By Jaimie Moscarello
I originally went to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia after high school. I can’t even count how many times New Jersey was the butt of many jokes, as “dirty Jersey.” I’d always argue that we’re known as the Garden State and we’re known for growing cranberries. Until being in this class and learning about the Ford plant’s pollution, I really did think I lived in a very, very clean state.
This chapter on saving the Great Swamp made me believe in my original thoughts, especially this description on page 45, “Today, the Great Swamp is one of the most visited marshes – by birds and bird-watchers – in the northeast corridor.”
Until reading this section of A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, I had no idea the Great Swamp even existed, and if I had, I wouldn’t have expected it to be in New Jersey, and I definitely wouldn’t have thought very many people came to visit it. What I really didn’t expect to read was how many organizations came together to raise so much money to save the Great Swamp.
It’s hard to believe that a campaign that became so big was started in one woman’s kitchen in 1961. Helen Fenske, a busy working mother, had the courage and drive to save a piece of land she thought was important and convinced so many other people to do something about it too.
Fenske’s story was also inspiring. She became active in the Department of Environmental Protection. The book quotes Helen Fenske, where she says to not give one single person credit for a grassroots campaign. But, if it wasn’t for Fenske’s ambition and the people she brought onto her team, the Great Swamp would probably be an international airport by now.
At the end of the chapter is a list of 10 organizing tips that are important for civic grassroots campaigns, but I also thought this list would be important for any kind of campaign. The last tip, “Share the accolades for each accomplishment and give credit where credit is due,” is a good tip because people want to feel important and as if they’ve made a difference. Whether or not Helen Fenske didn’t save the swamp for the fame of it all, she did it because she cared about the land.
I would love to be one of the visitors of the Great Swamp some time this spring to see what Helen Fenske saw.