CU Reporter November/December 2009

Updates from Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.

November 11, 2009 – 6:30 p.m.
(Our normal schedule is the second Wednesday of odd-numbered months) Millville Public Library, Gant Room

Presentation By
Danielle Kreeger, PhD, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

Danielle Kreeger, PhDMussel Powered Living Shorelines for Salt Marsh Erosion Control—Salt marshes are a hallmark feature of the Delaware Estuary, important for fish and wildlife, water quality, and flood protection, among other things. However, rising sea levels and other factors are causing loss and degradation of marshes. “Living Shoreline” tactics offer a promising means to control erosion of marshes, while enhancing their ecological value.  Dr. Kreeger will discuss research by Rutgers University and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary to test whether intertidal mussel and oyster beds can be established as living shorelines to help offset marsh erosion.

Annual Meeting of Membership

One specific purpose of the Annual Meeting is the filling of vacancies on the Board by the Delegate Members.  This may be done in person or by proxy.The Nominating and Personnel Committee of the Board has recommended that Diane Amico and Mary Ann Russell replace retiring Trustees Joanne Murphine and Ed Pio. After 20 years as a Board member, Joanne wanted to pass her hat to a younger representative. She has agreed to continue dedicating many of her much sought-after talents.  Ed has served the equivalent of one term on the board; he, too, says he is enthusiastic about Citizens United and will continue with his great volunteer support.  The Committee has recommended that Jane Morton Galetto and Tony Klock, along with new Trustee candidates Diane Amico and Mary Ann Russell, be elected to a three-year term ending in 2012.

Diane Amico has worked for the City of Vineland in several capacities with environmental responsibilities.  She currently works on environmental matters for the City’s electric utility.  Previously, she worked in the City’s planning office.  She has a degree in Environmental Science from Stockton State College, and has served as chairperson for the Vineland Environmental Commission.  Diane has represented Citizens United at numerous events and functions. She resides in Vineland, where she raises her two sons Ryan and Riley.

Mary Ann Russell is a retired elementary school principal in Downe Township, and has also been a curriculum coordinator for the Bridgeton School System.  Mary Ann is known as one of the chief coordinators of the Chili Bowl Dinner, and has represented Citizens United at a great many events. Mary Ann and her husband Tim have hosted the new members’ orientation and campfire recollection events at their home on the Maurice River.  They are both active in the Laurel Lake Property Owners Association.

If the nominees above are elected at the Annual Meeting, the roster of Trustees during 2010 would be as follows:

Term Ending in 2010

Term Ending in 2011

Term Ending in 2012

Ethan Aronoff Donna Dailey Diane Amico
Irene Bird Berwyn Kirby Jane Morton Galetto
Sue Fenili Karen Johnson Tony Klock
Leslie Ficcaglia Richard Jones Mary Ann Russell
Tom McKee

Following the Annual Meeting, the Trustees will appoint Officers to serve for the coming year.  The Board currently intends to appoint the following individuals to serve in the respective capacities of Officers of Citizens United.

Jane Morton Galetto President
Tony Klock Treasurer
Irene Bird Assistant Treasurer
Diane Amico Secretary
Karen Johnson Corresponding Secretary


Ah Why Knot awards“Ah, Why Knot” Awards Dinner Oct 17–This  year marked the 30th anniversary of Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.  So it was fitting to honor those members who have done a significant service to the watershed association over the long haul. Four individuals were honored for their outstanding service and were presented the “Ah, Why Knot” Awards:  Berwyn Kirby was honored as the 1979 co-founder of CU and for his years of service and steadfast tenacity to the mission of CU. Todd Heck, Esq., was honored for his professional support of the organization in good times and in controversy. Todd has taken care of our legal needs since 1985, and was responsible for the incorporation of CU.  Likewise, Stephen Testa, CPA, has taken care of the accounting needs of the organization for the same period.  Steve also performed the role of Treasurer for many years.  Jennifer Swift was recognized for her lifetime achievements of supporting recreation, farmland, and open space protection, and for her dedication to environmental causes, having served on many environmental boards.  Jennifer was also cited for her achievements as Freeholder Director, in obtaining Wild and Scenic Designation for the Maurice River and its tributaries.  We also recognized two outgoing Trustees for their dedication to the organization:  Ed Pio and Joanne Murphine were honored for their many years of service and dedication.  Joanne’s 20 years of service was clearly a hallmark of the evening.

The volunteers were further honored for their contributions to the community and recognized for the important role that families play in their lives.

Renee Brecht provided an overview of the outstanding contributions made by the volunteers, who put in over 5000 hours of service this year.  Volunteers took on a number of opportunities, whether it was putting up osprey nests, leading trips, counting swamp pink, painting and birding with children, cooking for shorebird scientists, or helping out with the day to day “nuts and bolts” of the organization.  Several of our volunteers qualified for the President of the United States’ Volunteer Service Award:  Recipients of the Bronze Award (for service of 100-249 hrs) were Leslie Ficcaglia, Tom McKee, Karen Johnson, Irene Bird, Sue Fenili, and Dave Fenili.  The Silver Award was presented (for service of 250-499 hrs) to Tony Klock and Diane Amico.  And two individuals were recognized with the Gold Award, for service over 499 hours:  Allen Jackson and Jane Morton Galetto.  Editor’s Note: (Don’t be so modest, Jane!)  Great job, everyone!

Birding & Botany Breakfast Walks–This Fall, we offered a series of five breakfast walks along Millville’s Riverwalk. The foliage colors were beautiful, and we spent time along the way learning about key identification traits of plants as well as other wildlife observations.  Our last walk was really the icing on the cake, as two otters treated the walkers to a romping display of activity in the Waltman Park pond.

Campfire–On September 9th, over forty people attended our historical recollections campfire, hosted by Tim and Mary Ann Russell.  The food and camaraderie were great, and the evening went off without a hitch, especially considering that the heavy windstorms the night before felled an enormous pitch pine right over the campsite!

Raising osprey platformOsprey Nest near Maurice River Trail–On September 20th,  a hearty crew of volunteers erected an osprey platform in a marsh bordering the Millville Riverwalk. We feel the platform will certainly be used for feeding and likely for nesting this spring. The location allows for building a greater understanding of these majestic birds’ natural history. The crew consisted of the Daileys, Fenilis, Galettos, Tom McKee, Mike Loyle, Betsy Frank, John Olah, Tim Jacobsen, Walt Birbeck and Mark Krull, who was kind enough to film the construction process. We made an additional platform to have on hand for March, when ospreys can make poor nesting selections, i.e., electric poles.

Kids About the Bay–CU members Dave and Sue Fenili hosted CU’s Paint a Landscape for Bayshore Discovery Project’s Kids About the Bay Program on October 1st. The weather was gorgeous and the kids were delightful, creating some picturesque paintings of the marsh.

School Siting–Tom McKee and Jane Galetto continue to attend Millville School Board High School siting committee meetings, in an effort to keep environmental considerations a primary concern.  They have found the New Jersey Schools Development Authority to be diligent in their search for a proper location.  Naturally, all locations have positive and negative aspects, adding to the challenge of making a final selection.  Tom, who is a Geographic Information System (GIS) expert, has been able to map out many attributes that present primary concerns and opportunities, such as:  wetlands, endangered species, contiguous forests, cleared land, waterways, water and sewer availability.

Wildflower ID workshopWildflower ID workshop September 12–This workshop had well over 30 individuals in attendance, and was extremely well received. Plans are being made to teach this workshop again in May for the Master Gardener’s series, as well as to teach another workshop open to the public.

MonarchMonarch Migration September 26–Citizens United members Karen Johnson and Sue Fenili partnered to conduct an informative, lively workshop on Monarch butterflies, and their magical migration to the mountains in Mexico. Attendees learned about the life cycle of the Monarch, released butterflies, and participated in an interpretive walk along the trails of Cape May Point State Park.

East Point Lighthouse Open House September 26–CU member Grace Richter represented CU with our Paint-a-Landscape activity. The open house was held in September this year, rather than in August. The change in date provided for cooler weather and fewer bugs, adding to the success of the event.

Cumberland Reminder CU By-liners–We’ve had two recently published “By-liners”: one recounting the osprey nest habitat project on the Maurice River Trail; and, the second by CU Trustee Sue Fenili, a fascinating account of Magical Monarch Migration.  A special thank you to John Andrus and the staff of the Cumberland Reminder for their continued kind coverage of our area’s news.

Website Offerings–Our website continues to grow. The By-liners published by the Reminder are now available on our site.  We hope to continue to update the page as more are published.  CU member Ryan Dailey is beginning to work on tweaking portions of the “behind the scenes” code for us to help improve our website’s ranking with search engines.

East Point LighthouseMeetings and Webinars–Yes, we are always busy!  Jane and Renee continue to attend various meetings and webinars, such as the East Point Lighthouse Planning Committee, South Jersey Bayshore Coalition, New Jersey Audubon, Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee, etc.

Watchable Wildlife Conference (1st Week of October)–State biologist and CU member Laurie Pettigrew was key in the NJ hosting of the National Watchable Wildlife Conference in Avalon.  CU hosted the coordinator breakfast the day before the event commenced.  This consisted of people from all over the country who organized the three-day event.  Jane Morton Galetto made a presentation to the coordinators about the work of our volunteers and how we have increased wildlife viewing opportunities.  One hallmark of the event was the unveiling of the new NJ Watchable Wildlife Guide by Secretary of State Nina Wells, written by none other than our very own Laurie Pettigrew!

Parrot Feather Invasives Initiative–CU was contacted by Rutgers Cooperative Extension about a plant that is choking the Menantico River in northern Vineland. Dr. Gerry Moore identified the plant as a South American invasive aquatic plant, Myriophyllum aquaticum, or parrot feather, a plant offered for sale locally for planting in outdoor ponds. This plant is banned in several countries, as well as in several states in the U.S., due to its highly invasive nature and negative effects that include an impact on aquatic wildlife, decreased recreational activities, increased mosquito habitat, and localized flooding in ditches and irrigation channels.  CU members Tom McKee, Donna Dailey, Ryan Dailey, and Berwin Kirby, along with Associate Director Renee Brecht, have spent a total of three days on the stream mapping the distribution of the plant.  The next steps are to compile a strategy for eradication of the plant and to develop an educational component, which stresses not planting, or dumping, invasive species.

Rutgers Agricultural Moments–CU member Dr. Gerry Moore, Director of Science at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, taped 3 segments on parrot feather for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Agricultural Moments which were featured as a three part series during the week of October 23rd.

Bear Swamp East Trip October 21–Renee Brecht and CU member David Lord accompanied Natural Lands Trust representatives Steve Eisenhauer & Brian Johnson (both also CU members), along with several prominent area botanists, for a trip to the old growth area of Bear Swamp East.

Wind Turbines–CU compiled/penned a letter for signature by the Bayshore Coalition outlining the negatives of placing a wind farm in the Delaware Bay. This letter was signed by numerous other conservation organizations and bolstered the position of the biologists of the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

Note:  A Change in Venue Starting JANUARY 2010–We will be meeting at Cumberland County College in the George P. Luciano Family Center, beginning January 2010.  The Board hopes this will have two results: encourage more college-aged students to take an interest in our activities; and, to highlight the fact that we are an organization with a regional venue.

Keep It Green–Please join me in voting for Question #1 on November 3rd so that lands may continue to be preserved in NJ.     Thank you,  Jane Morton Galetto

Volunteer Opportunities and Events:

Feb. 3, 4, & 5 – Raptor Discovery Days-Contact Renee ( if you are able to help any or all of the three days. We will be leading hikes and birding at Peek Preserve and Turkey Point with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders as in previous years.

February 6 – Eagle Festival & Chili Bowl-This fun-packed day is always an exciting one for us! We need people to represent CU at our booth, and we need birding docents for the day. And of course, we always end this day with the Chili Bowl—so plan to join us! We need chefs, helpers, auction items, and sponsors. Contact Renee ( if you are interested. More to come on this!

Natural Events for the month of November:

  • Persimmons ripen and are considered sweet after first frost.
  • Witch hazel is in bloom.
  • Groundhogs (aka woodchucks) and chipmunks go into hibernation.
  • Bats seek their hibernating sites.
  • Pine snakes retreat to their winter hibernacula.
  • White-throated tree sparrow is a regular winter bird feeder visitor.
  • White-tail deer rutting begins.
  • Waterfowl numbers are at the height of their activity on the Maurice River, November through mid-March.
  • Tundra swans begin to appear in shallow ponds, lakes, and impoundments (not to be confused with the invasive & detrimental mute swan).

Natural Events for the month of December:

  • Geminid meteor shower occurs.
  • The shortest day of the year – winter solstice – arrives .
  • Freezing weather north of our region brings wintering bald eagles to southern New Jersey.
  • Waterfowl numbers are at the height of their activity on the Maurice River, November through mid-March.
  • Raptor migration ends mid-month.
  • Snow geese stop over in our region, December through March.
  • Great horned owls are pairing up.
  • Short-eared owls have arrived for the winter and can be found hunting low over marshes at dusk and on overcast days.
  • The annual Christmas bird count seeks volunteers, at the end of December/beginning of January.

Adapted from CU’s Seasons on the Maurice, Gloucester County Nature Club, A Pine Barren Odyssey by Howard Boyd,  Bits of a Batsto Year by Annie M. Carter, Birding Cumberland by Clay Sutton, and Clay and Pat Sutton’s personal nature notes.

CU on the River!