Though Gloucester County is known for its farmland and suburban developments, there is a fair number of parks and natural places to visit within the county limits.
Thirty-six of them to be precise; and they’re all outlined in the second edition of “The Natural Places of Gloucester County,” a newly written update on the 2007 classic from the Gloucester County Nature Club.
Karen Kravchuck, president of the Gloucester County Nature Club and member for north of 20 years, said it was time for an update on the 2007 book.
“It was a labor of love when it was done all those years ago,” she explained. “We realized things have changed since then; new places were added, most notably Tall Pines State Preserve. We wanted to update the book and revise.”
The book is spiral bound and easy to use, according to Kravchuck, and outlines 36 natural places in Gloucester County, breaking down what each area has to offer. How to get there, hours of operation, where the trails are and what can be found seasonally are included.
“We’re suburban,” Kravchuck noted of Gloucester County in general. “Certainly in my lifetime, the crowded conditions of North Jersey are moving south quickly. It’s amazing to realize how many (natural spaces) are right here.
“I grew up in Gloucester County, and I didn’t know half of these places existed until we put this book together,”
Growing up, Kravchuck frequented Ceres Park, between Barnsboro and Pitman, but nowadays enjoys exploring the Tall Pines State Preserve – a park with an interesting backstory.
The preserve is located in the midst of Deptford and Mantua and was once a golf course run by former Philadelphia Eagle and now famous local Ron Jaworski before it was sold to a developer who intended to build upward of 120 homes on the land.
If it weren’t for the housing crash, that plan may have come to pass, but with the market in the tank, the state sought instead to purchase the land for preservation.
Long story short, after years of litigation, it accomplished just that.
“It’s such an amazing story,” Kravchuck marveled. “This beautiful chunk of land in the idle of a suburb is saved.”
The Nature Club has been a volunteer organization since its inception in 1949. It works hand in hand with other town volunteers at the parks, too.
“They’re not all at the far end of the county,” Kravchuck said of the natural spaces. “There are some places in Wenonah; they have a wildlife conservation area that volunteers take care of.”
The club’s book is available at Words Matter Bookstore on South Broadway in Pitman; Daminger’s Natural Pet Food on Main Street in Sewell (Mantua Township); and Wild Birds Unlimited on North Kings Highway in Cherry Hill and Berlin Cross Keys Road in Sicklerville. It is available online, too, at GCNatureClub.org.
Kravchuck believes the book is the perfect stocking stuffer for anybody, not just the outdoor lover in South Jersey.
“People are looking for a reason to be outside,” she said. “This can help them find that place. It’s all over the county. There’s a spot for everybody.”