or yellow in color with dark spots. Photo by MB Journe, 11/2023.

The pawpaw is called the American custard apple or the West Virginia banana because it is native to Appalachia as well as southern Canada. It grows wild in 20 states and was very popular in early America.

This delicious fruit is loved by people and wildlife alike. It is creamy and sweet flavored, a mix of mango, pear and banana.

The pawpaw can be used in beer and makes an excellent dry white wine. It is versatile, can be canned and used as a substitute for banana in any baked goods, jellies, puddings and ice cream.

The Community Supported Garden (CSG) at Genesis Farm in Frelinghuysen has a well-established pawpaw orchard with 35 trees. They purchased their trees from Sarah Vu of Pronky Hollow Farms in Bernardsville.

The pawpaw fruit is rare and hard to find but if you can get your paws on them, they are a real treat. The CSG encourages the home gardener to start their own trees as they do well in New Jersey.

Here is a simple recipe for pawpaw ice cream:

  1. 2 cups pawpaw pulp
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 cups cream
  4. 2 cups milk

Combine the pawpaw pulp and sugar, stir in the cream and milk. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

The pawpaw tree can be easily identified in the woods. The tree is 25 to 30 feet tall and it grows straight with smooth, light gray speckled bark. The trunk size is small, around six inches in diameter. The leaves are quite large, teardrop shaped, and the underside of the leaf is light green. The tree looks tropical with clusters of fruit maturing in late September and October. The tree is easy to spot in fall when their large leaves turn a bright yellow.

A Wheely Good Time Found at Main Street Depot in Blairstown

Main Street Depot carries a variety of e-bikes for different needs, and all can be test driven. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Main Street Depot in Blairstown is breathing some life into the early nights on Main Street. An authorized Aventon e-bike dealer, owners Lisa Siebens and Scott Amon have worked hard to become a staple in town.

Amon fell in love with e-bikes during the pandemic.

“I converted our regular bicycles around three years ago,” he said. “A friend of mine had done it, so I went out and bought the kit.”

Three years later, Amon and Siebens have their own Aventon e-bikes they use all summer to get to and from the shop as well as for pleasure riding. The couple are Blairstown natives, and Amon recalls that having a bicycle as a kid was the only way to have some independence, see friends and go on adventures. Now, with the advent of e-bikes, the game has changed for adults as well.

“Normally people go out on a bike ride for five to 10 miles, which is about average. When we hit the trail or go for a ride, we’re doing 25 to 35 miles,” said Amon. “We don’t come home until the battery is dead, and that’s around 40 miles.”

When asked how long the commute is on the e-bike from home to the shop, Amon laughed.

“It depends. Sometimes it takes me 18 minutes, sometimes four hours depending on how badly I’m needed.”

Amon and Siebens live seven miles from the shop.

The couple sells a variety of models from Aventon, including the Abound model, the company’s first cargo e-bike. The step through model is equipped with a torque sensor and 750W rear hub motor, allowing the rider to haul up to 143 pounds on the rear rack, which can also double as a kid’s seat.

The Abound model e-bike can carry up to 143 pounds on its rear rack. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Since the shop is on the Aventon website, folks from all over New Jersey have stopped in to test drive a bike and buy one.

“People want to see them before they commit,” said Amon. “We let people do test rides and I warn them ahead of time, if you try it, you’re going to buy it.”

The ability to test out an e-bike is a big draw for Amon’s customers.

“I had a guy come here from Rockaway. He had been in Best Buy looking at e-bikes, but you can’t ride it, or touch it. It’s just there in the box or attached to the wall.”

Ice cream and a test drive, what more could you ask for? Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

The customer found Main Street Depot online and drove out to Blairstown to do a test drive. Amon’s passion for e-bikes is also a big draw for people, who may not get the same in-depth knowledge Amon has from an associate at a big-box store.

The bikes can be customized with color, seats and other accessories if needed, and Amon does many after-market customizations himself, such as custom handlebars, bells, shock-absorbing seat posts, travel bags and more. Some models Amon offers can even go on sand, and all are fully equipped for night riding.

The e-bikes have powerful LED headlights, break lights and turn signals.

“These lights are so bright. I’ve ridden all over in town at night,” said Amon. “These are not cheap little LEDs that start to dim after 20 minutes.”

Amon showed off a foldable e-bike, perfect for shore visits and avoiding hefty parking fees.

“You can fit two of these in the back of a car,” he said.

The couple also stocks the shop with bike accessories like helmets, and plans are in the works for more, such as bike racks. They’ve also dedicated a spot to the “Friday the 13th” movie franchise as the shop used to be the home of the Friday the 13th Museum (since closed).

“People still come here thinking it’s open, so we keep some Friday the 13th things here for them,” said Siebens.

They also stock the shop with plenty of “I Love Blairstown” merchandise and the Blairstown Enhancement Committee’s Footbridge skate park products.

Additional merchandise is available at the shop. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

The couple also owns Village Sundaes next door, Blairstown’s year-round ice-cream shop.

E-bikes hold universal appeal, no matter what the age of the rider is.

“My dad just turned 80 in August,” Amon said. “He bought his bike in July and has a little over 800 miles on it.”

Scott Amon customized this e-bike for his 80 year-old father, Rich Amon. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

E-bikes are also becoming popular as a green and quiet replacement for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

“Horse shows have started to ban the use of ATVs,” said Amon. “And if you show horses, that’s a big place to have to get around. The noise startles the horses, and then you have the exhaust smell. An e-bike is a great alternative to that.”

Amon thinks that e-bikes are great for campsites as well, who are also starting to ban the use of ATVs and golf carts.

“Hunters should look into these, too. They’re quiet. A deer is not going to hear you getting to your tree stand like they would if you were on an ATV,” he said.

Right now, the shop is holding a Black Friday sale, and will be hosting photos with Santa (free, bring your cell phone or camera) at Jingle on Main, Saturday, November 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Santa will be at the Main Street Depot for Jingle on Main on Saturday, November 25. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Main Street Depot is located at 27 Main Street in Blairstown and is open:

  • Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Sundays in the winter)
  • Main Street Depot closes for the month of January

Phone: 908-549-6877 Email: 27MainStreetDepot@gmail.com

This Year, Be Like Wally

If you had to run to Acme on Route 94 in Blairstown this past Sunday, you may have witnessed a beautiful act of generosity. Wally Waltsak, a Newton resident, was inside paying for 90 turkeys that he plans to donate to people in need for Thanksgiving.

Outside, loading them into waiting pickup trucks, was a crowd of bikers from the Garden State Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) Chapter of Morris County.

“Twenty-five will go to St. Joseph’s in Newton, 25 to Camp Auxiliary and the rest will be brought to ‘Stuff the Bus’ at the ShopRite in Newton,” Waltsak said.

Waltsak started this act of kindness 40 years ago with one turkey.

“I was sitting at home one time, and I felt so guilty having a lot of heat in the house and a lot of food,” he said. “I was thinking about people that didn’t have anything so that day I took one to the church and then it just snowballed ever since.”

The bikers, happy to get Waltsak in front of the camera, downplayed their part in the donation.

“This is all Wally,” said H.O.G. Director Russell Breninger. “We’re just the manpower, he does it all.”

Waltsak spends all year raising money from friends, coworkers and people he happens to meet in order to shop for someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner.

“Some years we’ve had four trucks parked here getting loaded up, with what Wally has raised,” said Breninger.

Waltsak took pictures with a disposal Kodak camera as the bikers packed up his haul. Photos that will never be posted to Facebook, or any social media site, in the hopes of accolades or likes.

“I don’t get online much,” Waltsak said.

He took them just to remember a day spent with friends doing something good for the community. His only goal is to fill the hungry stomachs of his fellow human beings, no “likes” needed.

NOTES FROM THE FALLEN TREE: Wood Turtles Deserve Their Natural Habitats

A wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) can live to be 40 years-old. Photo by J. Correa-Kruegel, 11/2023

It was a few years ago, but I remember finding my first wood turtle like it was yesterday. After a determined half hour into a survey with biologists and navigating through tall phragmites and poison ivy, I spotted something moving towards the stream we were walking along.

My first wood turtle was slowly trying to get away from us on land and back into the nearby waters. I looked into this little guy’s eyes and there was just something mesmerizing about them.

Wood turtles are a threatened species in New Jersey and are being petitioned to be listed as federally endangered.

They can be well camouflaged with the wood-shaped pattern on their carapace (top part of their shell) but have bright orange necks and legs.

The decline in populations is due to habitat fragmentation, degradation and the pet trade industry. It’s understandable to want to keep one as a pet but when you learn how difficult it can be for wood turtles to reach the reproductive age of 14 years old, and live up to 30-40 years, it makes it a little easier to put them back.

Female wood turtles nest around May and June and may travel miles, as well as cross multiple roads, just to find an appropriate nesting site. Once a female lays her eggs in a cavity underground that she created, the eggs are then vulnerable to predation from birds, raccoons, foxes and rodents. Should they survive to hatch, around July or August, they then make the trek to the freshwater streams that they like to inhabit.

A clutch of protected hatchlings. Photo by J. Correa-Kruegel, 11/2023.

Wood turtles are unique in that they spend their life practically 50/50 on land and in water, while most species of turtles have a preference for one habitat or another. This means that clean water and adequate habitat in the areas surrounding the water is essential for their survival.

The diet of wood turtles is omnivorous and consists of small fish, crustaceans, invertebrates and vegetation both in water and on land, such as algae and skunk cabbage or berries. I have not seen it yet myself but it has been documented that wood turtles will bang their plastron (the lower part of their shell) on the ground to drive worms to the surface for consumption.

Since that fateful day of finding my first wood turtle, I have found dozens more and it is still as exciting as the first one I found. Assisting in the monitoring of an endangered or threatened species can determine management strategies that can help with rebuilding populations to more sustainable numbers.

I highly encourage anyone that has an interest in the outdoors to volunteer some time to their local biologists to help with research.

Many Happy Hands Make Quick Work Fighting Food Insecurity

This young volunteer enjoyed helping sort supplies on November 4 for a crew of as many as 15 who regularly helped facilitate the food pantry distribution at the First United Methodist Church of Blairstown (FUMC-NJ) on the first Saturday of each month. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 11/2023.

From food of all kinds, meats and dairy to clothing, pet food, toiletries and other products donated to make living easier, local houses of worship have joined together to adopt a Saturday, Sunday and other days so people need not worry about going without.

One good thing resulting from the recent pandemic is that at the First United Methodist Church of Blairstown food pantry on the first Saturday of each month, food orders are selected according to a shopping list available online or at the church. The desired items are then gathered together and brought out to the vehicle (contactless) or patrons are welcome to come inside to seek last minute items.

One of the back storage rooms at FUMC-NJ full of donated items stacked on shelves and in about four huge refrigerators. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 11/2023.

Food pantry assistance for families experiencing food insecurity is reported by NJ Spotlight News to be 280% higher this year. Indeed, on November 4, cars were stacking up outside at 9 a.m. The event was still going full blast at 1 p.m.

Chief organizer of the pantry at First United Methodist Church of Blairstown, New Jersey, Claire Smith said they helped about 60 families this time. Strangely, Saint Jude’s Catholic Church reported a decline in the number of families they normally help at their food pantry, set to happen on the fourth Saturday of the month. For times, see Warren County’s pantry listing below.

Donations of fresh eggs and produce many times come from local farmers and markets. Many donations are received from Norwescap, whose mission and vision is stated on their website as follows:

Norwescap’s work throughout northwestern New Jersey empowers individuals and families to move away from the crisis of poverty, and towards a future where they can thrive. Our mission is to strengthen communities by creating opportunities that improve the lives of low-income individuals and families, and our vision is to help build a community that transforms poverty into opportunity.

Founded in 1965 under the Johnson administration’s “War on Poverty,” and fueled by the advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Norwescap has grown over nearly six decades to build a comprehensive array of programs and services that, together, positively impact over 30,000 people each year.

Norwescap works to accomplish this mission through a comprehensive array of strategies, programs and services that generally fall into six categories of support:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Financial Capacity Building
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Housing and Community Development
  • Volunteerism

For more info about Norwescap, check out their website: https:Norwescap.org

Boxes can contain frozen meats donated by Norwescap, boxed goods, cleaning supplies, clothing and so much more. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 11/2023.
Boxes of free knitted items like comfy hats and scarves donated by the North Warren Knitwits plus fresh baked goods and veggies, donated for anyone in need, awaited patrons online. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 11/2023.

To restock their supplies, all are welcome to add to the food pantry at First United Methodist Church of Blairstown or any other participating facility. The following items are listed on their website as being in short supply:

  • Pork and beans
  • Beef and chicken broth
  • Mac and cheese
  • Taco kits
  • Canned carrots
  • Knorr pasta sides
  • Pudding cups
  • Cookies
  • Yellow mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Shaving cream
  • Disposable razors

Donations may be dropped off in the red collection bin by the kitchen entrance of the church.

According to the Warren County website for food pantries near 07825, the following sites can be tried for assistance, but best to call the pantry for details and requirements:

Warren County

AllamuchyPanther Valley Ecumenical Church
1490 Route 517
908-852-5444Call for availabilityAvailable M-F 10 a.m. to noon
Must call to arrange an appointment for alternate times.
AlphaUnited Presbyterian Church of Alpha 859 High Street
Alpha residents only. Call for availabilityN/A
BelvidereBelvidere United Methodist Church
219 Hardwick Street Belvidere
908-475-4065Belvidere residents only. MWF
9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Contact: Vicki Froehlich
5 p.m. to
7 p.m.
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
BlairstownFirst United Methodist Church of Blairstown
10 Stillwater Road
908-362-6693First Saturday of each month
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Same availability. Must remain in vehicles while completing order form. Bag of food handed car side.
BlairstownEvangelical Free Church of Blairstown
11 Lambert Road
908-362-8979Second Saturday of each month, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.No changes
BlairstownFirst Presbyterian Church of Blairstown
35 Main Street, Blairstown
908-362-5769Third Saturday of each month
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
No changes
BlairstownSt. Jude’s Catholic Church
7 Eisenhower Road
908-362-6444Fourth Saturday of each month
9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Contact: Barbara
FinesvilleCalvary Bible Fellowship Church
191 Route 627
908-995-7678Wednesdays 9 a.m. to noonCall
908-405-5673 for a Wednesday pick-up appointment.
HackettstownChurch of the Covenant Orthodox
319 Blau Road Hackettstown
908-850-8910Find Deacon after Mass:
Saturday Service 6 p.m.
Sunday Service 10:40 a.m.
Call before going. Open Sundays
9 a.m. to noon
HackettstownDrakestown Church
6 Church Road
908-852-4460Second and Fourth Monday of each month, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.Open Fourth Monday of the month from
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
HackettstownSeventh Day Adventist Church
927 Route 517
973-214-7262Second Wednesday of each month, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.N/A
HackettstownTrinity United Methodist Church
213 Main Street
908-852-3020Monday through Thursday
9 a.m. to noon
Same availability. Added Tuesday evenings
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
HopeSt. John’s United Methodist Church
354 High Street
908-459-5759First, second, third Monday of each month, 9 a.m. to noonSame availability. Closes at 11:30 a.m.
KnowltonKnowlton United Methodist Church
503 Route 94 Columbia
908-496-0161Last Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to noonN/A
LopatcongFellowship Outreach Ministry
300 Cromwell Street
908-859-0134Second Friday of each month
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Third Saturdayof each month, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Back to regular operation.
PhillipsburgBlessed Hope Church of the Nazarene
42 Mercer Street Phillipsburg
908-454-5070Call for food pantry availability
Soup kitchen:
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays
PhillipsburgBranching Out Food Pantry
340 Anderson Street Phillipsburg
908-454-2579Call for availabilityN/A
PhillipsburgCatholic Charities
387 South Main Street Phillipsburg
908-859-5447NJ residents only / proof of residency and income required
Monday through Thursday
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
No proof of residence/income required at the time. Intake by phone for new clients.
PhillipsburgRiver of Life Presbyterian Church
445 South Main Street
908-213-1377First and third Saturday of each month
10 a.m. to noon
Only open the first and third Saturday of each month.
PhillipsburgSt. Luke’s Episcopal Church
500 Hillcrest Blvd.
908-859-1479Second and fourth Monday of each month, 10 a.m. to noonNo changes
PhillipsburgSt. Philip & St. James Church
430 South Main Street
908-454-0112Soup kitchen only (no food pantry) second and fourth Saturday of each month
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No changes
Port MurrayHillcrest 7th Day Adventist Church
590 Route 57 E. Port Murray
Call for availability Contact: EstherBy appointment only
ViennaVienna United Methodist Church
232 Route 46
908-637-4340Mondays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.No changes
WashingtonFaith Discovery33 Brass Castle Road Washington908-689-7777Every Thursday 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.Available for residents of Washington only.
WashingtonFirst Presbyterian Church of Washington a/k/a “Community Food Pantry of Washington”40 E. Church Street Washington908-689-2547Can only utilize once per month Tuesday through Friday 9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.No changes

ECHO EATS: Blairstown Backstrap

If you’re tired of trotting out the turkey on Thanksgiving, it might be time to add some venison to your holiday table. Hunters are having a great season this year, and chances are you have either bagged a deer yourself or have been gifted some venison from a friend or neighbor. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a piece of backstrap (which is the loin cut) you’re going to want to keep it simple in order to enjoy its meaty flavor. A tasty marinade helps folks who aren’t used to eating game meat enjoy this prized cut.

Backstrap is lean like grass-fed beef and cooks fast. You can certainly sear it in a pan or roast it in the oven, but it’s best done on the grill. With a balmy 45-degree temperature anticipated for Thursday, there’s nothing to stop you from getting outside and firing up some briquettes. Caution: For a game cut, this is a tender piece of venison, so don’t overcook, the less you do—the better.

Blairstown Backstrap on the Grill
● 1 to 2 pounds of backstrap (serves 3-6 people)
● 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
● 2 tablespoons of local honey (add 3 if you like a nice, caramelized glaze)
● 2 tablespoons of olive oil
● 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce● 3 cloves of chopped garlic
● 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger
● Salt and pepper to taste
● Rosemary sprigs for serving


  1. Remove any silver (connective tissue) from the backstrap with a sharp knife.
  2. Make your marinade by whisking together the apple cider vinegar, honey, olive oil,
    Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and ginger in a bowl.
  3. Pour the marinade into a vacuum seal or zip lock bag with your backstrap in it and
    massage the marinade in. Put in the fridge to marinate for 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Pull the backstrap out around 30 minutes before cooking to get it to room temperature.
  5. Heat your grill to 500 degrees and grill the backstrap for 5 minutes on each side to an
    internal temperature of 130 for medium rare or 160 degrees for well-done. If you choose well-done, bear in mind it will be tougher.
  6. Let rest for around 5 minutes, covered or tented with tinfoil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper, slice into medallions and serve.

Noshing notes: You can certainly put a bottle of A1 on the table, or whip up a fruit-based sauce for serving, but backstrap can stand alone when cooked correctly, so it isn’t necessary.

Suggested sides: Roasted potatoes and sharp greens like broccolini, spinach or kale.

Waste not, want not: Use leftover backstrap in breakfast hash. Chop up your leftover meat and fry in a lightly oiled skillet with onion, and leftover chopped potatoes, and season to taste.

Don’t slice your backstrap before cooking inorder to preserve the juices. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 11/2023.

Many thanks to Chris Davis for this beautiful cut of venison from Hardwick NJ.