Jennifer Duckworth is the chair of the Millburn Environmental Commission (“MEC”) which was established in 1969 by resident Maureen Ogden with the mission, as stated on MEC’s website, to oversee the identification, preservation, and protection of the township’s environmental resources.
Duckworth is an environmental engineer and is employed as a wastewater permit expert by Tetra Tech Inc. She has served as a member of MEC for 11 years. Prior to joining Tetra Tech. Inc., she worked for the EPA in Washington, D.C. for two years and for the Region 2 EPA in New York City for two years. She is also the co-chair of the Essex County Environmental Commission. She has lived in Millburn since 2001. This is her second time on MEC. She has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Green Faith.
Duckworth explains that New Jersey’s 526 municipalities are empowered to set up environmental commissions or advisory boards. Millburn’s commission, one of the oldest in the state, is comprised of seven members who serve three-year terms, two alternatives who serve two-year terms, and a Township Committee liaison, all of whom are appointed by the Township Committee. One member of MEC serves as liaison to the Planning Board, another represents the Township on the Passaic River Coalition, and another represents the Township on the Rahway River Association. The other members of the Commission are Vaclav E. Benes, Lisa Chenofsky Singer, Elizabeth Vollavanh, Michael Jurist, Alt #2, Linda Silver, Sandra Haimoff, Township Committee Liaison, and Jason Claman, Secretary. Kunal Palawat, president of the MHS Environmental. Club, was a member this year. MEC will have an MHS commissioner next year, too. Duckworth would like the public to know that there is an opening on the Commission for an alternative. Interested applicants should apply via http://www.twp.millburn.nj.us/document-category/reports/doc_download/937-volunteer-interest-form.html
Michael L. Jurist holds a Master of Science degree in civil engineering and is a licensed professional engineer in the State of New Jersey. Additionally, he is a certified LEED-AP professional. Vic Benes is a mathematician retired from Bell Labs. He has long been active in municipal and environmental matters and served two terms at Chair of MED. He is currently interested in regional flooding issues. Linda Silver has lived in the Township since 1998. She retired from the practice of law and became an environmental educator, first at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum in Short Hills, and presently at the Great Swamp Environmental Education Center in Morris County.
MEC is charged with advising the Township Committee on all issues environmental and the Planning Board on planning and zoning issues. Last year, the Township Committee passed a Complete Streets Policy with instrumental guidance from MEC.
At this time MEC is advising the township on tree ordinances, as well as storm water issues and periodically advises the Millburn Township Natural Resources Inventory, which catalogues open space, water, air, soil, vegetation, and animal life in Millburn. MEC also works with township schools and participates in the Green Team which is comprised of the five elementary schools and the middle school to educate students about the value of maintaining and enhancing the environment. In particular, MEC has encouraged waste-free lunches with recyclable food and drink containers.
MEC works with neighboring towns and the county to address local, regional and state environmental issues. Twice a year, the Essex County Environmental Commission hosts a round table and works to implement the Open Space Trust Fund and Green Acres policy. MEC also advises the Board of Recreation to help it implement the Safe Playing Fields Act.
MEC meetings are held every month except August and are open to the public, usually at the Millburn Municipal Building.
Duckworth personally enforces many of MEC’s goals. Her family drives a TESLA to avoid gas guzzling. She states that she “is at peace knowing that her family is not polluting.” She is critical of developers in town who, in the process of building new homes, remove trees “with no regard for the water implications of their choices.” She would like to work with developers to create a green infrastructure and low impact development. She wishes that they would have a lesser footprint and stop “paving over paradise with roofs and turf grass.”