Egg Harbor Township Environmental Commission


Arboretum Home Page


Egg Harbor Township Arboretum
Enhancement Project

from The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Report for the years 2004/2005


Janis Hetrick

Egg Harbor Township Environmental Commission

An abandoned dump, an alternative high school and a hawk.  Together they worked to create a Tree Preserve and Botanical Garden along with a Learning Center for the entire community. 

The location in Egg Harbor Township, NJ is only about 14 acres surrounded by suburbia.  At one time it was used to dump yard waste and some building materials.  Since being closed about 30 years ago, nature has reclaimed much of the area, trees have grown, natural wetlands have flourished, and a meadow has established itself.  But the area languished, unappreciated and not used to its full potential. 

 The Egg Harbor Township Environmental Commission asked itself a simple question, what can we do with this area that will preserve it and yet open it to the public to enjoy?  One way was to dedicate it as an Arboretum, a place grown with trees.  We envisioned a park built by volunteers, rustic but with a few amenities such as a basic learning center.  With a water source, we would be able to plant memorial trees to establish a true park atmosphere.  Residents, particularly the children, would learn the value of trees, which plants are natural to our area, get ideas for natural landscaping at their own homes and have a quiet place to walk or meditate. 

But we needed help to make our dream a reality and reached out to the Eagle Academy, the township’s alternative high school.  We reasoned the students would be able to learn valuable work skills such as construction and horticulture along with life skills including problem solving and perseverance.   At the same time, they would be building an important part of their own community.

The young people were up to the task.  They cleaned the area, planted 200 seedlings and built a learning center (just a simple shed) from the ground up.  They worked with no power tools and they kept to a deadline.  And with that we almost thought our job was done! 

But then a handicapped friend asked, “Will I be able to go to the Arboretum?”  And a new task was given.  The students were undaunted.  The next year they built an overlook which is completely handicapped accessible.  We knew then there is no limit to what we can learn and teach on this quiet 14 acres.

Now, with the help of the Dodge Grant, we are all learning about and installing solar power.  The students will learn the technology of the future along with their building skills.  When this project is complete, they will be able to teach the public the benefits of renewable energy.  They take pictures and put together presentations explaining to other schools what we have been doing and what we plan to do.   It is only because they took “ownership” of this project and this Arboretum that they have been able to complete it as scheduled.  Hand carrying water to mix concrete requires true commitment!

The community has learned a valuable lesson too.  Thanks to positive newspaper articles about the project, they learned not to prejudge children in an alternative school setting.   First time visitors are always shocked, not only by what high school students have been able to accomplish but by the simply beauty of the place.

The project is being done in phases and in the future, we will rehabilitate the landscaping with native plants and add a Blue Bird Trail (“Blue Birdie Hill”) and a Monarch Butterfly Way Station (#1903). 

The success of this project is due to the fact that it utilizes partnerships on every level in the community, public, private and non profit.  People of all age levels and skills are involved.  It teaches young people who might be considered “at risk” so many valuable lessons both practical, such as construction, landscaping and communication skills, plus more esoteric lessons such as the importance of giving back to your community, using alternative energy sources, preserving nature and giving wildlife a helping hand.

Oh, and what did the hawk have to do with it?  It was just there.  Each and every time you go to the Arboretum, you can look up and there are the hawks floating on the wind.  And we are all reminded that this is what we are doing this for.  And we are inspired to do more.


"On a Wing and a Prayer"

14.7 Acres owned by Township of Egg Harbor, the Environmental Learning Center was renamed the Egg Harbor Township Arboretum and Nature Center in 2002, beginning a multi year project funded by donations, grants and volunteers.

Arboretum Used as

  • Nature Center

  • Bluebird Sanctuary

  • Wildlife Preserve

  • Hiking

  • Caching

  • Picnicking

  • Bird Watching

  • Memorial Trees

  • Orienteering

  • "No Child Left Inside"

  • Demonstration of Solar Power, completely off the grid

  • Demonstration Gardens


Arboretum Dedication April 2002

Mayor James J "Sonny" McCullough

Phase I Service Shed 2003

  • 10’ by 12’ service shed constructed by students of Eagle Academy
  • Contains Library & Museum
  • Funded by donated materials from area businesses
  • 200 Seedlings planted by Eagle students


Phase II
Observation Deck 2004


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Phase III & IV
Solar Well & Composting Toilet 2006

  • Handicap Accessible Bathroom
  • Solar Powered Well
  • Constructed by Eagle Academy students with mentoring by Aspenberg Builders
    • Funded by
  • Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
  • WorldWater Power Company
  • J&R Construction
  • Polistina & Associates
  • Clivus Toilets
  • Dagit Bros. Construction
  • Township of Egg Harbor
  • Egg Harbor Township School District

Winner of Two State Wide Awards


Basement for Toilet

Composting Toilet from Clivus

How it is Installed

Framing the Building

Solar Panel Framing Goes Up with Help from WorldWide Power Company

Don't Try this at Home!

Solar Panels Go Up

Well Going In

Water Tank



Finishing Touch -  God Bless America!

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All Approvals!!


Back to Arboretum Home Page


 Phase V - On to Arboretum Gardens


 Phase VI - On to Arboretum Pavilion








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