Western-Central Part Of State, Camden County. Closest Town: Haddon. From The New Jersey Turnpike, Take Exit 3 Onto Route 168 North. Go 1.3 Miles, And Turn Right Onto Kings Highway. Go 1.6 Miles, And Make A Left Onto West Crystal Lake Avenue. After One Mile, Turn Left On Macarthur Boulevard. Parking Is Available On Either Side Of The Street.
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When I Read That This Forest Was “One Of The Oldest And Best Preserved Ancient Forests In New Jersey,” I Put It On My List For A Visit. But What I Found Was An Urban Tract, Very Different From Other Forests I Had Been To. I Had To Park At A High-Rise Apartment Building And Run Across A Busy Street To Get To It. No Vegetated Buffers Surrounded The Small Parcel, So It Was Open To All Sorts Of Influences From The City Around It: Invasive Species, City Sounds, And Air Pollution. Young People Need A Place To Hang Out, And Urban Forests Can Provide Nature Experiences For Everyone, But The Users Here Had Left Broken Glass And Other Trash.
The Giant Beech Trees, Tulip Poplars, And Impressive Silver Maples Cast Welcome Shade, And There Was A Delicate Stream Running Through The Center, But I Hesitated To Call This An Old-Growth Experience. The Only Wildlife I Saw Was A Single Chipmunk And Some Robins.
Some Birds, Such As The Wood Thrush And Many Of The Warblers, Need A Large Block Of Unfragmented Forest To Be Successful, And When Forest Acreages Drop Below 250 Acres, Fewer Species Will Be Found. Robins, Unlike Those Other Birds, Do Very Well In Places Inhabited By Humans.
Robins Are Never Found Far From A Source Of Water, Because They Need Mud To Construct Their Nests. They Carry It From The Water’S Edge In Their Beaks, And Make The Nest By Layering Mud And Grass. But I Wondered About The Cleanliness Of The Water In The Stream Its Source Was At Least Partly The
Storm Water That Ran Off The Surrounding Parking Lots And Roads.
Although This Forest Was Not What I Expected, It Is A Good Example Of How Very Different Humans, Living In Very Different Times, Were Able To Rescue A Forest. Saddler’S Woods Was Saved, In Turns, By A Former Slave And A High School Student. That Alone Is Worth Celebrating, I Suppose. Each Of These Forests Has Its Own Unique History, But As I Consider The Eastern Old-Growth Forests As A Group, It Seems To Me That Very Few Were Preserved By Governments, Whether Local, State, Or Federal. Rather, Most Were Preserved By Individuals, And Then By Other Individuals After Those Passed On.
Most Of Those Who Preserved Eastern Forests From The Rampant Logging Of The 1800s And 1900s Were White-Skinned. This Didn’T Have Anything To Do With Attitudes Toward Nature Among People With Different Skin Colors, But With Who Owned The Land. “Ownership,” Of Course, Meant Something Very Different To The Native People Than It Did To European Immigrants. As The New World Was Explored, It Was Claimed In The Name Of Various European Kings And Queens, Who Could Then Grant Land To Whomever They Liked, Or To Whomever They Owed A Favor. These Land Grants Involved Massive Numbers Of Acres That Today Would Cover Entire Counties. The Grantees, Of Course, Were Other Europeans, Who Then Had Exclusive Control Of The Land And Could Log, Sell, Or Protect It As They Saw Fit. When Grant Holders Died, Their Family Members Could Inherit The Property And, Again, Do With It As They Wished. The Land Was Frequently Divided Up Among The Heirs; These Early Land Grants Are The Original Source Of Wealth For Many White Families In America Today.
The African Blacks Brought Here As Slaves Were Not Granted Any Land, And The Inequity Of Those Two Different Settlement Histories Persists Today. The Wealth Disparity Between Whites And Blacks In America Stems From Ancestral Land Ownership, And It Is Perpetuated Through Inheritance. If We Really Want Equality We Will Have To Do Away With Inheritance, But I Don’T Foresee That As Long As Those Who Benefit From The System As It Stands Are The Ones In Power. Many Politicians Argue That We Shouldn’T Even Tax Inheritance.
The Man Who Protected Saddler’S Woods Didn’T Get His Property Through Land Grants Or Inheritance. His Name Was Joshua Saddler, And He Was A Black Slave On A Maryland Plantation. In The Early 1800s, He Escaped To New Jersey With His Wife And Two Daughters. Fearing Recapture, He Began Working For Cy Evans, A Quaker Farmer. When Saddler Learned That Evans Opposed Slavery, He Confessed That He Was An Escaped Slave. Evans Eventually Bought Saddler’S Freedom From His Former Owner And Helped Him Purchase A Plot Of Wooded Land On Which To Build A House.
Saddler Must Have Loved His Forest; A Clear Stream Ran Through It And Many Different Species Of Trees, Animals, And Birds Lived There. He Had Freedom And Property! And He Could Leave His Land To His Descendents. But The Thought They Might Log His Beautiful Forest Must Have Troubled Him, Because His Will, Dated 1868, Stipulates That None Of His Heirs “Shall Cut The Timber Thereon.” Thus Began The Chain Of Events That Led To This Forest Being In Existence Today, Surrounded By Roads, Shopping Centers, Schools, And High- Rise Apartments.
I Wish More Of Us Would Make The Simple Effort To Preserve Nature That Saddler, The Freed Slave, Did In Writing His Will. I Would Just Make One Suggestion: Instead Of Writing These Instructions Into Your Will, Preserve Your Forest Now By Changing The Deed To Your Property. Simply Add A Deed Restriction Stating What Can And Cannot Be Done To The Forest. The Property Will Still Belong To You, And It Can Still Be Sold Or Passed On To Your Heirs, But Any New Owners Will Not Be Able To Log It Easily. You Can Do This With The Help Of A Real Estate Lawyer Or A Land Trust Organization. Protecting Your Land Through A Land Trust May Result In Substantial Tax Advantages And Will Also Help Educate Future Owners About What Can And Cannot Be Done On The Property.
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