• Jim Oettinger’s Story

    Why I volunteer at the Nature Center

    Oettinger Family 1956-1965

    My parents moved to Carlson Court in 1956, I grew up “in the woods” which is now protected Nature Center land. Directly behind my house is the top portion of the “orange enclosure”   When I say I grew up in the woods….I spent many a full day there, exploring, building tree houses, playing Army, climbing trees,  exploring nature, marveling at the different trees in just different areas of the woods.   There were and still is a small area of gigantic beech trees that lined a trail that is no longer there….Many of the beech trees have fallen, they are all in the Orange enclosure . There were “sticker bushes”, ‘brackleberry batches” that we called “VALLEY OF THE THORNS”, its actually also within the Orange enclosure by the Holly bush….the Holly bush that appeared in the early 80’s which I trekked my kids to stand in front of for a “Christmas card photo”.

     

    When the town put sewers into this side of town, they did construction at the bottom of Carlson Court/Mead Court and the construction created a swampy area that we skated on in the winter and had hockey games on as 10 year olds.. I remember getting a flash drop in the temperature-and “arctic freeze”  that froze the swamp that we skated on, OVERNIGHT, and as we skated on the new ice the day after this arctic blast of two days, we could see the water underneath the ice, the ice was clear as glass……we were able to see a muskrat  swimming under the ice 🙂 We would race him, us on top, it under the ice 🙂  It was quite a sight…This area is just to the south of bottom portion of the "Orange Enclosure"

     

    Oettinger Family 1956-1965

     When my parents moved onto Carlson Court, they were the first house of 5 to be lived in that were all built at the same time.  My siblings took rides on a pony from our house on Carlson Court to Lupardi’s Nursery on Blanch ave.- there was NO Marion Village at the time.  (attached pictures you can see the Greenhouses that are now Rose Court- (It used to be Rose houses- enclosed Rose Farms)

     

    As you can see by the pictures circa 1956-1965, the “woods” were a lot more lush back then.  There were areas that were impassable and the species of trees were also much more abundant….Look at the beautiful White Birch trees which are no longer there, gone for over 35 years.  My mom told me the story of my dad getting lost in the woods when they first moved into the house in 1956, and the only way that he found his way out was he could see the “smoke stack” that was on the Greenhouse in the middle of Marion Village…..Now the forest has been stripped and the number of trees has decreased incredibly. The trees and saplings have died or been eaten by the deer.   Where once we would look out into the “woods” and see nothing but darkness at night, now we see the lights of Reuten Park- off of Ruckman road.  It is sad.  I am hoping that these enclosures will help bring back the forest, and I will help in any possible to make that a reality. 

    The hardest part about volunteering for me has been putting on taking off my newly acquired waterproof boots. I recommend this for anyone that takes up this very enjoyable “volunteer monitor” position as there are some areas that are quite swampy….but the boots solve that issue 🙂 Right now I am “monitoring” the Orange enclosure.  This entails the very easy task of walking in the woods around the enclosure and checking for breaks/breeches in the fence that will allow deer to enter.  When there have been breeches mainly due to fallen branches or small trees falling, I have easily fixed these with snap ties and fasteners that the Nature Center folks have outfitted me with.  There have been a few big breaks and after reporting these to Marc Gussen, they have been repaired with a great work crew that get to enjoy some time together in the woods :). 

    For those that want to know, there were no deer in the woods in the 50s and 60’s and early 70’s. I KNOW this first hand because of the amount of time I spent in the woods. They started to come back in 1975-1977 because I almost fainted when I came upon a doe in the woods. I remember where I was, where she was when we crossed paths.  

    --Jim Oettinger, Winter 2020

     


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  • Newsletter — February, 2020

    All the latest news and events happening at the Closter Nature Center.

    Newsletter


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  • Newsletter — January, 2020

    Newsletter

    All the latest news and events happening at the Closter Nature Center.

    Log Cabin by the Pond

    Newsletter


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  • Newsletter — December, 2019

    >> DECEMBER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES –>

    Christmas Bird Count 

    Get to Know Your Winter Neighbors: The Birds in Your Yard

    On Saturday, December 14th, from 10 AM to 1 PM,

    The Nature Center will host an "Open Porch" for backyard birders –

    an opportunity to drop by the porch of the cabin by the pond and join others in observing and identifying the birds that are common to Closter throughout the winter. 

    These birds are bright bits of outdoor color, energy, and activity, while we stay snug in our homes. Bring binoculars if you have them.  We have some to loan, as well as a chance to look through a powerful telescope as if the bird is sitting on your hand!   Hot beverages will be available to keep you warm.  Stop by and get to know these perky wonders of winter survival.

    END OF YEAR GIVING

    The Closter Nature Center would like to thank the many families and individuals who support our environmental education program through their generous donations.

     Nature Center educational programs, held in Northern Valley classrooms, after school at the Nature Center, and during the summer session, reach over 6,000 children each year. Our goal is to disconnect children from digital devices and reconnect them with Nature!

    The Closter Nature Center needs your support to extend our curriculum to as many Northern Valley schools as possible, and to expand our program offerings at the Nature Center. Please consider a donation to the Closter Nature Center in your year-end giving plans.

    You can give either by going online to closternaturecenter.org, or by sending a check to P.O. Box 80, Closter NJ, 07624.

    We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your tax –deductible donation will help support our programming, our facility and stewardship of our 136-acre tract of forested woodlands.

    Thank-You for your support!

     

    ...And Speaking of Giving Thanks:

    The Closter Nature Center will be giving thanks this year to John Moran, of the NY-NJ Trail Conference, for updating and maintaining trail markers on all 3-miles of our marked trails. 

    Get out on the trails and check them out!! 

    Welcome Winter Hike

    Sunday, December 22nd at 3pm

     Come one, come all! Layer up your winter clothes, meet at the cabin, and join us for an afternoon forest adventure. With no leaves on the trees, finding wildlife becomes much easier! You never know what you may see around the next bend in the trail...

    After-School Program:  Rocks + Minerals

    This month’s after school program will be about the amazing world of geology.
    We will get to see the Nature Center’s incredible collection of rocks and minerals and get to make our very own crystals to take home and eat!
    This program will be inside and out so please dress for the weather!

    Only 2 weeks this month:

    PreK and K - Tuesdays - 10th and 17th

    1st and 2nd Gr. - Wednesdays - 11th and 18th

    3rd - 6th Gr. - Thursdays - 12th and 19th

    Time: 3:45pm - 5:00pm

    Cost: $30 members, $40 non-members

    To register online please go to:

    https://register.communitypass.net/Closter and you will be taken to Community Pass, our online registration and payment system. If you would prefer to register in person, please call Marc Gussen at (201) 750-2778

     

    HOLIDAY BREAK CLASSES

    Need something fun and educational for the kids to do during the holiday break? We have the answer:

    Four days of Nature exploration and animal fun here at the Closter Nature Center. Our Break programs have been so successful, we will be doing it again! Depending on your schedule you can sign up for one, two, or all the days.

    We will try to spend time outside each day, so please dress for the weather.

    December 23rd, 24th, 26th and 27th

    1st and 2nd grades 9:00 - 11:30am
    3rd thru 6th grades 1:00 - 3:30pm 

    Cost: Members $80 for full session; Non-members $100 for full session

    For SINGLE days: Members $25; Non-members $30

    To register online please go to:

    https://register.communitypass.net/Closter , and you will be taken to Community Pass, our online registration and payment system. If you would prefer to register in person, please call Marc Gussen at (201) 750-2778

    Deer Exclosure Fence Project - Off and Walking

    The 8-foot vinyl fencing which excludes deer from 3 separate habitats in our Nature Center forest is holding up very well, despite wind storms and a few deer who have been reluctant to accept these detours from their accustomed paths. 

    Frequent monitoring and walking of the fence line is being done by teams of volunteers, (high school through senior adults), who get out as they are able, report back their findings, and make minor repairs.  Another core group of volunteers is prepared to repair any reported major damage. 

    Want some useful exercise in all seasons?  Join our sturdy band of Fence Maintenance volunteers. Register at closternaturecenter.org, under the "Get Involved" tab.

     

    CNC Month By Month:

    December 22nd @ 3pm Welcome Winter Hike 

    December 14th Bergen Audubon Christmas Bird Count 

    January 16th @ 7pm Primitive Tech

    February 9th @ 3pm Winter Hike

    March 15th @ 3pm Meet the Animals of the Nature Center

    April 15th @ 7pm Invasive/Native Plants 

    April 19th Soup Supper

    May Forest Stewardship/Deer Exclosure community update

    May Bird Count

    June Summer Hike

    June 7th Pond Celebration

     

     

     

     


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  • Naturalist Notes: December, 2019

    >> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

    When fall turns to winter, it's time for many wonderful sights in the world of nature. One of my favorites is winter bird activity- and the ease of viewing them in the sleeping majesty of bare forest trees. Another that gets little attention but amazes me every time I see it: needle ice. Needle ice forms when the air temperature is below the freezing point but the subsoil water is above the freezing point. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius and typically turns to ice. Needle ice is unique, in that the still-liquid soil water wicks up through the soil and forms a network of needle-like columns of ice. After a cold December night you might find needle ice that forms when the air temperature drops, and groundwater rises up in a small but magical display.   

    We see it often here at the Nature Center, as it frequently forms in the damp soil of most of our 136 acres. Sometimes the Nature Center's trails can be littered with these cold weather gems. Often, December hikes through our trails can be to the beat of needle ice crunching under foot.

    Look for it in damp places in your yard- or better yet, come here one morning and take a stroll. Look up for birds and down for the needle ice! 

    See you on the trails!

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist

     


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  • Newsletter — November, 2019

    >> NOVEMBER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES –>

    COMMUNITY PROGRAMS

    SPECIAL PROGRAM: BATS, BATS, BATS!

    With Joe D’Angeli

    Sunday, November 17th at 2 PM

    Throughout the world, bats have been misunderstood and persecuted, causing a serious decline in the bat population. The program "BATS, BATS, BATS!" was established to bring this matter to the public's attention. Find out why bats are now being protected because of their vital role in virtually every environment on earth, and learn, for example, about their importance in insect maintenance and rainforest regeneration. 

    Suggested donation of $5 per person for non-members and $3 per person for members. Light refreshments will be served.

     

    Spend Some Time in the Woods - Join Our Happy Band of Deer Fence Monitors

    Our challenge now is to monitor the deer exclosure fencing to make sure there are no breaks where deer can come in. We are building a solid team of volunteers to support this effort - please consider joining us. Training provided. Any time you could give would be very welcome!  If you have a friend or neighbor you'd like to team with (CNC member or not), sign both up on our volunteer website.  If you would like to be involved in this project please click here https://closternaturecenter.org/volunteer-positions-available/ and fill out our volunteer form at the bottom. Please mention this article.

     

    After-School Program:

    Native Americans - How They Used Nature to Survive

    This month we will try our hand at some primitive technology, learning about how Native Americans used nature to survive and thrive.

    Dress for all conditions, as did the people who lived here not so long ago!

    Pk-K Tuesdays 12th, 19th and 26th

    1st and 2nd  Wednesdays 13th, 20th and 27th

    3rd through 6th Thursdays 14th, 21st and Dec 5th

    Time: 3:45pm - 5:00pm

    Cost - $40 for members, and $50 for non-members.

    To register online please go to:

    https://register.communitypass.net/Closter , and you will be taken to Community Pass, our online registration and payment system. If you would prefer to register in person, please call Marc Gussen at (201) 750-2778

     

     “Vacation” Nature Program 

    Looking for something for the kids to do during the teacher’s convention? 

    Bring them to the Nature Center!

    Thursday, November 7th and Friday, November 8th

    1st and 2nd grades: 9:00am - 11:30am
    3rd thru 6th grades: 1:00pm - 3:30pm

    Cost: $40 for the full two day session for CNC members      

      $50 for the full two day session for non-members.

    $25 per day for CNC members; $30 per day for non-members.

     

    CNC Month By Month:

    November 17th @ 2pm Bats 

    December 22nd @ 3pm Welcome Winter Hike 

    December 14th Bergen Audubon Christmas Bird Count 

    January 16th @ 7pm Primitive Tech

    February 9th @ 3pm Winter Hike

    March 15th @ 3pm Meet the animals of the nature center

    April 15th @ 7pm Invasive/native plants 

    April 19th Soup Supper

    May Forest Stewardship/deer exclosure community update

    May Bird Count

    June  Summer Hike

    June 7th Pond Celebration

     

     


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  • Naturalist Notes: November, 2019

    >> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

    Fall brings cool weather, colorful foliage and migrating animals...usually. So far we have had an atypical fall, with October days in the 90's and green forest canopies in the middle of the month. Birders have been searching far and wide for warblers, offshore fishermen are awaiting the tuna reports, and mushroom hunters are praying for rain. Some years everything falls into place like clockwork, and some years things don't pan out according to the "schedule". More and more we are noticing the "schedule" is a bit off. Not just concerning fall weather, but in many ways. Nature always finds a way. When and how is the question.

    The leaves will fall soon--will we see foliage fireworks for two weeks before they come down? Probably not. This unseasonably warm fall will affect many of nature's cycles; everything from migration patterns to winter food supplies. Although I like wearing T-shirts in October, a seared yellowfin tuna steak with a wild mushroom cream sauce sure would be nice.

    See you on the trails!

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist

     


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  • Naturalist Notes: October, 2019

    >> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

    There are so many wonderful things about fall that it is hard to pick a favorite, but high up on the list of reasons to love autumn are mushrooms.

     Mushrooms come in an amazing variety of colors and shapes, make a great addition to dinners, and their importance in the forest is second only to the trees themselves.

    A little background is important here, as they or often misunderstood and even vilified due to some species being highly toxic.

    Mushrooms are the fruit of a fungus, just like an apple is the fruit of an apple tree. For a fungus to reproduce it needs to make spores, just like an apple tree needs to make seeds. The mushroom is not the organism, but just a reproductive structure that produces spores and ensures the future of the species.

    The fungus is the organism, and they are quite inconspicuous, living in the soil or in live or dead trees as a network of fine white strands. It's the mushrooms that stand out and get noticed -  often littering the forest floor with their varying shapes and colors. Most forest fungi are decomposers and help the nutrient cycles of the forest by using dead leaves and trees as food. Some fungi are parasites and attack living trees, but there are many that live in harmonious association with certain trees and get their food from their host - and in turn, provide the host tree with help getting water and nutrients. The bulk of the mushrooms found in the forest are inedible, but there are a handful that are delicious. October is the time of year when many tasty forest treats can be found, and I look forward to another great year of mushroom hunting! If this topic interests you, come join us at the cabin on October 17th at 7:00pm for a fun and informative lecture and slide show about mushrooms.

    See you on the trails!

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist

     


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  • Newsletter — October, 2019

    >> OCTOBER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES –>

    COMMUNITY PROGRAMS

    1. The Amazing World of Mushrooms

    October 17th 7:00 pm

    You will not want to miss this captivating and fascinating program: Naturalist Marc Gussenhas offered it often over the years, and always has had a great response. Come learn about mushrooms, their role in the forest...and in the kitchen!

    Admission is Free... Donations gratefully accepted.

    2. Hello Autumn Hike

    Sunday, October 27, at 3 PM

    Come visit the Nature Center and join us for a hike along our trails. Enjoy our woods as colors peak in mid - Autumn!  Meet at the cabin by Ruckman Pond...

    October After-School Programs

    Bones, Bats and Black Cats

    Nature with a taste of Halloween!

    This month we will learn about skeletons, nocturnal animals

    and mythical creatures.

    Please dress for the weather.

     Pk- and K - Tuesdays 15th, 22nd and 29th

    1st and 2nd  - Wednesdays 16th, 23rd and 30th

    3rd thru 6th  - Thursdays 17th 24th and 31st

    Cost: $40 members, $50 non-members
    Time: 3:45 - 5:00

    To register online please go to:

    https://register.communitypass.net/Closterand you will be taken to Community Pass, our online registration and payment system.

    If you would prefer to register in person, please call Marc Gussen at  (201) 750-2778.

     

    VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

    Light Exercise for You, Big Help to Your Nature Center

    Needed: Deer Fence maintenance volunteers for 2 types of work throughout the year:

    A top priority for the Closter Nature Center is to ensure that our magnificent 130 acre forest remains healthy. A significant step in this process was to engage NJ Audubon to conduct a forest survey and develop a Forest Stewardship Plan. One of the threats Audubon identified was the loss of native species due to the deer eating them. To protect new tree seedlings (the future of the forest!), this summer (with support from the Borough of Closter) we installed over 1 mile of deer exclosure fencing. This fencing will remain in place until the seedlings grow large enough to survive the deer (approximately 10 years).

    Our challenge now is to monitor the fence to make sure there are no breaks where deer can come in. We are building a team of volunteers to support this effort - please consider joining us. Any time you could give would be very welcome!

    We need maintenance volunteers for 2 types of work throughout the year:

    1. Fence checkersThis role just requires the ability to walk in the woods and to be a good observer. Further details to be provided at the meeting, although may vary depending on the number of volunteers we get.
    2. Fence repairersThis role is a bit more physically demanding in terms of carrying tools and materials, possible use of a saw, and understanding of the cable system (pretty basic) or willingness to learn.   Ideally, we need 3 or 4 people available on call so that someone among them would be free to respond within a day or two to a checker's report of damage.

    Learn more and choose how you can help, often or occasionally ... do some good and get some exercise!  Maybe bring a friend who might like to work with you once a month or so.

    If you would like to be involved in this project please click here https://closternaturecenter.org/volunteer-positions-available/ and fill out our volunteer form at the bottom. Please mention this article.

    Thank you for your support!

     

    CNC Month By Month:

    October 17th @ 7pm Mushrooms - Marc

    October 27th @ 3pm Fall Hike

    November 17th @ 2pm Bats

    December 22nd @ 3pm Welcome Winter Hike

    December Bird Watch

    January Photo competition

    January 16th @ 7pm Primitive Tech

    February 9th @ 3pm Winter Hike

    March 15th @ 3pm Meet the animals of the nature center

    April 15th @ 7pm Invasive/native plants

    April 19th Soup Supper

    May Forest Stewardship/deer exclosure community update

    May Bird Count

    June Summer Hike

    June 7th Pond Celebration

     

     


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  • Naturalist’s Notes: September, 2019

    >> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

    One of the things that I love about the Nature Center is getting to see so many people outside enjoying nature. The number of people from so many walks of life doing so many different things always amazes me. From dog walkers to birdwatchers to kids catching their first fish, the Nature Center is clearly a multi-use attraction.

    Many people obviously come here for traditional outdoor pursuits like hiking and fishing, but it doesn't end there. The days here start with the morning coffee. Quite a few people take advantage of the peaceful and serene vibe the pond offers in the morning before heading off to work. Other early morning visitors include nature photographers and bird watchers who love to walk our trails and enjoy the company of our fine feathered friends. Whether for a walk through the forest or Tai Chi by the edge of the pond, people come here to enjoy outdoor exercise all through the morning.  

    Is it lunch time yet? It might be a full blown picnic or just a sandwich in the car-- but could you possibly find nicer scenery to go with your midday meal?  

    As an avid fisherman, I am tickled by the number of kids that would rather be here casting away all afternoon than home playing video games. The afternoon brings folks for a flurry of fishing and wildlife action that often ends with a lucky few enjoying a spectacular sunset. One of our main goals here at the Nature Center is to get people outside and enjoying this 136 acre oasis. Come one - come all, I'm sure there is something for everyone to do here.

    See you on the trails!

    Marc Gussen, Naturalist

     


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  • Newsletter — September, 2019

    >> SEPTEMBER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES –>

    FOREST STEWARDSHIP:
    Deer Exclusion Fencing Complete!

    With the Borough's support, and tremendous dedication from almost three dozen hard workers, installation of fencing for three deer exclusion sites is complete! 
     
    Seven CNC trail maintenance volunteers, Dr. Jay Kelly and 6 students from Raritan Valley Community College, plus 20 young people from the Closter Nature Center Summer Program, installed 6,600 feet of fencing (a total of 1 1/8 miles!), enclosing 30 acres of our 136 acre nature center.  This will keep the deer out of certain areas so the forest understory and young trees can recover from many years of deer browse, and survive to shape our future forest.
     
    With Naturalist Director Marc Gussen, board members Joel Rudin and Beth Ravit attended the Mayor & Council meeting on Wednesday, August 14th to thank the Borough for their financial support for this project, and to let them know the fence is installed.

    SEPTEMBER AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM

    Let's Take a Hike !

    Come explore the trails of the Nature Center. See the sights, meet the animals and have some fun outside this September! Please dress for the weather. 
     
    Pre-K-K  Tues.10th, 17th & 24th
    1st-2nd Gr.  Wed. 11th, 18th & 25th
    3rd-6th Gr. Thurs. 12th, 19th & 26th
    Cost: $40 members,
              $50 non-members
    Time: 3:45pm to 5:00pm
    To register online please go to: 
    https://register.communitypass.net/Closter 
    In person registration, please call Marc Gussen at  (201) 750-2778.

    ----- SUMMER PROGRAM NOTES -----

    The summer program was a huge success this year! We had 25 amazing volunteers helping with our summer classes. 

    Thanks so much to Brielle, Christian, Christina, Derin, Elena, Eric, James G., James S., Jay, Jonathan, Josephine, Kevin, Liam, Luke, Marin, Mia, Natasha, Noah, Olivia, Reese, Rhett, Shauna, Sienna, Sohyun, and Zach. Without them, our summer classes would not have been possible. These wonderful volunteers made this summer filled with memories and great experiences. We hope they learned and grew, and most importantly: had fun!

    Special thanks also to Adri Lindgren for letting us visit her animals and hosting a wonderful end of the year party. This summer is definitely marked in everyone’s calendar as the Best Summer Ever!

    
    

     

     


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