Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders invites residents and visitors of all ages to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of National Trails Day at the Watchung Reservation on Saturday, June 2, where the County’s Trailside Nature & Science Center will host four different guided hikes and an Adopt-a-Trail volunteer activity along with special programs throughout the day for all ages. The event is free, and ample free parking is available.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act, signed into law by President Johnson on October 2, 1968.

“Preserving, protecting and sharing the legacy of Union County’s public parks and nature preserves is a top priority for the Freeholder Board,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “I encourage everyone, especially those who have never hiked our trails before, to come to the Watchung Reservation and enjoy these unique and enriching experiences, guided by experts from our Trailside Nature & Science Center.”

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“During this time, as our country engages in a debate over the future of our national parks, it is all the more important to recognize and celebrate the value of recreation and nature conservation in all of our public lands,” added Chairman Granados.

Participants in National Trails Day can choose any of four themed hikes, each lasting approximately 45 minutes to one hour:

  • 12:30: Sensory Awareness - Investigate one of our many trails using yours senses of sight, sound, smell and touch.
  • 1:30: Geocaching - Learn all about this popular outdoor recreational activity and have fun on a geocaching scavenger hunt.
  • 2:30: Learn to Lead - Find out how to read trail blazes and take turns leading the group on one of our marked trails.
  • 3:30: Birding 101 - Discover the basics of birding and how to use binoculars.  Learn to identify local birds by sight and sound.

Throughout the day, participants can visit educational displays at the Trailside Nature and Science Center hosted by Wild Birds Unlimited of Scotch Plains, the Summit Environmental Commission, and the Rutgers Wildlife Society. 

Participants can also meet live reptiles native to the Watchung Reservation such as a painted turtle, box turtle and milk snake during “Reptile of the Hour.”

The National Trails Day celebration also includes children’s activities, crafts, nature touch tables and giveaways throughout the day. 

The Adopt-a-Trail activity will take place rain or shine from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Volunteers will learn how to repair a section of trail bed and remove invasive plants. Tools and a continental breakfast will be provided. Trail work participants must be seven years of age or older and children must be accompanied by an adult, and pre-registration is required by contacting bkelly@uncj.org.

Union County’s park system includes 36 distinct parks that encompass nearly 6,200 acres, from small neighborhood parks to the nearly 2,200-acre Watchung Reservation, the crown jewel of the Parks system and home to the Trailside Nature & Science Center, Watchung Stable, Lake Surprise and The Deserted Village of Feltville.

Union County was one of the first counties in the U.S. to establish its own system of parks, beginning in the 1920’s. Trailside was added to the Watchung Reservation in the 1940s.

“Trailside also marks a first, as it is the first natural history museum established in New Jersey,” said Chairman Granados. “Today Trailside reaches thousands of residents and visitors every year with important messages about our natural heritage and environmental stewardship.”

For more information about National Trails Day and other activities at Trailside, call 908-789-3670 or visit ucnj.org/trailside.   

The Trailside Nature & Science Center is located in the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, at 452 New Providence Road.

Quick links to more information about Trailside, Union County parks, and all of Union County’s environmental programs and activities are available at The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connection