BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Ever since the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established by an act of US Congress in 1960 after a group of local activitists rallied to protect the land from development, the native habitat for hundreds of species of birds and other plants and living creatures has been also been a living classroom for learning about the environment.

Free permanent exhibit opened at EEC in Basking Ridge

With the opening of a permanent exhibit this past week, the Somerset County Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Basking Ridge, located on a preserved portion of the Great Swamp bordering the national wildlife refuge, has taken another step toward furthering education about the swamp's teeming life and environmental value.

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A ribbon cutting was held last Thursday for the official opening of "The Great Swamp Experience." Somerset County Park commissioners and staff were in attendance.

The free exhibit is located in the lower lever of the EEC, which is located at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge.

“The Great Swamp Experience” features interactive displays about the varied ecosystem that the preserve encompasses, along with vignettes, taxidermy, and archeological artifacts highlighting the history and ecology of the Great Swamp. 

The exhibit is open to the public seven days a week between 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except when the EEC is closed for holidays.

Features for both adults and children

Children who are visiting the exhibit can crawl into a beaver lodge, feel animal fur, or explore the toddler area. 

For adults, habitat vignettes share information about the wide variety of the flora and fauna found in the swamp’s river, meadows, ponds, marshes, and forests. 

Historical exhibits include information about the Wisconsin Glacier, mastodon bones, Paleo-Indians, and Lord Stirling, whose estate is next door on Lord Stirling Road.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about hydrology, sustainability, how the swamp protects the local environment, and the park’s geographic location.

The EEC is nestled within the western portion of the Great Swamp and borders the 7,768-acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, established to conserve natural resources while protecting threatened and endangered species for future generations. The wide variety of habitats includes: floodplains, swamps, rivers, intermittent streams, marshes, meadows, fields, forests, and natural and man-made ponds.  These habitats provide homes for diverse plant and animal populations in this environmentally sensitive park. 

The EEC building, which features environmental exhibits and programs and is open for research year round, is located at the western portion of the Great Swamp on 500-plus acres of Lord Stirling Park. A gift shop and environmentally-themed library at at the facility.

The building is located at the edge of open space featuring 8.5 miles of trails and boardwalks through preserved swamp and forested land.

For more information, visit www.somersetcountyparks.org, or call 908-766-2489.