Annual Message January 2003

Last year we started out our Annual Message with news that the Trustees and Officers would begin to explore how best to ensure the longevity of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc. In hopes of accomplishing some goals in that regard we hired an Americorp Volunteer, Amy Elder, to interview a number of watershed groups and discover how they made a transition from an all-volunteer to a paid staff. The groups who had “taken the plunge” felt the benefits far outweighed the liabilities. After having reviewed these findings, the leadership of CU decided that it was in the best interest of the organization to pursue this goal. Our endeavors are clearly demanding enough to be managed by a professional staff. A commitment to paid staff should bolster our serious resolve to carry out our mission. We anticipate we will spend time defining roles and responsibilities within the corporate structure, develop a job description for the most logical first position, and seek a means to fund this position. We will enter uncharted territory if we ultimately achieve this goal and it will likely take a considerable amount of time to implement. Hopefully we will be prepared to bring someone on board in 2003 or 04.

Thanks to the efforts of our Project Quality Coordinator, Fred Akers, we have received approval from the NJDEP for the Parvin and Tarkiln Branches Assessment, Monitoring, and Environmental Education Grant. This is a 319(H) Federal Water Quality Improvement award that will bring $56,450 in Federal funds to our watershed to help improve our water quality here in Cumberland County. CU has agreed to add $20,000 of in kind services to the Federal funds, bringing the actual value of the project to $76,450. This effort will include scientific data collection and interpretation as well as involving public participation in stream monitoring and cleanups. The Technical Project Manager will be Peter L. Kallin, Ph.D., of TRC Omni Environmental Corporation, and the Project Coordinators for CU will be members Fred Akers and Dr. Tim Jacobsen. This is our largest grant award to date. Kudos to Fred Akers for having the vision, leadership and tenacity to embark on and secure the funding for this project.

Trustee Leslie Ficcaglia has suggested for a number of years that Clay Sutton’s Cumberland County Birding Guide, first published in 1993 through a grant to the County Department of Planning and Development from the Delaware Estuary Program, needed to be updated. Unfortunately the County lacked the funds to embark on this project. A generous grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation toward our operating expenses enabled us to use general membership funds toward a new and expanded edition. After 1 1/2 years of work by the County Planning staff, Leslie, Clay Sutton and Design Advertising, a beautiful guide, called “Birding Cumberland,” is now at the printer and expected to be off the presses just in time for the County Raptor Festival on February 8 at Mauricetown Fire Hall. Don’t forget to attend this event and hear Clay’s talk about the new guide. We are grateful for gifts from The Nature Conservancy and Natural Lands Trust that were provided to help with the printing costs. A special thank you to Leslie Ficcaglia for championing this effort.

Citizens United continues to be fortunate in having young volunteers who help with a variety of our projects. One of them, Jess Barsotti, just achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, a level of accomplishment reached by fewer than 2% of Boy Scouts nationwide. His Eagle Project was coordinating the clean up of the Tarkiln Branch for Citizens United. He managed his fellow Scouts, contacted Cumberland County Improvement Authority’s Bob Johnson for hauling away their spoils, and did a splendid job orchestrating this effort. Our President, Jane Morton Galetto, served as Master of Ceremonies at his Eagle Scout ceremony. Jess graduated St. Augustine Prep this past year where he was a full scholarship student, and he has just started his second semester at Boston University. Some of you may remember member Curt Hartenstein, who completed his Eagle Scout project when he was Recording Secretary for CU. He went on to attend Juniata College where he majored in environmental science and played football. After graduation he did missionary work in the Rain Forest. There he could do what he enjoys most: helping people and protecting natural resources. Curt is presently serving as a missionary in Nepal. Those of you who are on our e-mail hotline sometimes receive the correspondences he sends us. One can only guess what correspondence we will receive from Jessie in coming years. Congratulations, Jess!

CU had a generous supply of accolades this past year. A number of our members received South Jersey Cultural Alliance Encore Awards. Tricia Dufford and Jane Morton Galetto were honored for CU’s efforts to preserve the beauty of our region, particularly through the Bayshore Artists – Celebrating Our Sense of Place documentary and the establishment of the Connie Jost Memorial Art Scholarship. Laura Johnson was celebrated for her extensive work on the Bayshore Discovery Project and Congressman Frank LoBiondo for his contributions to the arts.

In May the NJ Department of Environmental Protection recognized CU at its Watershed Symposium, where Commissioner Bradley Campbell presented us with the First Place NJ DEP Watershed Management Award 2002 in Education/Learning Institution for our interpretative program “Down Jersey.” Our Director of Education, Christine Raabe, continues to conduct teacher workshops using the Down Jersey: Celebrating Our Sense of Place Teacher’s Curriculum. About 280 teachers have participated in workshops and approximately 80 guides have been distributed to conservation organizations, naturalists and the like. This coming year we will promote use of the website version of the curriculum.

We have contracted with recently-retired National Park Service Coastal Heritage Trail Director Janet Wolf to investigate the colorful names of the Maurice River’s lower reaches. NPS’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Program is supporting this project with a grant award. This folklore survey is bound to prove fun and interesting. It is anticipated that the end product will be able to be posted as a virtual tour on our website.

We continue to advocate the preservation of critical wildlife habitat within the watershed. This year was plagued with challenges in that regard. The City of Millville asked that Green Acres not consider purchasing any more open space in the municipality. Then the County seemed to be following suit but softened their position somewhat from their originally proposed resolutions. CU and other conservation groups embarked on a public information campaign to enlighten the public regarding the virtues of open space. Presently, the anticipated outcome is that an undeveloped stretch of the Maurice River is slated for protection but a number of other parcels appear to be positioned for development. Of these parcels some of the most worrisome are the Millville Holly Farm, the Triangle (land bordered by Dividing Creek, Buckshutem, and Silver Run Roads) and property on the east side of Union Lake.

This past year we have hosted guest speakers, made presentations, led meetings, expanded our e-mail hotline, given river tours, coordinated conservation forums, supported funding for Wild and Scenic Rivers, asked for the protection of up-front funding of the Garden State Preservation Trust, printed “No Wake” signs, attended the Governor’s forums on Smart Growth, banded a record 60 osprey chicks, erected new osprey platforms, and participated in the planning of Bayday, the Cumberland County Raptor and Purple Martin Festivals, and so much more.

Individuals continue to memorialize the passing of loved ones who cherished the out-of-doors by asking that donations be made to our organization in their name. This year we lost a very special member, past-President Keith Chain. His family selected CU to receive honorariums and we are indeed indebted to their kindness (see a longer write up in the March Reporter, posted on our website).

It is with great sadness that we also mourn the recent loss of member Dr. Edward Nemore. Both Keith and Ed succumbed to pancreatic cancer. When Dr. Nemore heard of Keith’s tragic illness his reaction was concerned selflessness. He recognized the irony of their similar circumstance and was concerned for Keith’s welfare. This really epitomized who Ed was as a person: a doctor right till his last breath, reviewing patients’ charts and tests. Many of you may be familiar with his reasons for settling in our area to practice medicine with his wife, Dr. Jill Mortensen. Ed and Jill elected to come into an impoverished community (Port Norris) and serve those who needed help. People who eulogized Ed at his memorial service characterized him as big-hearted, ready to serve all in need, and driven by principle. Many spoke of his love for the river and his dedication to environmental causes. His membership in Greenpeace showed his desire not only to cure patients but to heal the earth as well. Ed was a devoted member of Citizens United and kept abreast of our activities. Early on, he participated in the task force to prevent our region from having a hazardous waste facility sited on property bordered by two remarkable rivers: the Menantico and Manumuskin. Our community and our membership will miss him. His wife, Jill, and their children, Eric and Sarah, are in our thoughts and prayers.

Each time someone leaves our ranks we are reminded of the short time we have to shape a positive future. Citizens United’s members have played a significant role in the destiny of our local rivers. This year we have accomplished a great many things because of your support and participation. When we consider the many adverse consequences of poor planning and development we realize our job is so far from complete. It is rather an endless process of coordinated and combined vigilance that will determine the final character of our watershed. We cannot thank you often enough for the role you play in this endeavor.

The officers and trustees of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.

President Jane Morton Galetto
Vice President Berwyn Kirby
Recording Secretary Gladis McGraw
Corresponding Secretary Mary Lou Barbose
Treasurer Steve Testa
Ethan Aronoff
Leslie M. Ficcaglia
Robert Johnson
Richard Jones
Berwyn Kirby
Gladis McGraw
Joanne Murphine

Meeting dates for 2003
– please mark your calendar
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
All meetings will be held in the Crafts Building at Wheaton Village at 7:30 p.m. (unless otherwise notified)

During the winter months our regularly scheduled meetings will be cancelled if Millville Public Schools have issued a foul weather closure. If weather has gotten nasty late in the day please exercise good judgment. Should you have any further questions feel free to call Jane at 856-327-1161. Have a safe winter.

CU on the River!