There’s a Hidden Gem for All to Enjoy in Plainsboro

Perla Pena, 4, Jodeci Riativa, 4, and Anthony Condina, 4, of the Francis C. Smith Center for Early Childhood Education in Elizabeth. Credits: Jaffe Communications
Center Director Nancy Fiske and Plainsboro Township Administrator Anthony Cancro Credits: Jaffe Communications

PLAINSBORO – It is a typical spring morning at New Jersey Audubon’s Plainsboro Preserve.

Ducks are swimming in Lake McCormick, birds are going through their daily routine within more than 1,000 acres of preserved open space, and the latest school buses are rumbling along the gravel road, passing through the entrance at 80 Scotts Corner Road.

On this particular day, two buses are carrying children from the Francis C. Smith Center for Early Childhood Education in Elizabeth. When the bus doors swing open, 60 pre-schoolers with their teachers and parents bounce out, eager to see what awaits at one of the largest protected sites in central New Jersey.

Sign Up for E-News

“Every day, it is like this,” said Nancy Fiske, the center’s director, as she watched the four-year-old children in yellow shirts frolic on the grounds in front of the lake. “Every day, there is another group of children enjoying our preserve.”

On this day, Fiske is being interviewed on camera by Plainsboro Township Administrator Anthony Cancro for a municipal news magazine known as “Eye on Plainsboro.”  The preserve, which the township owns, is operated by New Jersey Audubon under an ongoing municipal contract.

“The town is fortunate to partner with an experienced non-profit to operate this preserve on a day-to-day basis,” Cancro said. “We can’t do it without them. This program, with expert staff, is a great opportunity for Plainsboro, the region and the state.”

The focus of the Plainsboro Preserve is the 6,500-square-foot Rush Holt Environmental Education Center, constructed by Plainsboro Township through a fundraising campaign without the need for tax dollars. The center offers natural history programs and workshops, as well as several family orientated programs – all spilling into an expansive outdoor classroom for schools and other groups. 

There’s always something to do at the Plainsboro Preserve, such as meeting turtles, snakes and frogs at the live animal exhibit. There is a popular indoor tree house for the kids, and a central attraction: a large deck overlooking Lake McCormick.

In her interview, Fiske was eager to share the many summer programs that are being planned. The full calendar includes the Sourlands Music Festival on June 23, “Birding for Beginners” on July 14 and Moth Night, taking advantage of the full moon for ideal nature viewing, on July 27. (The full schedule is on

“This preserve is one of those hidden gems,” Fiske said, as she sat in a wooden chair overlooking the lake. “There are five miles of self-guided trails and an absolutely beautiful lake teeming with wildlife.”

Fiske said the summer would not be complete without the Plainsboro Preserve nature camp, which begins on June 25. There’s sessions for grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and special programs for children as young as 4 years old. There are also “senior naturalist” programs for kids entering grades 7-9.

“A lot of these kids who come here have never been able to just roam free to explore woods and fields and see what lives out here,” Fiske said.

On this particular spring day, the children from Elizabeth had a full schedule for their 60-minute program. In what is called the “Sensory Safari,” the children engaged all five senses to hike the Orange Trail, focusing on how using the senses is a great way to learn about the environment. They also had a chance to learn the magic of birds.

The tour ended at the large green in front of the lake, the ideal setting to open the coolers, unwrap the turkey sandwiches, put the straws in the juice boxes and enjoy the sun-kissed serenity.

“The kids are having a great time learning about birds,” said Paola Condina of Elizabeth, joining the class trip with her four-year-old son, Anthony. “We have a great park by us, Warinaco Park, but nothing like this. This is a great opportunity for the children.”

The Plainsboro Preserve was created in 1999, beginning with 530 acres of land, featuring a quarry, formerly owned by the McCormick Company. The township and Middlesex County steadily acquired the adjoining properties through 2003, which were formerly owned by Turkey Island Corporation and Walker Gordon Laboratory Company, to add to the preserve, bringing the open space to more than 1,000 acres.

“The Plainsboro Preserve is one of the region’s most significant ecological treasures within minutes of the busy Route 1 corridor,” said Eric Stiles, president & CEO, New Jersey Audubon. “It is our pleasure to have this terrific, working relationship with the township and the county, to the direct benefit of the community at-large. We hope many will visit us this summer.”

You can see “Eye on Plainsboro” here.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - July 19, 2018

TRENTON - Once the state budget is adopted June 30, you'd think the governor gets a break from scrutiny. Unless you are former Gov. Chris Christie, sitting in that beach chair. Or, now, Gov. Phil Murphy, getting wacked for having the players on his Sky Blue FC pro women's soccer team living in alleged squalor. Living in houses with plastic bags for windows, sleeping in bunk ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 18, 2018

STATEWIDE - One business in Pleasantville has flooded 32 different times since the early 1990s, and rebuilt each time with taxpayer money. A single-family home in North Wildwood has been flooded and rebuilt 23 times, again, on your dime. reports that New Jersey is filled with 3,330 properties that have routinely flooded since the 1970s, some as many as 20 or more times, yet ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 17, 2018

CAPE MAY - Call it a slow news day, nationwide, as the story of a lost dog somehow hit all the news wires. The pug named "Bean" escaped its owner's rental house over the weekend and wandered around backyards before police scooped it up on New Jersey Avenue. Cape May cops, likely not overrun with rampant crime from the bed-and-breakfast set, had plenty of time to post the ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 16, 2018

STATEWIDE - No one really wants to talk about it. But every time you turn on a household faucet for tap water, its likely messing with a centuries-old system that's possibly leaching lead. And, because of so many World War I-era systems, some parts of the state have an over-abundance of water, while others easily face drought. Of course, upgrading our water ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 12, 2018

WAYNE - Honey! Cancel our Aug. 9th anniversary dinner! I've got other plans! That's the night you can join this bozo and scores of others at "Lace," a Wayne "gentleman's club" where America's favorite tramp - Stormy Daniels - will strip live and in person. Stop at the bank, trade in your wad of 20s for stacks of singles.

The Jaffe Briefing - July 11, 2018

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL - There's a Democratic primary in New York between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and "Sex in the City" star Cynthia Nixon. And why do we care? Because our governor is not blindly throwing his support behind Cuomo in the race, reports New Jersey Globe. "We're not getting involved in that," Murphy said, when asked who he supports, admitting he ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, July 21, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other


Tue, July 24, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs vs. Somerset Patriots

Arts & Entertainment Sports

Rutgers Prof to Climb Alps for Climate Change Study on Glaciers

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Lauren Neitzke Adamo has long enjoyed hiking along trails and through forests and over rock formations largely to see the natural surroundings.

“I’ve been a huge science nerd all my life,” said Adamo, who has a doctorate degree and is co-director of the Rutgers University Geology museum in New Brunswick.

Next month Adamo will head to the Swiss Alps ...

RU ready for RU Brewfest?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - There's a lot of promotions planned this fall, as part of the Rutgers football season.

Single game tickets go on sale Thursday, July 12, with seven home games. There's matchups against Big Ten East opponents Michigan and Penn State, and a first-time cross divisional meeting with Northwestern.

If football is not your thing, there's plenty else ...

New Brunswick Man Charged in Sex Assault of Ex-Girlfriend

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A city man was arrested today and charged with sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend and assaulting a bystander who tried to intervene, Rutgers University police said.

Frank Ferraro, 26, was arrested and charged with sexual assault and aggravated assault, university police said.

They said the victim was attacked about 5:27 p.m. Tuesday, July 3,  at the ...

Prosecutor: FBI Agent Took Improper Photos of Woman in Dressing Room

July 20, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK,NJ  - An FBI agent was arrested and charged with illegally photographing a 22-year-old woman in a dressing room, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said today.

The agent, Danuel Brown, 30, of Piscataway, was arrested was Thursday and charged with a single count of fourth-degree invasion of privacy for allegedly using his cell phone to take pictures of the woman while ...


To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

The Somerset Patriots And 9-1-1 On FOX Are Looking For Hero First Responders

July 20, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Patriots and 9-1-1 On FOX are asking for Hero First Responder nominations from the community.

Nominate a first responder to be recognized on the field during the pre-game ceremony and throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the Saturday, August 4th Somerset Patriots game against the New Britain Bees at TD Bank Ballpark. Three first responders will be chosen ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 12, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...