• 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 — September, 2019


    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.


    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: 
    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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  • Newsletter — May, 2018



    Saturday, May 5th 8:00- 10:00 AM

    Come join the "early birds" at the Nature Center cabin from 8:00 to 10:00 Saturday morning, May 5th, for a birding adventure with Naturalist Nancy Slowik.  While seasoned birders are welcome, no experience is required. A pair of binoculars is most helpful.  A few extra binoculars will be available for those not able to bring their own.  We will start indoors for some pointers and to see images of the wide variety of birds we hope to spot out on the trails.

    This program is geared to adults, but interested young people are welcome.  The walk portion will last about one hour.  Free for members, $5 for non-members. 


    Wednesday, May 2nd - 7 PM AT THE CABIN

    Impacts of Deer and Invasive Species on Forests in Northern-Central New Jersey

    Dr. Jay Kelly from Raritan Valley Community College will be presenting the results of his research on the impacts of overabundant deer and invasive plant species on forests in northern-central NJ. Since 2014, he and his students have studied over 135 forests, primarily in the Raritan Watershed, documenting how tree regeneration and other aspects of forest understories have changed since the mid-Twentieth Century, when deer and invasive plants were much lower in the state. They also studied the effectiveness of different strategies for forest restoration, including exclosures and deer management programs, at improving forest conditions over time. The goals of this research are to provide real-world research opportunities for students, and to provide local communities with information needed to understand these important issues: showing what is happening to our forests, and what can be done to address them.

    Jay F. Kelly, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Raritan Valley Community College, where he teaches a wide variety of ecology, botany, zoology and environmental science courses. He holds a BA in Biology and a PhD in Ecology & Evolution, both from Rutgers University. His research interests are the biology and conservation of rare plant and animal species, coastal and forest ecology, and the design and implementation of ecological land management practices that balance the needs of humans with other species in the landscape. His other research interests include plastic marine debris, historical ecology, human ecology, and toxins in consumer products. Dr. Kelly attempts to develop community-based research projects and partnerships that benefit both his students and the communities they serve. He received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his research and service in 2010.


    Frogs, Toads and Newts: Amphibians of the Nature Center
    Kids will explore the amazing world of amphibians!

    Pk-K ....Tuesdays, 5/8, 15th and 22nd
    1st and 2nd.....Wednesdays....5/9, 16th and 23rd
    3rd through 6th......Thursdays......5/10,  17th and 24th

    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.

    CNC 2018 Summer Program: 

    Registration Is Ongoing!

    The program runs Monday - Thursday for 9 weeks.  Each day includes two sessions as noted below. 

    We offer 2-hour programs for children ages 4 - 6 and 3-hour programs for children ages 7 - 10 and 11 - 14.

    Fees for the 2-hour programs are: 

    $70 for members ($90 for non-members)

    Fees for the 3-hour programs are: 

    $90 for members ($110 for non-members)


    WEEK #1 June 25 - 28    Ages 4 - 6 and 7 - 10

    WEEK #2 July 9 - 12 Ages 11 -14 and 7 - 10

    WEEK #3 July 16 - 19 Ages 7 - 10 and 4 - 6

    WEEK #4 July 23 - 26 Ages 7 - 10 and 11 - 14

    WEEK #5 July 30 - August 2 Ages 4 - 6 and 7 - 10

    WEEK #6 August 6 - 9 Ages 7 - 10 and 11 - 14

    WEEK #7 August 13 - 16 Ages 4 - 6 and 7 - 10

    WEEK #8 August 20 - 23 Ages 11 - 14 and 7 - 10

    WEEK #9 August 27 - 30 Ages 4 - 6 and 7 - 10

    To register please go to:


    and you will be taken to Community Pass, our NEW online registration and payment system.

    Any questions? 

    Please send to CNCsummer@closternaturecenter.org

    Our Thanks go out to the many generous souls who contributed more than 25 homemade soups to our delightful Soup Supper. In addition, The Barn, Closter One, Madeline Petit Paris, La Promenade and Zendiggi all donated soups, and Balthazar Bakery contributed bread! All were delicious!  By the end of the cold, rainy afternoon, (perfect for enjoying soup!), we’d had a warm, friendly and very well attended Soup Supper! 


    To those members that have logged into Community Pass, opened accounts, purchased memberships online or otherwise helped us in updating our administration… THANK YOU!!

    For members that haven’t gone to Community Pass, please take a look!  

    The link to our “community" is:  https://register.communitypass.net/Closter

    Hopefully, this online platform will allow us to spend less time doing paperwork and more time in the great outdoors!

    But we need your help. If you have an account on Community Pass, log in and check out the Closter Nature Center offerings.

    If you don’t have an account, open one today — it’s free and takes about a minute! By opening an account on Community Pass, we get your email for communication and you can sign up for classes online and purchase your membership online, too.

    If you have any questions, please contact admin@closternaturecenter.org



    May 2 - Annual Meeting and Presentation by Jay Kelly: 7 PM

    May 5th Bird Walk Saturday, 8-10 AM with Nancy Slowik

    June 3rd - Pond Celebration (June 10th rain date)

    June 25 to August 30 – Summer Programs!

    September 30 - Hawks Over the Hudson at State Line Lookout

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