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Explore rarely-seen area of Great Swamp on Oct. 1

Explore a section of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge rarely seen by the public during New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s annual Great Swamp Walk, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 1.

One of New Jersey’s conservation power couples – Emile DeVito and Hazel England – will tag team on guided nature tours of the limited-access “management area” of the 7,700-acre refuge. DeVito is the staff biologist for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and England is the director of education and outreach for the Great Swamp Watershed Association.

Space on the walk is limited, and advance reservations are required by contacting Carol Banhart at 908-234-1225 or carol@njconservation.org. The fee for the hike is $5 for New Jersey Conservation Foundation members and $10 for non-members; children are free.

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge serves as home to more than 244 bird species. Mammals found on the refuge include white-tailed deer, river otter, muskrat, mink, beaver, raccoon, skunk, red fox, coyote, woodchuck, gray squirrel, opossum, cottontail rabbit, and the federally endangered Indiana bat. A variety of fish, reptiles, and amphibians - including the federally threatened bog turtle and the state endangered blue-spotted salamander - are also found there.

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Hikers will meet at the Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center at 32 Pleasant Plains Road in New Vernon and carpool to the hike location. The visitor center is named for Helen Fenske, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s first executive director and one of the main forces behind the preservation of the Swamp in the 1960s.

“The Great Swamp Walk is always a special celebration for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, since we got our start in 1960 by organizing to save the Great Swamp from being paved over as a major international airport,” said Michele S. Byers, the organization’s executive director.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since its inception, the Foundation has protected more than 120,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks. For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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