Meet Princeton Hydro’s Sustainability & Stewardship Team

Princeton Hydro’s “why” centers on our commitment “to changing our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better.” In order to fully realize our “why,” our team recognized the need for a company-wide sustainability plan that examines our current actions and explores new opportunities. As our company increases in size and revenue, we recognize the need to both highlight our sustainability success stories and ensure we continue operating with sustainability at the forefront. Therefore, via the initiative of our staff, a Sustainability and Stewardship Team was formed in 2018 to develop our guiding plan.

Today, we’re putting the spotlight on the folks who orchestrate the Sustainability & Stewardship Working Group to learn more about the contributions and positive impacts they’ve made over the past two years.


Let’s Meet Them!


Jennifer Duff, Administrative Assistant

Jennifer is passionate about climate and environmental issues both as part of the Sustainability Team and outside of work through her connection to CT Fibershed, a group that encourages purchasing wool or other fiber products from local farmers. Jennifer’s two favorite accomplishments for the committee thus far are helping to switch over office purchasing to focus on recycled and green products and cleaners, and researching sustainable products for our annual holiday gift-giving initiative.


Nicole Hanson, Executive Assistant

With her strong love for the environment, Nicole appreciates all that she has learned about sustainability from serving on the Team with her colleagues. Her favorite personal contribution was working on the Green Product Purchasing plan to ensure that, moving forward, company cleaning products would be greener.
In the future, she’d like to work on a plan encouraging employees to adopt alternatives to single-occupant vehicle commuting.


Michelle Lubnow, Administrative Assistant

As a lover of graphic art, Michelle created and circulated a sustainability newsletter every month, which included the latest news about sustainable practices and conservation activities.

One of her main goals in joining the Sustainability & Stewardship Working Group was to bring easier and more cost-effective recycling methods to the forefront.


Kelsey Mattison, Marketing Coordinator

Kelsey gained a strong interest in sustainability while attending St. Lawrence University for her undergraduate degree where she was a member of the sustainability club on campus. She is interested in helping Princeton Hydro live their “why” by shifting the office and company culture toward cutting down on energy consumption and increasing awareness of waste production. Kelsey has enjoyed working on various sustainability initiatives with the rest of the committee members since she joined the company in 2018.


Dana Patterson, Director of Marketing & Communications

Shortly after Dana joined Princeton Hydro in 2016, she collaborated with her then colleague Rupal Patel to launch the Sustainability & Stewardship initiative. The two, who were already buddies from their graduate school days at Yale School of the Environment, felt strongly that Princeton Hydro could be driving as much energy into corporate social responsibility internally as the firm was already doing externally in its ecosystem restoration project work.

Rupal and Dana gathered interest from staff and encouraged folks from each of our five offices and all practice areas to join, and successfully formed a team with a diversity of experience and knowledge. Collaborating with this newly formed group to assemble a formal strategy plan for the firm is one of her favorite accomplishments so far. She noted, “the group displays true teamwork; everyone is involved – from a junior scientist to a member of the Leadership Team – equally contributing and sharing ideas to develop a plan that will have real impact in reducing our firm’s carbon footprint.”


Jack Szczepanski, PhD, Senior Project Manager

Jack joined the Sustainability & Stewardship Team because he felt an obligation to do his part in having as little negative environmental impact as possible, including at work. He is grateful to work at a place that features sustainability as part of its corporate culture.

Jack is determined to get the offices started on worm composting, and he enjoys having spirited discussions about this topic with his colleagues.


The Sustainability & Stewardship Team uses their passion for and knowledge of sustainable practices to implement policies and protocols company-wide that help reduce our energy use and waste input, while encouraging our employees to consider choices they make in their everyday practices. The first Sustainability & Stewardship plan was developed by the team (as well as previous team members Emily Bjorhus, Rupal Patel, and Sophie Breitbart) in 2018. Here’s a few actions that were laid out in the plan, which have since been completed:

  • WASTE REDUCTION.  Office engagement around waste reduction has been ramping up with new informational signage on recycling, installation of composting bins in the offices, and tapping into local programs to recycle ink cartradges. We’ve also incentivized staff to “Bring Your Own” utensils/plate for our annual picnic each year.
  • GREEN PURCHASING.  We created  a “Green Purchasing Plan & Policy” for office supplies and products, which was formally adopted by the owners and is being implemented company-wide. Since, all offices have been eqipped with reusable kitchenware, green cleaning products are prioritized, and the marketing department has shifted to purchasing sustainable promotional products.
  • STEWARDSHIP.  The firm provided $10,000+ in sponsorships and donations to like-minded nonprofits organizations and held two office donation drives. Our staff volunteered to plant trees in Exton Park, PA for Arbor Day and helped install a living shoreline made from hundreds of upcycled Christmas Trees in Point Pleasant, NJ.
  • WATER & ENERGY USE.  The team collected office use data and outlined specific actions that each office can take to to increase energy efficiency and decrease water use in all offices.
  • TRANSPORTATION.  All offices have opted into carbon offset programs through Enterprise when renting vehicles, and we’ve started tracking mileage traveled for company vehicles.  And, due to COVID-19, most employees drastically reduced their travel due to the shift to remote working.

While the team has been working remotely throughout most of 2020 and into 2021, the Sustainability and Stewardship team is as committed as ever to furthering Princeton Hydro’s mission of changing our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better, and will continue to make progress on many of the goals outlined in our plan.

Stay Tuned for More!

 

WATCH: Time-Lapse of Columbia Dam Removal

It’s been two and a half years since the removal of the Columbia Dam on the Paulins Kill in Northern New Jersey. In that time, American Shad have been discovered upstream of the former dam, a major indicator of improved water quality. The following time-lapse videos highlight the amazing efforts by the project team to reconnect the floodplain and restore fish passage, enabling the river to return to its former ecological state.

Removal of the Columbia Dam. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Contracted by New Jersey Nature Conservancy and American Rivers, our team of engineers and ecologists designed, permitted, and oversaw the removal of the Columbia Dam, the largest dam removal to date in New Jersey. Additional project partners include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Riverlogic, and SumCo EcoContracting.

Construction of fish passage structures. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Removal of the Remnant Dam. Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Two Dams Removed in the Hudson River Watershed

The Hudson River provides habitat for approximately 85% of New York State’s fish and wildlife species, 200 of which rely on the Hudson River for spawning, nursery, and forage habitat. According to Riverkeeper, a nonprofit focused on protecting and restoring the Hudson River, there are approximately 1,600 dams, mostly obsolete, fragmenting the rivers and streams of the Hudson Valley and blocking fish from reaching critical habitat.

The recent removal of two defunct dams – The Strooks Felt Dam and Furnace Brook Barrier #1 – marks an important milestone in the Riverkeeper’s journey to “Undam the Hudson River” and restore fish passage between the Hudson and the Atlantic Ocean. 

The removal of these dams, located on tributaries of the Hudson River, are especially important to depleted populations of migratory fish like river herring and American eel, who are a vital part of the coastal ecosystem and spawn in freshwater tributaries. 

Funding for both projects was provided by the Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Riverkeeper led the effort to remove the obsolete dams, with Princeton Hydro providing dam and stream assessment, surveying, engineering design, and permitting assistance. 


Strooks Felt Dam

For the first time in 300 years, fish in the Quassaick Creek will be able to move upstream thanks to the dismantling of the 106-year-old, 4-foot-high Strooks Felt Dam in Newburgh, New York, located 60 miles north of New York City in the critical estuary of the Hudson River. 

The dam site was dominated by gravel, cobble, boulder, and even bedrock steps, indicating a high-energy stream with a high sediment transport potential. This dam removal, like many others, released this coarse sediment and allowed the creek to carry it to downstream reaches. This coarse sediment forms habitat features like riffes, bars, and pools that are crucial components of healthy streams and rivers. Releasing the impounded bedload by removing these dams is key to increasing the resilience of freshwater streams like Quassaick Creek. 

Downstream of spillway facing west

The dam removal, which was completed in October 2020, involved excavating the concrete spillway before reshaping and re-grading bedload sediment behind the dam.

Historically, the Strooks Felt Dam was part of a series of older dams that sat in slightly different positions in the same area and supplied former mill operations. Other nonobstructive structures associated with the former mill were left as part of an enduring history, allowing anyone who visits the site or combs through the records to visualize what was there before. The obsolete dam, however, will no longer block water, sediment, or critical fish passage

Project collaborators included: Riverkeeper, Orange County and the City of Newburgh, the Town of New Windsor, DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance, Steelways Inc, RiverLogic Solutions, and Princeton Hydro. 

Two additional dams farther upstream from the former Strooks Felt Dam site are in the early planning stages for removal.

 


Furnace Brook Barrier #1

The 5-foot-high, 75-foot-long Furnace Brook Barrier #1 was dismantled in Westchester County, New York in mid-November 2020. The removal of this dam brings migratory fish one-step closer to reconnecting with their ancestral habitat.

Furnace Brook Dam removal. Photo courtesy of RiverKeeper.

The positive results were immediate. Riverkeeper stated in a recently published article, “As soon as a path was cleared, we spotted two fish – white suckers, a freshwater species – darting up to the previously unreachable part of the brook. We can’t wait to come back in the spring and see whether herring, returning from the ocean, are migrating upstream…”

The dam clearing process at Furnace Brook involved the removal of the dam and an existing collapsed former concrete bridge span downstream of the dam. Stone masonry boulders from the former spillway were then redistributed and partially embedded in the restored channel to enhance aquatic habitat and increase bank stabilization

Project collaborators included Rivekeeper, NYSDEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, Westchester County Parks Department, Westchester County, the dam owner, the town of Cortlandt, the Friends of the McAndrews Estate, and Princeton Hydro. 

Upstream of this project, Princeton Hydro is developing an initial engineering design and sediment management plan for the removal of another, larger dam.

The collapsed concrete bridge deck was also removed as part of this project.

 

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams throughout the Northeast. To learn more about our dam engineering and removal services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Princeton Hydro Scientists Appointed to NJ HAB Expert Team

We are proud to announce that Princeton Hydro Aquatics Director Dr. Fred Lubnow and Founding Principal and Consultant Dr. Steve Souza have been appointed to the New Jersey HAB Expert Team as part of Governor Phil Murphy’s plan to enhance scientific expertise around water quality management and bolster the State’s response to HABs. 

The 10-person team, consisting of certified lake managers and cyanobacteria experts, will provide guidance to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on HAB prevention, treatment, and management for waterways throughout the state. The team is tasked with developing documents on best management practices; reviewing any proposed mitigation plans and technologies; reviewing water-quality data; and preparing a training workshop for NJDEP staff and stakeholders. 

HABs are rapid, large overgrowths of cyanobacteria. These microorganisms are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems, but, under the right conditions (primarily heavy rains, followed by hot, sunny days), these organisms can rapidly increase to form cyanobacteria blooms. HABs can cause significant water quality issues, produce toxins that are incredibly harmful (even deadly) to humans, animals, and aquatic organisms, and negatively impact economic health, especially for communities dependent on the income of jobs and tourism generated through their local lakes. By appointing a team that will work solely on HABs in the state, New Jersey is taking proactive steps to combat the spread.

Dr. Fred Lubnow is Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Resources. His vast expertise includes aquatic and watershed management, restoration ecology, and algae ecology. He is regionally recgonized as a HABs expert as he has provided management recommendations and services for over 100 lakes and ponds in the Northeast, including Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey’s largest lake.

“I believe the knowledge and experience I have gained over the last 27 years as an environmental consultant will be useful in addressing questions and problems associated with HABs and lake management in general. I look forward to contributing any way I can in addressing issues associated with HABs and lake management in New Jersey.”


Dr. Steve Souza, whose 30-year career has been dedicated to the restoration of lakes and ponds, is a founding principal of Princeton Hydro and nationally recognized lake expert and consultant.

“Over the past decade the public has become increasingly aware of HABs and the health and ecological impacts caused by HABs. Unfortunately HABs and the problems caused by HABs are not going away;  they are only expected to get worse due to climate change related effects on storm events, increases in air and water temperature, and an expansion of the algal growing season.  It is thus important for us to learn more about what drives HABs as well as the most successful and sustainable means of avoiding, controlling and mitigating HABs. I am very excited to be part of the NJ Sea Grant HAB Expert Team. Through this very knowledgeable group of scientists, educators, and lake managers we hope to learn more about the causes of HABs and even more about what we can do to prevent or lessen their occurrence.”

 

The full HAB Expert Team includes: 

All of us at Princeton Hydro are looking forward to seeing the work the expert team will undertake to improve the health, quality, and safety of New Jersey’s precious waterbodies. And, we extend a big congratulations to Fred, Steve and all other experts appointed to the team!

Winter Events Spotlight: Webinars & Virtual Conferences

Throughout the first quarter of 2021, the Princeton Hydro team has participated in a variety of virtual events focused on conserving, restoring, and protecting our precious water resources. Here’s a snapshot of what’s to come:

March 1 – 3: Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s Science and Environmental Summit, happening virtually this year, brings together scientists, managers, restoration practitioners, and educators from different sectors to share the latest scientific information and make ecological linkages that promote a better understanding of the Delaware watershed as a whole. During this year’s summit, Princeton Hydro is virtually exhibiting and leading four presentations:

The schedule also includes many student presentations and posters, which will judged and evaluated by a panel of volunteer judges. Princeton Hydro President Geoffrey Goll will judge three of the student presentations. The winners will be announced at the Summit closing ceremony.

View the full agenda & Register here.

March 3 & 4: PENNSYLVANIA LAKE MANAGEMENT SOCIETY (PALMS) ANNUAL CONFERENCE

PALMS is hosting its 31st annual conference during which lake professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents, and community members explore a variety of topics related to managing lakes and reservoirs. This year’s conference, themed, “Managing for Emerging Threats,” will be held virtually via Zoom. Attendees can participate in a collection of professional presentations, workshops and panel discussions. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Resources, Dr. Fred Lubnow, is presenting on the “Implementation of Various In-Lake Management Techniques to Address HABs in Lake Hopatcong, NJ.”

View the full conference agenda & Register here

March 8: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Annual Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Summit

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is hosting an all-day, virtual Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Summit. Attendees will participate in interactive educational sessions, lead by HAB and lake management experts, on topics like emerging HAB treatment technologies and best management practices for controlling HABs. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Resources Dr. Fred Lubnow is giving a presentation on “The evaluation of innovative measures to prevent, mitigate, and/or control HABs in Lake Hopatcong.” Participants will also be introduced to the newly established NJ HAB Expert Team, which includes two Princeton Hydro scientists: Dr. Lubnow and Dr. Steve Souza. The HAB Summit is part of Governor Phil Murphy and the NJDEP’s multi-pronged initiative to reduce and prevent future HAB outbreaks in waterbodies throughout the state.

Learn More & Register here

March 9: Community Engagement – The Key to a Successful Dam Removal Project

The NJ Statewide Dam Removal Partnership will host a virtual event titled, Community Engagement: The Key to a Successful Dam Removal Project. This free one-hour information session will focus on the “who, what, where, when, and how” of a successful dam removal implementation and community outreach campaign. Presenters include experts from Raritan Headwaters Association and Musconetcong Watershed Association. Registration is required.

Learn more & Register here

May 4: Society for American Military Engineers (SAME) North Atlantic Industry Day

North Atlantic Industry Day 2021 is a virtual event during which registrants can participant in briefings and presentations from government officials, industry experts, and agency members from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and FEMA. Topics include the latest trends in resiliency, cybersecurity, COVID-19, sustainability, government contracting evaluation, tips for landing government contracts, and much more! SAME aims to provide leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market.

Learn more & Resgister here.

INCASE YOU MISSED IT: NJ HIGHLANDS COALITION WEBINAR – Benefits of Riparian Buffers

On February 9, NJ Highlands Coalition hosted a webinar lead by Princeton Hydro Founding Principal Dr. Stephen Souza and Policy Director for the NJ Highlands Coalition Elliott Ruga. Participants of the webinar – “A River Runs By It: The Environmental and Societal Benefits of Riparian Buffers” – learned about riparian buffers; what they are, why they exist, and how they protect water quality in streams and rivers. By showcasing real-world examples, the presenters illustrated the importance of restoring stream banks to enhance water quality and promote healthy aquatic life and fish populations. The webinar and preceding Q&A discussion are available to view on the Highlands Coalition YouTube Channel. 

Watch the complete webinar here.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE EVENT SPOTLIGHTS!

 

 

 

Employee Spotlight: 3 Team Members Earn Maryland DNR Certifications

Here at Princeton Hydro, our team members are committed to learning new technologies, staying ahead of regulatory changes, expanding their knowledge, and earning professional certifications in order to better service our clients and the public.

Today, we are proud to put the spotlight on three team members who recently achieved new professional certifications from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

Environmental Scientist Duncan Simpson, PWS, earned his Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) Fish Crew Leader certification. He is the only person to have earned this prestigious certification in 2020. He also successfully completed the MBSS Physical Habitat Assessment.

Staff Scientists Ivy Babson and Jesse Smith passed the written MBSS Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling Certification test, and successfully completed the related field audit.

The MBSS program was started by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 1993 in order to improve consistency among all individuals in Maryland using MBSS habitat assessment protocols so that habitat data are comparable. The MBSS was Maryland’s first probability-based or random design stream sampling program intended to provide unbiased estimates of stream conditions with known precision at various spatial scales ranging from large 6-digit river basins and medium-sized 8-digit watersheds to the entire state. This program is a cost-effective and efficient way to characterize Maryland’s 10,000+ miles of freshwater streams.

Duncan attended the Fish Crew Leader and Physical Habitat Assessment certification trainings, which were held virtually due to COVID-19. Following the trainings, he successfully passed the required written exams and field audits.

For the habitat assessment field audit, Duncan had to complete an assessment and arrive at the same conclusions as the MBSS experts. He assessed a stream reach for several instream and upland habitat characteristics including audits of bank erosion; bank formation and substrate; stream character; woody debris; max depth; channelization; and riparian vegetation.

The fish crew leader audit required Duncan to lead a team of individuals on a mock fish sampling event during which he was responsible for overseeing that the crew using the MBSS Round Four Sampling Protocol. In order to pass the audit, Duncan had to illustrate his intimate familiarity with every aspect of MBSS sampling and have at least three years of experience with MBSS sampling or with another comparable ecological field sampling effort.

“I first learned about the MBSS certification in 2010 and have been hoping to take the training and earn the certification ever since. I truly admire and respect the scientific rigor of MBSS, so to be recognized with this prestigious certification is a great milestone in my career and something that I’m very proud of.” – Duncan Simpson

For Staff Scientists Ivy and Jesse, the MBSS Benthic Macroinvertebrate field audit required that they collect kicks/jabs in twenty locations within the stream reach, located within the Elbow Branch in Susquehanna State Park. These twenty kicks/jabs were divided up into different microhabitat types depending on which were most dominant in the reach. The MBSS auditor simultaneously collected the same number of each microhabitat type.

The twenty kicks performed by each sampler were compiled into one sample that was preserved and sent to the Maryland State Labs for analysis. In order to pass the audit, Jesse and Ivy’s Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (a metric based on the diversity and tolerance of the organisms collected) had to be within one unit of the auditor’s. Additionally, their successful audit hinged on having the correct supplies and on decontaminating their gear to prevent the spread of invasive species.

“The training experience with MBSS allowed me to gain a deep appreciation of the role that benthic macroinvertebrates hold in our freshwater ecosystems. I’ve been able to develop a unique skillset to help my, and ultimately others’, understanding of benthic macroinvertebrate species richness and what they indicate in terms of water quality that contribute to the health of these special ecosystems.” -Ivy Babson

 

“I’ve had an interest in aquatic macroinvertebrates since college, and this training experience with the MBSS helped me further appreciate the process that goes into studying them and the ecosystems in which they live. This certification will allow me further opportunities to work with these organisms in the future, and I look forward to more work in this area.” – Jesse Smith

In total, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers five certification opportunities in MBSS protocols. The certifications include benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling, fish crew leader, fish taxonomy, and physical habitat assessment. In some cases, prerequisite certifications and trainings are required in order to apply and complete the DNR’s MBSS certifications. For example, in order to achieve the benthic macroinvertebrate taxonomy program, a previous Society for Freshwater Science certification is required.

Attendance at MBSS spring and summer trainings is a partial requirement for most of the certifications. Participants must pass written tests and field audits, as well as additional tests and quality assurance procedures. Passing a laboratory audit and a written test is also required for the benthic macroinvertebrate laboratory processing and subsampling certification.

Congratulations to Duncan, Ivy, & Jesse!

Click here for more information about the MBSS certification program. If you’re interested in learning more about the wide variety of engineering and environmental services Princeton Hydro offers, go here: princetonhydro.com/services.

Miry Run Ponds Master Plan Wins 2021 Landscape Architectural Chapter Award

Miry Run Ponds Master Plan - Mercer County

Over 40 years ago, Mercer County purchased 279 acres of flood-prone land along Miry Run  as part of a restoration and flood mitigation initiative. Mercer County’s Master Plan, approved in 2020, goes above and beyond the original vision, proposing considerable improvements to the area, including 34 acres of reforestation, 64 acres of new meadows, 19 acres of vernal pools, and 7.9 miles of walking trails. Mercer County Park Commission contracted Princeton Hydro and Simone Collins Landscape Architecture to develop the plan.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Miry Run Ponds Master Plan was awarded the 2021 Landscape Architectural Chapter Award from the New Jersey Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA).

Each year, the NJASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture in the region. Only one Chapter Award is given annually for exceptional performance in any category, as determined by a unanimous vote of the jury members. This year’s jury was composed of distinguished members from the Oregon ASLA Chapter. There were 19 total projects entered into the 2021 competition.

“The Park Commission is honored to have a project recognized by the NJASLA and we look forward to acting on our plan in the years ahead,” said Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson.

When Mercer County acquired the property in 1978, the original plan was to create a recreation area and flood control site. In order to mitigate local flooding, the County Park Commission developed a dam, which created a 55-acre tree-lined lake. The rest of the property comprises undeveloped uplands, wetlands, woodlands, and open space with limited-use recreation areas primarily only used by immediate neighbors.

With 55 acres of lake space, however, Mercer County saw huge potential for what the park could provide and set out on a mission to create a Master Plan for the area with three primary regional goals:

  • Provide passive recreation to complement other County activities;
  • Preserve and enhance the habitat, water quality, and natural systems that currently exist onsite; and
  • Provide linkage to adjacent trails and parks.

The gap between the current condition and the huge potential pushed the Mercer County Park Commission to contract Princeton Hydro and Simone Collins Landscape Architecture in 2018 to assess the land area and propose a concept plan to enhance the area and create recreational lake activities.

Beginning in December 2018 and throughout the course of 2019, the project team implemented the necessary measures to fully assess the status of the expansive property. Applying expertise in science-based assessment and evaluations, our aquatic ecologists and environmental scientists performed:

These evaluations were conducted in order to better understand the existing site and area conditions, to assist in the development of the site plan, and for future incorporation into Mercer County’s Draft Master Plan.

In addition, our project team facilitated focus groups with local municipalities, residents, interest groups, and County stakeholders to seek their input and to report the site evaluation findings. In partnership with Mercer County, the team led many public community meetings that served as a platform for discussion about the project and conceptual site designs. The meetings helped to inform the process through collaboration and determine how best to manage the site moving forward in order to meet the needs of the community and future generations.

In November of 2019, a draft master plan was released, followed by a 60-day public comment period. The commission hosted a series of public meetings to solicit input for potential improvements to the park. Having reviewed and considered all comments, the Park Commission’s Steering Committee and team of expert consultants were able to finalize the plan, which focused on environmental stewardship and education paired with passive land and water-based activities.

“With input from the public, our consultants helped us create a vision for the park that will improve water quality in the lake and make it more accessible to Mercer County residents,” said Aaron T. Watson.

The Master Plan was then presented to the Park Commission for review and approved in 2020.

The improvement plans comprises:

  • Several types of trails and boardwalks that total approximately 7 miles, including a tree canopy walk-through over an area of vernal pools.
  • Parking lots and driveways
  • Small restrooms and pavilions
  • A group camping area that would accommodate about 30-40 campers
  • A nature-based playground and an ADA inclusive playground
  • Kayak launch and water trail
  • Fishing access areas
  • Protected swimming area for a limited number of swimmers each day
  • A native plant arboretum and horticultural garden

Of the total Miry Run Ponds land area, only 17 acres, or approximately 7.4 percent of the site, would be disturbed for trails, parking and other park visitor facilities. The site’s valuable natural features will be augmented through the establishment of 34 acres of new forest and 64 acres of native meadow.

The Master Plan serves as a long-term vision for improvements to the property and will be implemented over multiple phases. The construction of major park improvements is projected for 2022-2023.

To view the Final Master Plan, visit the Park Commission’s website. To learn more about the NJASLA and see a complete list of 2021 award winners, go here.