Tamarack, a reminder of area’s natural state

County asks residents to walk, name new trail


Once targeted for a controversial development of 57 homes and a sewage treatment plant, Tamarack Hollow remains a rare swath of woods and open space in the midst of Central Jersey’s suburban sprawl.

Middlesex County purchased the land off Church Lane and Fresh Ponds Road in 2007 with $13 million from its open space fund and an additional $500,000 from East Brunswick. Five years earlier, builder Matzel & Mumford had set out on a lengthy and contentious process to gain approval for the Tamarack Hollow housing development. In 2003, the East Brunswick Planning Board denied the building plan, but a state Superior Court judge overturned that decision. The builder had been working to receive state and county approvals to build the development when the county arranged its purchase for preservation purposes.

Middlesex County Freeholder Carol Barrett, liaison to the county’s Open Space Committee, said the preserve is an important asset for passive recreation such as walking and hiking. She noted that people may also want to use the area for hobbies such as bird watching or photography.

The 232-acre park has several pre-existing trails that were either farm roads or the result of the illegal use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Last summer, the Middlesex County Conservation Corps, with help from volunteers, built a new trail — currently known as the “orange trail” and the subject of an ongoing trail-naming contest — and added a parking area.

“The [freeholders] board has been very conscious of preserving land for people to enjoy by walking. It’s very important to encourage youngsters, or anyone, to walk. It’s a very beautiful trail,” Barrett said.

Tamarack Hollow, so called for the tamarack trees that line the main entry driveway, is largely wooded, while other areas have a gentle, rolling terrain with a variety of flora and fauna. Wildlife sightings include white tailed deer, red fox, wild turkey and a variety of songbirds, according to the county.

Officials are hoping more county residents will visit and enjoy the park. Much of the recent emphasis is on the trail system, including both the newly carved orange trail and those that predated the county’s ownership.

“These trails are still a nice walk, yet quite eroded in a few spots, again due to illegal motorized use,” said Valerie Lysenko, Middlesex County Conservation Corps coordinator. The trail soils, she said, range from pure sand to mixed clay and silt. “The elevation on the trails is minimal, and they are typically wide and comfortable enough for the beginner or for a family with children.”

East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl said the trail system “will provide yet another exceptional recreational facility for residents,” noting that visitors will see wildlife and vegetation on a walk through the area.

“It’s a very enjoyable walk along the trails,” Stahl said.

County officials are asking residents to walk the new orange-blazed trail and propose a name for it. Anyone interested in the contest should walk the trail and send in their proposed name along with a short summary of the reason for that name. The summaries should be no more than 150 words, and people are also encouraged to submit photos or drawings to support their entry. The county recently extended the contest deadline to Dec. 23.

Entries should go to Valerie Lysenko, Middlesex County Department of Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 661, New Brunswick, NJ 08903. There will be one winner and two runners up. The winners will be notified by mail.

Lysenko said officials plan to do more restoration work at Tamarack Hollow in the years ahead, and to maintain the trails for passive recreation and nature study.

“Otherwise, most of the property is simply

left as open space and as habitats for plants and animals,” she said. “We encourage

land conservation and ‘leave-no-trace’ visitation practices.”

Directions, trail maps and additional information about Tamarack Hollow can be found on the county parks website, http://co.middlesex.nj.us/parksrecreation/in dex.asp.