Credit: (NJSOC)
Sixth-graders from Norwood Public School in the summer of 2019 took part in three-day outdoor classes and environmental classes at the Conservation School.

The tax-exempt nonprofit is the leader that took over the management of the New Jersey School of Conservation, which was abruptly closed in 2020.

Last week, members of the New Jersey School of Conservation applied to the state’s Department of the Environment to run the school.

Two years ago, Montclair State University ran a 73-year-old school located on a remote 240-acre site in the Stokes Forest and is the oldest and largest center of the ecological field in the country. The school closed in 2020 when the university announced it could no longer afford to run it.

A DEP spokeswoman declined to say how many and which organizations expressed interest in running the facility, but some lawmakers apparently have already decided that the New Jersey School of Conservation is the right choice.

Credit: (NJSOC)
Aerial view of the New Jersey Conservation School location in the Stokes Forest

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee is expected to consider the bill on Monday (C-438), which will transfer the leadership of the school to the organization “Friends”, which received widespread support for its plan – set out in the proposal on 19 pages – to take over the leadership of this institution. His partners include Ramapo College, Rutgers University and Sussex County Community College.

It once served thousands of students annually

The school, located in a forest near the lake among the hills, attracted more than 9,000 students a year at its peak. He has also provided teacher training and professional development programs, as well as undergraduate, graduate, and graduate programs for state colleges. Its ecological field station offers great potential for research that Rutgers will be able to manage as part of the group’s application for school management.

“We have one priority – to keep the work of the New Jersey School of Conservation.”

“We have an amazing proposition,” said Carrie Pflu, president of the New Jersey School of Environmentalists. “It demonstrates a mix of professionalism, partnership and passion. We have one priority – to keep the work of the New Jersey School of Conservation. “

Since the school closed, the nonprofit has partnered with the DEP to partially rebuild it in the summer of 2020 and offer environmental education for schools on a limited scale for more than 500 children and adults. Members of the school, along with environmental organizations, also persuaded the legislature to allocate $ 1 million – money that will be used to repair and restore the buildings on the site, Pflug said.

Friends ’vision for the complex is to maintain and develop the facility so that it becomes a major innovation campus in which leaders, organizations and businesses promote a diverse community by promoting sustainable development practices, climate change mitigation and environmental justice.

According to the organization’s application, many of the tract’s 55 buildings have degraded due to a lack of investment by the previous head in critical maintenance and repair. First, emergency repairs will be carried out to secure and protect the buildings with the greatest danger.

MSU exit “was alarming”

The University of Montclair was expected to submit a proposal to the DEP, but there was no response to repeated calls and emails asking for answers from Andrew Miss, the school’s director of media relations.

“They weren’t good stewards,” said Ed Potosnack, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation League, one of several organizations supporting the friends’ bid. “At the end of the day, they threatened to leave school three times,” he said, referring to Montclair. “Their output was alarming.”

The Friends group hired an environmental service in November of last century to assess the condition of the property, which was first developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Eventually, renovations related to daytime use programs and limited accommodation for adults will be planned, followed by renovations to gradually increase the number of overnight stays for school groups and summer camps.

The members ’offer also includes the school’s preliminary three-year revenue budget, starting at $ 762.85 and up to $ 1.72 million in fiscal year 2025. the appropriate amount for the school in its annual budget request. Identical account (A-3149) was submitted last Monday to the Assembly.

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