BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Although the history may be unknown to many current residents, the still-natural setting of Bernards Township and a neighboring chunk of Morris County is all due to a hard-fought battle by citizens and area politicians that began in 1959 when the Port Authority of New York announced plans to build a 10,000-acre jetport in the Great Swamp.
The Somerset County Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Basking Ridge next week will be hosting a public showing of the documentary film portraying that fight, “Saving The Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport.” The award-winning film is an in-depth look at the events, people, and politics behind the struggle to preserve a way of life in the communities located near the Great Swamp in Morris and Somerset counties between 1959 and 1968.
Showing rescheduled for Thursday
The film's showing was rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, at the EEC building at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge. The original Wednesday showing was canceled due to inclement weather.
Karl Fenske, son of the late Helen Fenske, who was one of the foremost activists in opposing the jetport's construction, will be present to show his digitized collection of photographs from the period and share his insights into the events surrounding the battle to save the Great Swamp.
The creation of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County and preservation of other portions of the swamp in Somerset County was the result.
The showing is free with a suggested donation of $5 per person. Light refreshments will be served.
The film premiered in Morristown at the end of 2016, and had many additional showings last year. It also received 'Best Documentary' award at the New Jersey Film Festival in fall of 2017.
“Saving The Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport” features interviews with residents, historians, authors, and officials connected to the events, and includes such notables as U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, authors Cam Cavanaugh and Jameson Doig, conservationist David Moore, the Fenske family, and many others.
The documentary also features high-end cinematography of the Great Swamp today, and many old photographs and archival materials that bring the story to life.
The film was created by award-winning filmmaker Scott Morris and co-producer Larry Fast, vice-chair of the Morris County Heritage Commission and a charter member of the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund Board. They said they were inspired by the idea that the jetport struggle serves as a model for environmental action in the face of powerful forces.
For further information, contact the Environmental Education Center at 908-766-2489, ext. 5336.
The Somerset County Environmental Education Center is located within Lord Stirling Park, in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township, and within 450 acres of the western portion of the Great Swamp Basin of the Passaic River. A swamp vivarium, a science discovery room, and an environmentally based library are located within the center itself.
'Great Swamp Experience' on display at EEC
“The Great Swamp Experience” on the lower level at the EEC features interactive displays, vignettes, taxidermy, and archeological artifacts highlighting the history and ecology of the Great Swamp. The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. Admission is free.
Information on this event and other Somerset County Park Commission activities may be found online at www.somersetcountyparks.org or by calling 908-722-1200.