Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Great Swamp Preservation Story

By Jamie Bachar 

In many ways it seems impossible to go up against the government or a major corporation. It must be a daunting task to prepare to fight people with so much power and leverage. However, it is far from impossible to make a difference when a group of people come together to fight for what they believe in. This is the case of the Great Swamp in Morris County, New Jersey.

This particular case affects me greatly because I was born and raised in Rockaway Township. I have hiked the woods, swam in the lakes and rivers but I had never heard of the Great Swamp. After reading about it I became curious and decided to check it out for myself. It wasn’t the most breath taking land but to think that it was once planned on being paved over to make an airport made me appreciate the natural land even more. Thank goodness there were people who were willing to go against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and say no, this land needs to be preserved. While on my visit I noted many birds and other wildlife that could have become homeless if the Port Authority’s plan had succeeded.

This quiet land is home to deer, fish, frogs, raccoons, turtles and insects. It is a piece of land that had to be preserved and not reduced to a landing strip. The scariest part though is that if those people did not come together to fight the Port Authority, no one would have thought twice to make that precious land an airport. It is truly important for people to stay connected with their communities and learn what is going to happen.

This act of preservation also led to countless other acts of preservation and got so many other people active to save their communities. It didn’t matter how hard it may have seemed, the volunteers didn’t stop until what they wanted was achieved. In a time when building up was so popular and people were less than concerned with the environment, I find it fascinating that people cared so deeply about an issue that they were willing to go against such a major force like the Port Authority. But in the 1960s, these people knew that it would be wrong to build an airport over the Swamp.

The originators of the campaign to preserve the Swamp were smart and knew they needed money to back them up. They got the startup money and ended up purchasing 2,000 acres which met federal requirements to create a wildlife refuge. Just that one act helped create the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which is still working today.

It is really inspiring to see that kind of effort and collaboration to do the right thing for the community and the environment.

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