Raritan Headwaters Association Worked Wonders for Clean Water, and a Clean Environment, Since 1959

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Stream Cleanup Event 2022

Cindy Ehrenclou was always a person who loved nature and the outdoors. It’s no surprise that coming on board with Raritan Headwaters Association during November 1994 was a good fit. 

Since 1959, Raritan Headwaters Association has been focusing on clean water, with a vision that everyone within their reach has access to safe, clean water that is swimmable, fishable, and above all, drinkable.

During the time that Ehrenclou has worked with Raritan Headwaters, the most positive change she’s seen is the science they’ve been able to bring to their work. “We’ve been monitoring water quality for decades,” she said, “but to be able to collect data that can be translated into creating better policies for watershed protection is a big step forward.” 

Stellar Education Programs

Raritan Headwaters offers several educational programs for kids, adults, family, and groups. They include nature day programs, field trips, service learning, scout programs, visiting their nature preserves, and even birthday parties. 

“Our education programs are stellar,” Ehrenclou said. “Our nature day camp and school programs are under such demand. The programs just keep growing. We have kids that first came to camp in 1998 that are now adults and volunteering or teaching for us. So, it’s exciting to see we’ve engrained conservation ethnicity into a few generations.” 

Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve is home to Raritan Headwaters Association. A former dairy farm, the 170-acre property now serves as a living classroom for the Land Preservation Program. 

“Its open to the public seven days a week, from dusk to dawn,” Ehrenclou said. “It’s our headquarters, however there are five miles of trails, gardens, a small pond, a nature classroom, opportunities for photography…It’s a wonderful place to visit. It’s a hidden treasure. No bells and whistles. No snack bars. It’s very authentically a nature preserve. It’s a pretty neat place to visit.”

With 10 preserves, all open to the public, Raritan Headwaters Association has lots of volunteering opportunities. “We really need the help of volunteers,” said Ehrenclou. “Land storage-ship requires many hands and help. Maintaining trails, planting trees, removing invasive species…We work very hard to promote native plants that are indigenous to the region that support local wildlife. Invasive plants are a huge problem in New Jersey.” 

Challenges and Solutions

When asked about the challenges Raritan Headwaters Association faces, Ehrenclou pointed out, “Overuse of

Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserves, Raritan Headwaters Headquarters.

chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides…The challenge is getting people to change behaviors and understand everything they do on the land ends up in their drinking water supply.” 

However, the message is that everybody can make a difference. Ehrenclou shared, “The step is to connect people with nature. Give them experiences in the outdoors, in our streams…Get them to love the natural resources firsthand so they’re inclined to want to protect. If you learn to respect nature and precious natural resources, you are inclined to want to share the message and conduct yourself differently in your homes, in your schools, at work…Recycling, reusing, cleaning up, planting trees—all our steps to a cleaner environment. We like to show people how they can make a difference.”

Other steps to take, suggested by Ehrenclou, include cleaning up trash along roadsides and streams. “Plastic and all the other debris is going to end up in your water supply,” she said. “And eventually in the ocean. It’s a threat to wildlife and human health all along the way. Any item that is not biodegradable, from gum to cigarettes, to plastic bottles…any kind of manmade debris is not healthy for the environment.” 

Another enemy to the environment is plastic, according to Ehrenclou. “It’s ambiguous,” she said. “Plastics are breaking up and showing up in our food, in our bodies. It’s a scary situation when you think about it.” 

Another concern, of course, is water. Testing wells in the community region is another important issue according to Ehrenclou. “There are some scary contaminates showing up in drinking water,” she warned. “Contaminants like lead, arsenic, and PFAS. We help people test their water and find solutions.” 

Saturday, April 15, 2023, Raritan Headwaters Association will have their Annual Stream Clean-Up, which is one of their most exciting events according to Ehrenclou. 

“People, including kids and church groups, clean up tons and tons of trash,” she said. “It’s a huge event. It’s not just a ‘feel good event,’ it does make a difference.” 

To volunteer for Annual Stream Clean-Up, visit raritanheadwaters.org and go to the “Get Involved” tab. 

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