Morristown/ Mendham Life April 23

No Tax Rate Increase in Morris County Budget for 4th Consecutive Year

The cost of living is up, but the Morris County Board of County Commissioners were pleased to introduce a 2023 Budget with no increase in the tax rate for the fourth consecutive year, thanks to prudent fiscal management and a growing ratable base.

  “Without an increase in the tax rate, which is extremely important in these tough economic times, we are still delivering the same level of public services and even increasing funding in some key areas. Morris County’s continued, strong ratable growth and our prudent financial planning make this possible, despite spikes in non-discretionary expenses such as health insurance and pension costs,” stated Commissioner Deborah Smith, Chair of the Commissioners’ Budget Committee.                                                                                                                    Click Here to Check out Junkin Irishman Website

  The proposed $343.5 million spending plan for 2023, outlined presented by the Budget Committee to the entire board tonight, continues to prioritize investments in public safety, infrastructure, human services, education and training, and economic development.  Included in the budget is:

• $8.9 million to support the Morris County Park Commission, stewards of the largest county park system in New Jersey (20,455 acres of parkland)

• More than $12 million to support the County College of Morris, an increase over 2022

• Almost $6.3 million to the Morris County Vocational School District, also an increase over 2022

• More than $800,000 for Economic Development and Tourism

“Public safety is paramount in this day and age, and this budget focuses heavily on Morris County’s efforts to support and augment local emergency services and to fully fund our Sheriff and Prosecutor.” said Commissioner Director John Krickus.

The 2023 spending plan dedicates an estimated $74.6 million to public safety, which includes in part, full dispatch services to 23 municipalities and continuing daily back-up services to local Basic Life Support and Emergency Medical Service units for all 39 Morris County towns. Morris County’s Basic Life Support Emergency Medical Service Unit responded to over 3,866 Emergency calls in 2022.
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“The 2023 Budget also reflects our board’s continued commitment to sensible fiscal planning and the ability to help those in the midst of uncertain times by supporting the economic engine that will sustain us. With a proposed $60.7 million fund balance, which is a $2.8 million increase over last year, we have crafted a 2023 Budget that is intent on continuing Morris County’s AAA bond rating for a 48th consecutive year,” said Commissioner Christine Myers, a member of the Budget Committee.

Morris County’s strategic planning also involved using American Rescue Plan Act funding for county investments, specifically to cover select capital expenses previously planned for 2023, 2024, and 2025, which will reduce the county’s future borrowing needs for necessary projects. 

“The Preservation Trust Fund Tax, which has protected and enhanced Morris County for more than 30 years, will stay level for 2023, at 5/8 cent per $100 of total county equalized property valuation. The tax pays not only for improvements to our county parks, but also for outstanding grant programs like Farmland Preservation, Open Space Preservation, Historic Preservation, Flood Mitigation, and Trail Design and Construction,” stated Commissioner Stephen Shaw, who is Chair of the Capital Budget/Facilities Review Committee and Liaison to the Office of Planning & Preservation. 

Overall, the county’s 2023 Capital Spending Plan designates approximately $25.5 million toward enhancing road resurfacing, improving intersections along the 287 miles of county roadways and replacing bridges and culverts this year. Nearly $8 million in grants will offset county costs.

Road Resurfacing Projects Include:

• 3.3 miles of Mendham Road (CR 510) from Indian Head Road to Cold Hill Road in both Mendham and Morris Townships

• 2.2 miles of Main Road (US 202) from Fulton Street to Route 287 Northbound Ramps in Montville Township 

• 4.1 miles of Ridgedale Avenue (CR 632) from Littell Road (Route 10) to Route 280 in both Parsippany and East Hanover Townships

• 3.8 miles of Tempe Wick Road/Glen Alpin Road (CR 646) from Leddell Road to Blue Mill Road in both Mendham and Harding Townships

• 1.8 miles of Newark Pompton Turnpike (CR 660) from Jacksonville Road to Route 23 in Pequannock Township

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Morris County to Receive $3 Million for Road Safety Improvements NJTPA Funding Supports Completion of Two Separate Projects

Morris County will receive $3 million in federal funds for recommended safety improvements which will include design considerations for a roundabout, a pedestrian-activated rapid flashing beacon and high-visibility crosswalks at five intersections within Mendham Township, Mendham Borough and Dover.

“These improvements will help to create a safer environment in an area frequented by people of all ages, particularly high school students, as well as those going to the local shopping center or the nearby Post Office,” said Morris County Commissioner Stephen H. Shaw, who serves as Morris County’s representative to the NJTPA Board.
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The improvements, funded though the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), will be completed as part of two separate projects:

• $1,885,000 to improve safety and overall operations at two intersections along East Main Street/Mendham Road (CR 510) from Tempe Wick Road (CR 646) to Cold Hill Road in the Borough of Mendham and Mendham Township. Improvements will include a roundabout, streetlighting upgrades, pedestrian signal upgrades, accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks. In addition, a new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of East Main Street (CR 510) and Tempe Wick Road (CR 646). Tempe Wick Road is separated by a teardrop island but has no pedestrian features.

• $1,175,000 for improvements at three intersections along South Morris Street (CR 643) from Millbrook Avenue/Munson Avenue to Byram Avenue in Dover. Improvements will include streetlighting upgrades, accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks. Two new traffic signals with 12-inch signal heads and pedestrian countdown heads will be installed. An improved school crossing with curb extensions and a rectangular rapid flashing beacon will be installed at South Morris Street and Byram Avenue. Road geometry will be reconfigured at the intersection of South Morris Street and Millbrook Avenue/Munson Avenue.

“The South Morris Street corridor includes three intersections in need of safety improvements, all of which currently have only stop signs,” added Commissioner Shaw.
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South Morris Street provides a direct connection with State Route 10 in Randolph and U.S. 46 and State Route 15 in Dover, and also connects to NJ TRANSIT’s downtown Dover Train Station, which provides service along the Morris & Essex and Montclair Boonton lines.

The projects, which are two of 19 safety improvements totaling $188.3 million across the NJTPA region, were approved by the NJTPA Board of Trustees at their March 13 meeting. The funding is for two programs: the Local Safety Program and the High Risk Rural Roads Program. These programs fund high-impact, cost-effective solutions to reduce crashes and improve safety for all travelers. More information on the programs and project factsheets is available on the NJTPA website. Funding approved for the programs doubled from the previous program cycle in 2020.  

“The increases are the result of highly successful partnerships between the NJTPA and its member county and city governments to deliver vitally important projects on our local roads. This federal support helps free up local dollars, state aid and municipal aid for other priorities,” said Passaic County Commissioner John W. Bartlett, the current Chair of the NJTPA. 

The NJTPA is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for 13 northern New Jersey counties. Under federal legislation, MPOs provide a forum where local officials, public transportation providers and state agency representatives can come together and cooperatively plan to meet the region’s current and future transportation needs. It establishes the region’s eligibility to receive federal tax dollars for transportation projects.

The NJTPA Board consists of one local elected official from each of the 13 counties in the region (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren), and the cities of Newark and Jersey City. The Board also includes a Governor’s Representative, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the President & CEO of NJ TRANSIT, the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and a Citizens’ Representative appointed by the Governor.                                           Click Here to Check out Kam Man Website 

Any inquiries regarding the NJTPA should be directed to NJTPA Communications and Public Affairs Director Mark Solof at phone number 973-639-8415. For Morris County media inquiries, please contact Communications Director Vincent Vitale by phone, 973-285-6015 or email,

Morris County Rescue Task Force Program – Bringing Police, Fire, EMS and OEM together as One Team to Make a Difference When Time Matters Most

The Morris County Office of Emergency Management/Emergency Medical Services Team in partnership with the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Response Team, had the opportunity to train the Morris Township Police Department and Morris Township Fire Department on March 7th. The focus of this training was on the tactics and deployment strategy associated with the integration of a Rescue Task Force into a simulated school shooting event and the critical emergency medical care that must be done in a timely manner. The goal of the Morris County RTF Program is to save lives when time matters most. We are grateful that Morris Township Chief of Police Robert Shearer and Morris Township Fire Chief Michael Nunn, both of whom attended the training, have come together and prioritized a critically important initiative to best serve the Morris Township Community and keep students safe. It was another phenomenal day of training and we look forward to many more!

Succasunna Writer Debuts Children’s Book 

Brandon Gibney announces his entry into the publishing scene with the release of “The Snail Race” (published by AuthorHouse), the story of a snail who is looking to fulfill the lifelong dreams of his late father to defeat a rival in a race. 
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Gary needs to overcome the pressure of living up to his father’s name. He was intimidated by Pierre’s fame. Gary sees his father in a dream who sends him a message saying he loves him for who he is and that it is not just about winning, but rather giving it your all. Gary suddenly feels relief and knows he can fulfill his dreams simply by trying his best.

The next day, Gary sees his father again in a vision where his father says that Pierre’s overconfidence is his downfall. Gary realizes if he ignores Pierre and focuses on his own race, he can win. Will Gary be able to finally beat his father’s rival?

“This children’s book has likable characters. The main character is a snail named Gary which I believe many children can identify with,” Gibney says. When asked what he wants readers to take away from the book, he answered, “Anyone who is an underdog whether in school, sports, politics, etc. can win in life with effort and determination and a good mentor.”

“The Snail Race” By Brandon Gibney, Available at AuthorHouse, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

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18,000th Paring of Seeing Eye Dogs Occurs in Morristown

by Jeff Garrett

If you ever wondered how a seeing eye dog earns its so-called certificate to practice, The Seeing Eye, Inc. non-profit organization in Morris County, NJ is an institution which knows, having graduated thousands of dogs to folks in need in history.  The organization recently celebrated its 18,000th pairing.

The facility at 1 Seeing Eye Way in Morristown, helps match puppies with over 130 volunteers to train them. Some are repeat, recurring trainers while some are newbies giving it a go for the first time having  received training themselves – earning their pedigree of sorts.  

“Volunteers start to raise puppies as early as 8 weeks,” says Michelle Barlak, Spokesperson and Senior Specialist of Public Relations of the organization who runs the Sussex County, NJ club in Ogdensburg.“Then they are home for a year with a trainer where they learn things like house manners, house training, socialization and obedience.” After 14-16 months, the trained puppies are returned to the seeing eye dog facility where they undergo a veterinary exam to ensure they will be reliable seeing eye dogs and thereafter, spend four months with a paid full-time instructor. That elevates the dogs to where they can be paired with someone in need where they spend two to three weeks getting acclimated to their new master.

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There are breeding clubs in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. At each club puppy raisers get lots of support according to Barlak. “The dogs receive veterinary care and the trainers get a stipend for dog food. There are puppy club meetings and classes run by puppy club leaders which help new raisers.” If you become a leader, these folks must do things away from the site club and in the community such as taking dogs to malls, fairs, festivals in outings where the dogs get increased socialization opportunities. This is particularly advantageous for the dogs since they need to be ready to assist their new owners navigating social settings. 

Veterans training these dogs gain admittance to the “21 Club,” when they’ve successfully raised 21 Dogs. Trainers are kids, teens, adults and senior citizens – some as young as 9 some in their 70’s and 80’s.  If you’re a younger trainer and plan on going to College, there’s a scholarship program the non-profit offers to graduating seniors. In fact, each August there’s a “Family Day,” which is an appreciation event for many and where scholarships are awarded.

With a sophisticated program in place, one might wonder how all of this is financed.“It costs $73,000 to breed, raise and train puppies,” added barlak, which seems like a staggering 

amount, with donations from areas each club serves as there main funding source; the organization doe not receive a penny of government funding.  

If one needs a dog, it costs $150.00 for the first animal and $50.00 thereafter for each subsequent one.  Veterans get dogs for just $1.00, a benefit of sorts to those who’ve served.

Since a dog’s life span is usually much shorter than that of most people, one in need could need up to several dogs in their lifetime; receiving one for $50.00 becomes quite a cost-saving boom.

One trainer who has made a name for herself is Bonnie DiCola of Boonton Township in Morris County. Her club, “4-Footed Leaders,” goes so far as to be integrated into the curriculum at Cedar Hill Elementary School where she works as the school nurse. She’s trying to get students to appreciate this Service, on some of them may need at some point in their lives. 

In it’s eighth decade of service, The Seeing Eye shows no signs of slowing down, which is what those in need of help from K-9 furry friends of fours look for, as the need itself, hardly slows down. 

For more information on The Seeing Eye, Inc., logon to

Did You Know?

A comprehensive review of research published between 1990 and 2020 studying the link between physical activity and mental health outcomes determined that nearly 90 percent of all peer-reviewed, published research reported a positive, statistically significant relationship between exercise/physical activity and mental health. Conducted by the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation, the review found that 1,029 of the 1,158 experimental studies examined reported significant positive relationships between physical activity and mental health outcomes. General physical activity, a broad descriptor referring to the amount of daily or weekly physical activity people engage in irrespective of type, had the greatest number of positive studies of any type of physical activity, followed by cardiovascular and aerobic activity and yoga. Authors of the review concluded that their findings illustrate that exercise and movement can now be considered mainstream elements of mental health care.

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Ready For Spring:  Grounds for Sculpture Offers New Exhibits and Programs For All     

By Jeff Garrett 

If you’re dreaming of a spot where relaxation, meditation, cool sights and out of the ordinary Art exists in a tranquil setting, “Grounds For Sculpture” in its 31st year, is a spot you’ll want to connect with as Winter moves into Spring. 

 Spanning 42 acres at 80 Sculptors Way in Hamilton Twp, “Grounds” offers a different kind of museum – 

one that is somewhat whimsical, containing interactive artwork with 350 sculptures on hand for guests to take in, and even fawn over. “it’s definitely a different kind of museum,” says museum Executive Director, Gary Garrido, who is looking forward to the warmer months ahead, and the program-side of the museum.                                                                                                                                       Click Here to Check out Patrick Sharkey Design 

“We’ll have a Lecture with Jeff Warren on Wednesday, May 3. This will be a good chance to get thosewho may be skeptical about mindfulness to open up,” and embrace what he feels is something healthy which can only help improve people’s lives. The museum plans on launching a ceramic studio with clay and ceramics workshops for kids and adults. 

It’s all about Wellness at the museum. Garrido says “Grounds For Sculpture” is a place where folks can relieve stress, practice yoga, experience mindfulness, find calm and open up.

There’s an ancillary objective too.
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“The focus continues to be breaking down barriers and making Art acceptable for all,” said Garrido, who 

will preside over the opening of the Cloud Swing sculpture, which is a series of six swings with two swings which are handicapped accessible. “The sculpture itself takes the form of a cloud,” which should be more than interesting to lay eyes on, Garrido thinks.  

Another creation set to open soon is that from Philadelphia artist, Robert Lugo. Lugo has created a 26 ft large sculpture that has a series of stairs going up and down.  Patrons can go up into the sculpture and take pictures in this one-of-a-kind piece, set to draw awe and interest this Spring. “As a Latino, Lugo wants to break down some barriers,” in his creations, to show things from a different perspective, notes Garrido.  

“Grounds For Sculpture” really tries to utilize the seasonal backdrop – whether its looking at a winter garden now, an apple orchard in the Spring, Lotus flowers in the summer or the mere changing of the colors of leaves in the picturesque Fall, having the outside sizzle alongside the sculptures is Art in and of itself.        Click Here to Check out Royal Lawns 

A restaurant is on-site called “Rat” and cafes are available for museum-goers to sit and unwind. Garrido likes the way the museum is shaping up with wellness and impressive Art and the forefront of the facility’s agenda for visitors this Spring.  He hopes you’ll visit and like it too.  

For more information such as museum hours, program information and restaurant information on “Grounds For Sculpture” visit


NJ Starz: Lee Rouson  Hometown: Mount Olive 

 By Steve Sears

Former New York Giants football star and current Mount Olive resident, Lee Rouson, has a specific goal.

“To continue to be who I am – really. I’m not born a winner and I’m not born a loser,” Rouson says. “I’m born a chooser. I can choose to be who I am – really. It’s the greatest thing in my life right now, and it covers every part of my life. It covers all my relationships: with myself, with my wife and my children, with my grandchildren, with my friends, and with strangers.”

Cecil Lee Rouson’s life has been an education in people, sports, and growth. He has reached the peak as an NFL football player, being a member of two Super Bowl championship teams, and he has also embraced the youth of today, wrapping them in arms of encouragement, urging that they grow into who they want to be – really.

Rouson, 60, was born in 1962 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After his birth, he and his parents headed to New Jersey, and lived for a period in Washington Heights, New York while his father served as a bodyguard for Malcom X. When the Civil Rights leader was assassinated, the family headed back to North Carolina, and Greensboro specifically.
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At age 10, Rouson was introduced to a new league called Pop Warner Youth Football. “If you beat everybody, you could go to Florida and play in a Super Bowl for little kids,” he recalls. “I was the ringleader; I got all of my friends to all convince their parents that we were going to make this team, we were going to beat everybody, and we were going to go to the Super Bowl for kids.” The young Rouson was a very good football player at that time, so everyone else bought in. But the team was in a white neighborhood, not in Rouson and his friend’s black neighborhood. Rouson was the only one of his friends to make the squad.

Rouson played high school football for the Walter Hines Page Senior High School Page Pirates. He made the junior varsity team as a sophomore, and as a junior he was a varsity fullback, scoring two touchdowns in his first game. “In my sophomore year, I was growing, and I wasn’t as fast as I was as a junior. I had great vision, and I knew how to get to where I needed to go, but because my body was changing, that was a struggle for me. But I got through it. My junior year, I matured very, very well, and I was put at fullback again. Then after the first game that year, when I had a couple of touchdowns, the story is the coach’s wife said of me to her husband, ‘That’s your tailback right there.’ So, I was moved to the starting tailback.”                                                                                              Click Here to Check out Benito’s 

Rouson rushed for over 1,000 yards his senior season, and he also played basketball as a junior and senior. The Page Pirates won a hardwood state title in his junior campaign, and his assignment for that championship contest was to guard Ashford High School’s star player and McDonald’s All-American, future Los Angeles Laker forward James Worthy. His senior year, the club was undefeated during the regular season, but lost in the state semifinals.

“I had a great basketball career in high school,” Rouson says. “I played baseball in my sophomore year. Baseball was my first love, but I decided I had to change football. I just dropped baseball and I ran track just to be keep in shape for football.” In addition to sports, Rouson was also president of the student body, and was always involved in many areas of community service.

Schools like Michigan State, USC, Pittsburgh, and Colorado among others came knocking on his door for his gridiron exploits, and he decided to head to Colorado and be a Buffalo. While there, he rushed for just under 3,000 career yards and caught 86 passes for 699 yards, scoring 14 touchdowns, and participated in the Blue-Grey Football Classic after his senior season, where his talents were on display before the eyes of NFL coaches.

Rouson was drafted in the 8th round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants in 1985 and was also drafted with the number one pick by the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Giant blue won out over General red, and Rouson had limited action in his first season, but in 1986, he appeared in 14 games on special teams while backing up Joe Morris in the backfield. He rushed for 179 yards on 54 carries, had eight pass receptions for 121 yards, and scored three touchdowns. In the Giants’ 39 – 20 victory of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, he tallied over 100 all-purpose yards, a Super Bowl record until it was broken. He that season was also named Special Teams Player of the Year.

Rouson played for seven seasons in the National Football League, primarily under Head Coach Bill Parcells for the New York Giants. “That was probably the best thing that happened to me and my NFL career,” he says of playing for Parcells. “If I had played for another team, I probably wouldn’t have made any accomplishments, or the outcome of my career wouldn’t have been what it is if it wasn’t for Bill Parcells. He knew how to meet me where I was, he knew how to shake me. That was his brilliance. He knew how to do it with everybody, and he had his own way of doing it, and he had his own way with me. He was gracious with me, because with the mistakes that I made he could have gotten rid of me from the get-go, took my failures, and he challenged me to overcome them.” 
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Rouson would snag another Super Bowl ring with the Giants when they defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20 – 19, in Super Bowl XXV.

After his football career, Rouson was Running Backs, Special Teams, and Strength and Conditioning Coach for Mount Olive High School’s first state championship football team in 2004, and in 2013 he started working for Mount Olive Township School District as an aide in the alternative classroom in the high school. But his main endeavor was creating a pilot program for behavior modification for grades 6 – 8. and during the first three years of the program, he presented “Move Your Chains,” where he would bring onto the stage 10-yard marker football chains. In the middle of those markers, he’d stage a show with couches and pictures, mirroring a television show on a TV set. He explains, “My theme was to ‘Move the Chains.’ How do you move forward in your life? How do you move towards your goals? How do you overcome things that have you chained up?” 

Rouson called on many inspirational folks for their contribution. “I would bring in all kinds of role models from all walks of life,” he says. “I had a guy who did a sports program at the YMCA, Noah Brown of the Dallas cowboys. I had a pro wrestler; I had a doctor. I had all different kinds of people come and share their hearts and show who they are.”                                                                                                                                Click Here to Check out Centenary Stage Co. 

Rouson, who does outreach for Sports World Ministries by travelling to churches and schools around the country, has served on the Board of the northern New Jersey Chapter for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and has also brought his “Move Your Chains” program outside Mount Olive to watch it grow.

A former Associate Pastor and worship leader at a church in Harlem, Rouson worships at Mountaintop Church. He is a member of the church Board of Directors, serves as a spiritual advisor for the church, and often sings as part of the services. Mountaintop Pastor, Matt Jones, speaks of him highly. “Lee has got to be one of the one of the most genuine, kindest, caring most godly men I’ve ever met. What you see with Lee is what you get. He is genuine through and through. He has a deep love for people that have a very deep love for Jesus. He wants to see all men redeemed.”

Rouson and his wife Lisa have been married for 33 years, and they are proud parents of four children. Their two daughters are Uchenna, 39, and Celisia, 33, and their two sons, Jas Lee, 36, and Jesse, 25. The couple also has eight grandchildren.

Rouson sums it all up. “To continue to be who I am – really. And I back that up with Philippians 1:6: ‘I am sure that the good work God began in you will continue until he completes it on the day when Jesus Christ comes again.”

I Remember Dad:

My Father’s Many Talks About Life Along The Old Morris Canal 

By Richard Mabey Jr.

One of the fondest memories that I have of my dear, belated father is that of his talks that he would give at the Lincoln Park Museum. Dad gave many talks about the history of Lincoln Park in that dear old museum. But I remember his all-time favorite subject was that of talking about his remembrances of life along the still, murky waters of the historic Morris Canal.

My great grandfather, William Mabey, had built an icehouse along the banks of the Morris Canal. It was located deep in the woods at the end of Mabey Lane. At one time, Mabey Lane extended from Route 202, in Lincoln Park, and traveled all the way down to the banks of the old Morris Canal. Today, there is a housing development where the once wooded portion of this country lane proudly hailed.

My grandfather, Watson Mabey, served as the Chief Engineer of Incline Plane Ten East, which was located right at the border of Lincoln Park and Towaco. By the time my dad was a boy of about seven years old, the Morris Canal had ceased its operations. Still, it didn’t stop Dad and his younger brother, Carl, from exploring and hiking along the old tow path. You see, Dad was raised in the home at the end of Mabey Lane. The very home that his father had built.

What I loved so much about the talks, that Dad gave about the old Morris Canal, was the high degree of heart-felt feeling that would fill Dad’s voice. At times, during his many talks, I would catch a bit of sadness in his eyes. A kind of melancholy feeling.                                                                                                                                                     Click Here to Check out 200 Club 

My father loved Lincoln Park. When he was a boy, some of the town’s people still referred to the little valley hamlet as Beavertown. I confess that at times, I took Dad’s talks for granted. There were times when I felt that my father was going to live forever and never stop giving his little talks about life along the old Morris Canal. Sadly, I was all so mistaken.

I would give the sun and the moon to hear just one more of my dad’s landmark talks. For even just five minutes, to see the expressions of joy, happiness, sadness and nostalgic melancholy fill Dad’s face as he presented his talk. It’s all so strange, what a person once took for granted becomes a shining diamond memory. Sadly, never to ever return again.

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

 10 Tips to Recognize Ripe Fruits 

Keeping fresh fruit around the house provides a healthier alternative when your sweet tooth comes calling. Understanding how and when to buy at the peak of ripeness (or just before, in some cases) can help you avoid food waste while keeping your doctor happy. 

Consider these simple tips for recognizing ripe fruits:

Strawberries: Check the area at the top of the berry near the stem and leaves. A ripe strawberry is fully red; green or white near the top means the fruit is underripe. 

Watermelon: The “field spot,” or the area where the melon sat on the ground, should be yellow, and a tap on the rind should produce a hollow sound. 

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Cherries: Flesh should appear dark with a crimson color and feel firm.

Blueberries: Similar to cherries, color should deepen to dark blue. A reddish or pink color may be visible in unripe berries. 

Blackberries: Look for a smooth texture without any red appearance. Because blackberries don’t ripen after being picked, they tend to spoil quickly. 

Cantaloupe: You should detect a sweet smell, and the melon should feel heavy upon lifting. 

Peaches: A sweet, fragrant odor should be apparent. Skin should feel tender but not soft. 

Pineapple: Smell is again an important factor for pineapple – a sweet scent shows it’s ready, but a vinegary one likely means it’s overripe. 

Raspberries: Generally follow the same rules as blackberries. Best eaten within a couple days of purchase, a bright red color represents ripe berries.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Click Here to Check out Al’s 

Bananas: A ripe banana features a peel lightly spotted without significant bruising. Your best bet may be to purchase bananas still slightly green and allow them to ripen at home. 

Find more food tips, tricks, recipes and videos at 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

5 Steps for Mastering Family Meal Planning

As you and your family embark on a mission to create delicious, nutritious meals all while saving money, it’s key to remember meal planning is essential for success. From tracking a list of ingredients you’ll need to noting your loved ones’ favorite foods, there are some easy steps you can take to make dinners at home enjoyable and budget friendly. 

Getting on track with your own plan can start with these tips from Healthy Family Project’s Mission for Nutrition, which aims to help families find weekly meal success with an internationally inspired e-cookbook including grocery lists, recipe ideas and cooking hacks. 

Work together. Before heading to the store or heating up the oven, sit down with your loved ones and make a list of easy-to-make recipes you all enjoy. Each time you discover a new favorite, add it to the list so you’ll have a reference guide when it’s time to plan a week’s worth of meals. 

Stick to a schedule. Set a day and time each week your family can meet and plan out dinners. This also offers an opportunity to bring to light any newfound favorites or fresh ideas while bringing everyone to the same room for quality time together. 

Plan time-saving processes. Think ahead while planning meals and consider the equipment you’ll need. Saving time while cooking can be as easy as sticking to recipes that call for hands-off appliances like a slow cooker or pressure cooker and using a food processor rather than a knife and cutting board. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Click Here to Check out Panther Valley Golf 

Schedule a “leftovers night.” When you prep dinners that call for crossover ingredients, it’s easier to turn one meal into two. For example, buying sweet onions and chicken breast to make Chicken Apple Enchiladas means you’ll have those ingredients on hand for Greek Chicken Bowls later in the week. 

Make a list. Once you’ve decided on recipes for the week, create a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. While you’re at the store, stick to your plan and avoid impulse buys to help stay on track while getting in and out quicker. 

Find more recipes and meal planning tips by downloading the free e-cookbook at and join the conversation by following #missionfornutrition on social media. 

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Chicken Apple Enchiladas

Recipe courtesy of Healthy Family Project’s Mission for Nutrition

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1 Envy or Jazz apple, diced

2 cups cooked shredded chicken

8 flour tortillas

6 ounces shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided

1 can red enchilada sauce

cilantro (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. 

In skillet, cook onions until translucent. Add jalapeno and apple; saute 2-3 minutes. 

Add cooked chicken and mix well. Remove from heat. 

Lay out tortillas and sprinkle cheese on each. Add chicken mixture and roll. Place in baking dish and cover with enchilada sauce. 

Bake 20 minutes, or until heated throughout.

Greek Chicken Bowls                                                                                                                                                      Click Here to Check out Al’s 

Recipe courtesy of Healthy Family Project’s Mission for Nutrition

1 cup cooked white or brown rice

1 grilled chicken breast, sliced

1 RealSweet onion, sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 cucumber, cut into quarters

1/2 cup black olives

1 tablespoon feta cheese

2 tablespoons tzatziki sauce

Place cooked rice and chicken in bowls. 

Top each bowl with sweet onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and black olives. Sprinkle each with feta cheese. Drizzle each with tzatziki sauce.

Asian Barbecue Sesame Salmon with Noodles and Veggies

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Recipe courtesy of Emily Weeks of “Zen and Spice”

Cook time: 30 minutes 

Total time: 40 minutes 

Servings: 4 


1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 pounds salmon (4 filets)

12 ounces stir-fry (pad thai) rice noodles

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 pound white mushrooms, sliced

1 cup sugar snap peas

1 large broccoli head, cut into bite-size florets

2-3 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

sesame seeds, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In small saucepan, whisk soy sauce; brown sugar; rice vinegar; garlic; ginger; chili garlic sauce, if desired; sesame oil; and barbecue sauce. Bring to boil over high heat then reduce heat to simmer.                                                                                                                                    Click Here to Check out Al’s 

In small bowl, whisk water and cornstarch. Pour into pan and cook on low, whisking often, until sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pour 3 tablespoons sauce into small bowl. Brush salmon filets with reserved sauce and place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until salmon is flaky. Discard small bowl sauce if any remains.

Cook stir-fry noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add sesame oil. Add mushrooms, snap peas and broccoli. Cook, stirring often, until veggies are tender-crisp, 7-8 minutes. Add noodles and remaining sauce from pan; toss to combine.

To serve, divide noodles, veggies and salmon between plates. 

Top with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

(Family Features)

‘Watershed U’ Offered to High Schoolers this Summer

High school students considering majoring in environmental science, conservation or environmental education in college are invited to attend “Watershed University,” a program offered each summer by Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA), the region’s watershed watchdog. 

The one-week certificate program will be offered during the weeks of July 10-14 and Aug. 7-11 at the Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, 2121 Larger Cross Road, Bedminster. 

The program is designed for students entering grades 9-12 who want to gain insights in the environmental field, learn how to make impactful change and serve their communities. Each day includes instruction from RHA staff members and guest experts, hands-on scientific exploration, and team building. 

“Participants will learn from experts, examining environmental and social topics that affect local and global natural resource challenges,” said Lauren Theis, education director for Raritan Headwaters. “On-the-ground conservation projects will allow students to gain skills in scientific research, communication, and building connections within a group.” 

The core program runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but each session includes free optional activities from 9-10 a.m. and 2-3 p.m. including meditation and yoga, nature illustration, fishing in the Fairview Farm pond, organic gardening, natural tie-dying, and paper-making. 

Watershed University topics for the week of July 10-14 include GIS (geographic information system) mapping, green infrastructure, composting, native plant identification, environmental justice, biodiversity study, groundwater conservation and a land stewardship project. The session also includes a kayak trip along the South Branch of the Raritan River. 

Topics for the week of Aug. 7-11 include climate study, the story of salamanders, green matters funding, stream ecology, microplastics study, native edible and medicinal plants, a visit from farmers in the Community Grains program, and a study on algae, zooplankton and harmful algal blooms (HABs) in waterways. The session also includes a kayak trip to Round Valley Reservoir, where scientist from the NJ Water Supply Authority will talk about aquatic plants. 

The cost of the program is $400 a week, and at the end of the program, each student will be awarded a certificate outlining their participation in the program. Need-based scholarships are available. This year, for the first time, alumni of previous years’ Watershed U. programs may sign up for one-day sessions, at $50 per day. 

For more information and to apply online for Watershed University, go to For more information, contact Lauren Theis at  

“This program will allow participants to explore future fields of study in college and beyond preparing for career opportunities in environmental science, conservation and environmental education,” said Theis. “Students will also connect with RHA staff and partners for advanced learning, community service, citizen science projects, and internships.” 

Bucket List Travels: 

Discovering the Azores 

Morristown resident Paul Partridge has been building a travel bucket list for years. Now he’s diving in – near and far – and shares his adventures in this column.

A working bar that sits in the middle of the Hudson River and offers sunset views of the NYC skyline. . . Who knew?
Everyone knows that the best sunsets of Manhattan happen from the Jersey side. 

Some claim Hoboken has the best viewing spots. Others say Jersey City. A case can be made for Weehawken or West New York.

Sorry, folks. The winner in my book is The Honorable William Wall– a two-story floating bar that sits in the Hudson River and is also called The Willy Wall.


1.) Location, location, location. Relish the unobstructed view of NYC from midtown to The Battery. Plus, get up-close views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, no extra charge.

2.) Enjoy free, nonstop entertainment, as catamarans, cruise ships, jet skis, yachts, tour boats, and the Staten Island Ferry bustle around the harbor. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a sailboat race.

3.) Getting there is a fun adventure. The “Admiral’s Launch” departs from Dudley Street every half hour and delivers you right to the bar. And you’re allowed to bring a picnic lunch or any other food you’d like. 

4.) They serve cocktails.

A Well-Kept Secret 

You’d think that a working bar anchored in the middle of the world’s most famous harbor would be well known. But I can tell you, when planning the trip and talking to friends, not one person I spoke to was familiar with it. 

Even the attendant in their parking lot has never heard of the William Wall (but for $5, what do you expect?) 

Our group of five arrives in time to take the first tender out. This gives us the best shot at a seat at the bar or at a table. (Note: there’s a bar on each floor, but both bars are not always in service.) It’s $100 to sit at a reserved table, but there are unreserved tables available first come, first serve. Once onboard, we grab a table in the covered section with an excellent view.

A Friendly Crew

On the way to the bar, I meet two of the crew. The first is a young Irish sailor from Wexford, near Dublin. He teaches sailing by day and crews on the Willy Wall nights and weekends. “I’ll turn you into a sailor in two days,” he proclaims in his lilting brogue.

The other crew member is Leo, a mathematician working on his PhD. In his spare time, Leo makes YouTube videos explaining complex math problems. The first one I see listed is called, “How to Solve 1st Order Ordinary Differential Equations.” Not sure what’s more impressive: the title or the fact that it has 312,000 views.

It makes me feel good that there are 312,000 smart people in the world. However, at that moment, there’s an energetic birthday celebration on deck and it doesn’t look like any of those smart people are here.

Leo is also trying to find a new prime number. “Did you know that prime numbers are used by spies in writing codes,” he asks. Apparently, if you find one over 100 digits long, you’re supposed to notify the CIA and they buy it off you for $10,000.

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“I don’t know about that,” I say, “but do you know the MIT fight song?” He doesn’t, so I sing it for him.

E to the u, du, dx

E to the x, dx

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine

3 point 1 4 1 5 9

Integral, radical, mu, dv

Fight ‘em, fight ‘em, MIT

But I Digress

The afternoon is delightful. Sunny. Lower 80’s. With a nice breeze to keep us cool. About a half hour before sunset, the sun reflects off the skyline and creates a mirror of light on the water. When a sailboat enters the sphere, it creates a stunning silhouette in contrast with the glowing colors radiating off the buildings. Wow – spectacular!

On the water, 15 or so jet skis are in formation, performing various choreographed maneuvers.  To the untrained eye, it looks like a cross between a college marching band and the Weeki Wachee Water Ballet. The formations are quite elaborate and we’re trying to decipher what they’re making. Words? Signs? Hanzi? Perhaps they’re spelling out a new prime number in tribute to Leo.

According to the website, The Honorable William Wall was an entrepreneur who founded the Wall Rope Works in the early 1800’s. He served as Mayor of Williamsburg, headed the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and was a US Congressman during the Civil War. Sitting here relaxing and enjoying the view, I wonder what Mr. Wall would think if he could see this view, right now.

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

On the drive home we stop at the Italian festival in Jersey City. La Festa Italiana is over 100 years old and celebrates the miracle of the Assumption of Mary. We experience our own miracle when I find a parking spot two blocks from the festivities.

We arrive in time to sample delicious meatballs from My Sister’s Balls food truck and catch the Cameos singing, “In the Still of the Night,” “Runaround Sue,” “Sherry,” “I Love You Baby,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” 


The Willy Wall operates Tuesday through Saturday from mid-May to mid-October. The tender departs twice per hour from the Manhattan Yacht Club at 140 Dudley Street, down near St. Peter’s Prep. 

If you’re looking for a novel idea for a birthday party or anniversary or a girls/guys night out – or you’re entertaining visitors from out of town – it’s definitely worth considering.

What to do if your Cat Suddenly Scratches or Bites a Person: 

Advice from the Mt. Olive TNR Project

What to do if your cat suddenly scratches or bites a person: Advice from the Mt. Olive TNR Project

If you have a cat who suddenly scratches or bites, please do not assume the cat is “dangerous” or “vicious” and have the cat killed. Instead, take the following steps:

1. If there is a bite, please visit a doctor or hospital right away to see if you need antibiotics. Cats have bacteria in their mouths and bite wounds can easily become infected. Also contact your local health department to let them know about the bite (the doctor will contact them anyway). The Animal Control Officer will tell you to confine the cat for 10 days to monitor their behavior and ensure they do not have rabies. This is routine. The quarantine can be done in your home and the Animal Control Officer will release the cat from quarantine at the end of 10 days if there are no signs of rabies. The law does not require that the cat be euthanized, just quarantined. For your safety and your cat’s safety, please make sure your cat is vaccinated against rabies.

2. When determining if the cat is a risk to you or others, consider the situation. Was the cat grabbed in a way that might have hurt or scared them? Was the cat cornered or caught mid-air? Was the cat in the middle of a fight with another animal or trying to get away from another animal? Did the person who was scratched or bitten inadvertently hurt or scare the cat in some other way? Like anyone, cats defend themselves when they feel threatened. This does not mean they are generally dangerous or vicious. It means that care must be taken not to scare or hurt them and, if a child is too young to understand this, that the cat and the child should be separated when unsupervised.                                                                               Click Here Skyland Travel Website

3. If the bite or scratch was not obviously situational, get the cat vetted ASAP to see if they are in pain. A sudden change in behavior often indicates a medical problem that needs addressing. Tooth pain is a common culprit– imagine having a really bad toothache and not being able to tell anyone, and then someone inadvertently bumps into or presses on your mouth. Think you might react physically? We have seen an otherwise calm cat scratch a face in this situation– turned out they had a very sensitive rotten tooth that needed to be removed by a vet. Cats can have other hidden sources of pain or illness that affect their behavior as well.

4. If the bite or scratch was not situational or due to physical pain or distress and is actually a behavioral problem, there are anti-anxiety and other psychiatric medications for cats. Gabapentin is often used to calm cats. Cats can also take Prozac. Ask your vet about prescribing one of these medications to take the edge off. We have seen these medications work miracles. Some cats also get overstimulated when being pet and nip or scratch when they’ve had too much. Learn your cat’s body language and, if they have this issue, only pet them once or twice at a time, even if they seem to want more attention.

5. If you cannot safely live with the cat, or do not want to, find a rescue that will take the cat. Do not assume that the rescue will act irresponsibly and adopt the cat out to someone inexperienced or someone with young children, or that they won’t disclose the cat’s prior behaviors. Rescues have no interest in finding inappropriate placements for animals; if they agree to take the cat, trust that they know what they’re doing. If you’re concerned, ask questions about their past experience, how they will handle the cat, and what they will do to figure out and address the source of the behavior. Give the rescue all of the information about what happened. Do not lie to the rescue about the cat’s behavior. If the cat really cannot live in a home, there are sanctuaries. Ask the rescue if they partner with one.

The Mt. Olive TNR Project has experience handling, working with, and finding appropriate placements for cats who have scratched or bitten in the past. If you have questions, feel free to contact us. Please be aware that we only accept cats from Mt. Olive.                      Visit Plank to You Website  Click Her

Annual Kiwimbi 5K & Walk

The Annual Kiwimbi 5K & Walk for Thought is SATURDAY MAY 6th 9:00 am at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater. Sure to be a great early warm-up to summer, the event is hosted by Kiwimbi International, a U.S.-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to underprivileged children and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is both a virtual and in-person event. Prizes for age group winners will be awarded. Registration is available at or

Students in rural Kenya typically walk 45 minutes one way to school each day, so the Walk for Thought invites you to do the same, while the 5K offers a more competitive opportunity. Grand Prix points will be given to qualifying USATF NJ members. Registration will be covered for those who raise $400 for the event. Vendor spots available.

To sponsor/partner with Kiwimbi or learn more about the event, please click


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