2007-02-22 / Opinion

From saving salamanders to sizing the sycamores

East Brunswick residents have a luxury on their hands that some of them may not even realize. While most embrace their quality schools and the bustling business corridor, the community also has the benefit of a comprehensive array of programs and information when it comes to local science and nature.

And that's thanks to a small group of volunteers known as the East Brunswick Environmental Commission.

It is to this group's credit that bird enthusiasts can learn what types of hawks come to East Brunswick and when. Or that the wild turkey, though uncommon, is breeding locally. The commission has in fact compiled a list of 193 bird species seen in the township over the last couple of years, making note of when they've been seen and how common they are.

This is the same group that first conceived of the municipally owned Butterfly Park on Rues Lane a few years back and has run programs there such as Moth Night. With the help of many other volunteers, it has established a beautiful habitat that, come summertime, is heavily populated by everything from monarchs to hummingbirds.

And soon, people will know where some of the biggest trees are in town, what type and how old they are. The first-ever Big Tree Contest is just getting started, and residents are clearly eager to get that old sycamore and that huge red oak into the fray.

And then, of course, there is the salamander crossing. Every March, crowds of onlookers and even the occasional television news crew come out to Beekman Road hoping for a sighting of the spotted amphibian, which thanks to the Environmental Commission is virtually assured a safe passage across the street so it can find a vernal pool for mating season.

Clearly, the commission members have a passion for nature and a desire to keep this little pocket of the Earth at the forefront of people's thoughts. But their projects are no ordinary means of raising awareness and preserving the environment - they add an important ingredient, the fun factor.

It is to their credit that the commission members have managed to get a surprisingly large segment of the community, including many kids, intrigued in nature-minded programs. And anyone who wants to know what they're up to or see the fruits of their work can pay a visit to their Web site at www.njnaturenotes.com.

Stay tuned, by the way: the Web site tells us the salamander crossing is just a few weeks away.

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