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Local park teems with history, environmental goodies

It’s that time of year again. The time when chirping birds greet the mornings and area parks become active once more.

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A new program, Talk and Walk, recently began at the Camden County Parks Environmental Center and Cooper River Park, 1301 Park Boulevard, in Cherry Hill. Twice a month, on the first and third Sundays at 9 a.m., head out to learn about the environment and local history with Mike Hogan of the South Jersey Land and Water Trust. The nonprofit organization has a partnership with Camden County Parks.

The free events include a short presentation and a one-hour walk around the park, Hogan said. Dates are scheduled through fall.

Next on the agenda is learning about the Cooper River Watershed on Sunday, April 7.

“A lot of people don’t understand the watershed concept,” and how it drains, Hogan said.

During the PowerPoint program, attendees will learn about historic homes. As the walk begins, Hogan will take the group up and around Hopkins Pond and back to the nature center.

About a dozen walkers came out to the first event, some from as far away as Philadelphia, he said. Some simply wanted to go for a walk, while others tuned into the presentation.

The center has been open for two years, but many residents still have never visited or rarely get to stop into the Cooper River Park, Jack Sworaski, director, Division of Environmental Affairs, said.

“They only see the park from the roads. They don’t realize what’s deeper in the park,” he said.

Fortunately, plenty of birds stopped by, including herons and woodpeckers, for the first walk, which was devoted to bird watching.

“We want people to know where the environmental center is,” he said.

A future goal in the program is to bring in some guest speakers, Hogan said.

“It’s basically just getting people out to see the parks,” which are funded by tax money and Open Space dollars, he said.

The best times to view birds and other wildlife are the mornings and late afternoons, he said.

Last year, the park received a Subaru Foundation grant and the county matched the funds, and new informational signs with local wildlife facts were placed.

“First and foremost, the Subaru Foundation has always been a generous corporate partner and has supported so many important projects throughout the county over the years,” Freeholder Jeff Nash said in an email. “The car maker has taken ownership of the river property around their Cherry Hill campus for decades and has always been connected to this county as a corporate citizen.

“The foundation’s grant for signage throughout the park system will promote the diversity of wildlife and provide residences with the ability to recognize the unique characteristics of our parkland.”

The idea behind the Talk and Walk program stemmed from South Jersey Land and Water Trust’s Walk in the Woods. In the last four years, about 2,000 hikers have attended and ventured into South Jersey’s shadiest spots. The organization also does monthly clean ups in area parks.

Since he has several avid hikers in the group, his brain is always teeming with ideas for more programs.

“I’m forever trying to find places that they’ve never been to before,” Hogan said.

While still early in the line up of events, officials, including the Camden County Freeholders, are looking to continue the program in the future if possible, Sworaski said.

“Everyone was very happy with the talk and the walk,” he said. “We’re looking forward to even bigger crowds at future events.”

For Nash, there are plenty of benefits to spending a morning at the park.

“The Cooper River on a Sunday morning is one of the most tranquil places on earth. I normally will spend my days walking with Norman, my dog, through the park and watch athletes rowing down one of the straightest regatta courses in the country,” he said. “The park presents nuances that cannot be found anywhere else and hopefully the public will join us on Sunday mornings to experience these Camden County treasures.”

To sign up for a walk, contact Mike Hogan at (609) 476–2086 or email hoganphoto@verizon.net.

Learn more about the South Jersey Land and Water Trust by visiting www.sjlandwater.org.

For more information, plus a video, on the Cooper River Park, visit www.camdencounty.com/parks/parks/cooper-river.

Event schedule

Mike Hogan provided the following schedule of upcoming events, with more topics still to come for the summer and fall.

Sunday, April 7: History and location of the Cooper River Watershed.

Sunday, April 21: Spring migratory and resident birds of Cooper River Park.

Sunday, May 5: Spring wildflowers of Cooper River Park and how to identify them.

Sunday, May 19: Macro invertebrates and insects of Driscoll Pond.

Sunday, June 2: Invasive plants of Cooper River Park, how they affect the stream and how to identify them.

Sunday, June 16: How to photograph flowers and wildlife.


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