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One of the most interesting municipalities in New Jersey, or anywhere else, is Harding Township in southern Morris County. Harding separated from what was then called Passaic Township (now Long Hill) in 1922 in an effort to maintain the rural quality of the Harding area. This same energy of preservation continues throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.
Harding fact: How many townships in New Jersey can boast a National Wildlife Refuge (Great Swamp) and a National Historical Park (Morristown, a.k.a. Jockey Hollow) within its borders? In 1968 the Great Swamp became the first formally designated wilderness refuge in the United States after passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. That is an impressive collection of attributes for one community of 20 square miles.
Since 1990, the Harding Land Trust has fostered a continuing conservation ethic in the township helping to save valuable habitats and preserve a bucolic quality of life quickly disappearing from the rest of the region.
Thanks to the foresight and generosity of the venerable Frelinghuysen family, vast acreage was donated to and acquired by the Harding Land Trust creating an area along James Street known as Frelinghuysen Fields and Frelinghuysen Marsh. As a New Jersey congressman representing Morris and Somerset counties from 1953-1975 and a Harding resident, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen II (1916-2011) was instrumental in stopping the Port Authority’s misguided plan in the 1950′ s and 60’s to turn the Great Swamp into an airport. A National Wildlife Refuge was created instead. Today, his son, Rodney, continues the family legacy of public service as a congressman in the same district.
The main breeding species at Frelinghuysen Fields is Red-winged Blackbird. Bobolinks are annual. At least 8 males were seen recently on both sides of James Street. Eastern Meadowlarks do not currently breed here but were present as fall migrants in 2014. Grasshopper Sparrow has an historical presence thirty years ago but probably has not been here in decades. The field is cut for hay but not until late July or later after birds have fledged.
Margetts Field, nearby on Blue Mill Road, the property which helped launch the founding of the Harding Land Trust, has nesting Bobolinks in small numbers. Frelinghuysen and Margetts Fields are two of the very few remaining areas of suitable habitat for this species in Morris County.
Both Frelinghuysen and Margetts Fields also have excellent butterfly habitat with large patches of milkweed, dogbane and other nectaring sources in spring and summer.
Harding Township Resources:
- Harding Land Trust
- Harding Land Trust – Frelinghuysen Fields
- Harding Township – Wikipedia entry
- Harding Twp., Municipal Website
- Profile of the Frelinghuysen Family – New Jersey Monthly, November, 2009
- Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr. – Wikipedia entry
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Good read Jon.
Joseph F. Pescatore email@example.com 212-433-0312