Save the Environment of Moorestown (STEM) and the township’s Parks and Recreation Department will host tours of the township’s three premier open spaces on Sunday, Oct. 15.
Residents unable to take the whole tour are welcome to visit any of the sites – Esther Yanai Preserve, Swede Run Fields and South Valley Woods – between noon and 2 p.m. A STEM volunteer will be available to guide participants.
STEM had planned a 50th anniversary celebration last year that would’ve included the tours, but it was canceled due to the weather. Mark Pensiero, president of STEM, wanted to keep the tours on this year’s calendar, and he also wants to give people an opportunity to see the work that the organization has done to enhance these open spaces.
“We just want people to get out and have an opportunity to see some of these open spaces because we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished in these last few years,” Pensiero said. “The residents of Moorestown are very fortunate to have access to these open spaces – easy access – you don’t have to go a (long) distance. You could be there, (from) almost anywhere in town, in just a couple of minutes and it just gives you an opportunity to get out and enjoy nature.”
According to Pensiero, STEM collaborates with multiple organizations such as parks and rec, the Boy Scouts, local youth groups and more to preserve and enhance Moorestown’s open spaces. Over the last few years STEM’s volunteers have installed eight or nine walkways in Esther Yanai Preserve to improve the visitor experience; added walkways to South Valley Woods; planted a native pollinator garden at Swede Run Fields; and STEM worked with the township and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve the 70-plus acre native grass and pollinator field across from Westfield Road.
According to STEM’s Facebook page, the first stop at Esther Yanai will include a walk around the trail loop showcasing the flora and fauna of that open space, along with the multiple trail improvements that have happened over the last couple of years. From Esther Yanai participants will head over to Swede Run Fields to tour the native pollinator garden and discuss the project to convert the big field across from Westfield Road into a 75-acre native grassland and pollinator field. The tour will finish at South Valley Woods preserve with a walk through the yellow trail, which loops around a portion of the preserve.
“There’s loop trails at both Esther Yanai and South Valley Woods and the loop trail probably takes all of 15-20 minutes, but we’ll stop… There’s definitely interesting flora in both those sites, interesting trees, some really interesting plants,” Pensiero said. “Hopefully we’ll see some wildlife as well … There’s a pair of Pileated woodpeckers that are seen regularly in Esther Yanai and that’s a very rare bird in Burlington County so we’re lucky to have a pair that are hanging around there, probably nesting in there as well.”
Pensiero advises people to bring walking/hiking shoes and binoculars, if they have a pair. He looks forward to seeing residents enjoy the tours and learn more about the township’s open spaces, and he’s also excited for people to see what STEM and parks and rec do for the community.
“ … We’re always looking for people that are interested in joining us in our mission, and perhaps they would like to get their hands dirty and help maintain the open spaces and fight invasive plants, which is a constant struggle in all of our open spaces,” he said. “They (parks and rec) offer a lot of classes, programs, so we’re really lucky in Moorestown to have such an active organization, and organizations that contribute a lot to make Moorestown just a better place.”
To register for STEM’s open space tour, visit https://www.moorestown.nj.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=785.
For more information on STEM visit its Facebook page or https://www.stemonline.org.