Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 52
 
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
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Environmental Commission Plans 2009 Budget, Hears Park Reports

Dilshanie Perera

The Princeton Environmental Commission met last Wednesday to determine a spending plan for the remainder of the 2008 budget, discuss the budget for the upcoming year, and hear reports for Mountain Lakes Preserve and Marquand Park.

After a discussion about the allocation of funds from the remains of the 2008 budget, the commission decided to purchase compost bins and recycling containers for Princeton Regional Schools, as well as Kill-A-Watt meters. An additional bicycle rack for the school system was also considered.

The 2009 budget, which totals $7,000, was passed after discussion about how much money to allot to advertising and publicity. Ultimately, $1,000 was set asidefor community relations, which would include any such publicity costs. Commission chair Wendy Kaczerski noted that the budget is subject to change as the year progresses.

Friends of Princeton Open Spaces (FOPOS) naturalist Steve Hiltner, who is also a member of the Environmental Commission, reported on the status of Mountain Lakes Preserve over the past year. Major initiatives included clearing invasive shrubs and plants, restoring native habitats, and maintaining and improving trails.

A $7,000 federal Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) grant provided funding for restoring four acres of wetlands at Mountain Lakes, and Mr. Hiltner, Princeton University summer intern Sarah Chambliss, and volunteers worked to plant native species and combat the advances of invasive flora. Princeton Day School has sent a corps of 100 students to the preserve for their community day in early September for the past three years to assist in the habitat preservation effort.

Mr. Hiltner noted that a surprise benefit of the municipal deer control program has been the resurgence of native plants. The combination of invasive plants and deer grazing had proved problematic for the survival of native plants, but with the decrease in the deer population, such flora have had the opportunity to thrive.

“I think that’s a very good argument for continuing the deer management program,” Township Committee liaison to the Environmental Commission Vicky Bergman noted.

As for the bodies of water at Mountain Lakes, Mr. Hiltner said they had “been through the worst summer ever.” Duckweed and algae compromise the aesthetics of the pond, and are caused by the layers of sediment that have settled in the pond over the past century, he said.

“The upper pond used to be seven feet deep, and now it is one foot deep,” Mr. Hiltner explained, adding that the vegetation is growing up from the bottom of the pond. Township plans for restoring and strengthening the two dams at Mountain Lakes are in the works, and it is likely that dredging the ponds will also occur at that time.

Elaborating on the workings of Marquand Park, Environmental Commission member Pamela Macholds reported that while the Marquand Park Foundation and the Borough take care of the park maintenance, it might not be worthwhile for it to be formally adopted under an “Adopt-a-Park” program.

Borough Council liaison Barbara Trelstad explained that the program would just formalize the relationship between the Borough and its open spaces, and would not supersede the workings of the Marquand Park Foundation. “It is a precedent. Let’s not reinvent any wheels here.”

Active recreation was characterized by Ms. Macholds as something that the park does not need, since it would disturb the children playing in the sandbox, the carefully cultivated arboretum, and the overall atmosphere of the space. “Marquand Park is a gem, an oasis,” she said.

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