WOODLAND TWP. A wetlands restoration project at a former cranberry bog in the Pinelands has been named the "Regional Environmental Program of the Year" by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
The DVRPC recognized the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for its work at the Franklin Parker Preserve, a 9,770-acre parcel in Woodland Township. New Jersey Conservation purchased the property and former bog in 2003 and began restoring the land to its natural state - a functioning wetlands with stream channels.
The foundation is "several years into a successful wetland restoration, the largest of its kind on the East Coast. What were cranberry bogs are now functioning wetlands and stream channels, providing a habitat for more than 50 threatened and endangered species, including the bobcat, bald eagle, and barred owl, as well as numerous rare plant species," the DVRPC said in a news release.
Open to the public, the preserve has 28 miles of trails with interpretative panels and two observation towers. Educational events are also held at the site.
New Jersey Conservation was among five organizations and leaders in the Philadelphia metropolitan area to receive DVRPC's Regional Excellence Awards this month. South Jersey metro regional manager Olivia Glenn accepted the award on behalf of the foundation, a nonprofit that has preserved 125,000 acres of open space in New Jersey since 1960.
Each year, DVRPC honors leaders and programs that it says have contributed to moving Greater Philadelphia toward a progressive and economically sound future.
"This year's Regional Excellence Award winners cover a wide spectrum of interests that play key roles in moving our region to a more sustainable, economically competitive future," DVRPC executive director Barry Seymour said in a statement. "DVRPC congratulates each award winner and thanks them for their commitment to making the Greater Philadelphia area an even better place to live and work."
Other recipients were Mayor Nutter, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, and the "Pop-Up Parks" programs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Included in the Pop-Up Parks award was the Cooper's Ferry Partnership, which sponsors the Camden Night Gardens series at the city's parks and open spaces, nighttime cultural destinations through public festivals, and live art production. With funding from ArtPlace, the city hosts public festivals and live art productions in the parks.
- Jan Hefler