ELIZABETH, NJ - Given that July is designated as 'National Parks and Recreation Month', Union County residents are invited and encouraged to explore “undiscovered” programs and activities found throughout the more than 6,000 acres of the Union County parks system.

Celebrated since 1985 as a project of the National Parks and Recreation Association -- a non-profit organization dedicated to nature conservation, health and wellness, and social equity -- the 2018 theme issues a call for residents to go beyond conventional activities like playgrounds, walking paths, team sports and rec centers.

For example, history buffs can wander through the Deserted Village of Feltville, a preserved 19th century mill town located in the Berkeley Heights section of the Watchung Reservation, and examine artifacts in the general store and church.

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Another key feature of the village is the Masker’s Barn, a former carriage house which was recently restored as an ADA-compliant multi-purpose center. Masker’s Barn recently hosted its first history field trip with The ARC of Union County, an organization with a mission to empower and support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The facility also plays a role in the county’s regular schedule of social events for people with special needs.

For STEM activities, the Watchung Reservation is also home to the Trailside Nature and Science Center. First established in the 1940’s, it follows the “trailside” model of educating local residents and visitors about their natural surroundings and the importance of environmental stewardship, with year-round programming including summer camps.

Trailside was upgraded and expanded in 2006 and currently includes a 4,500 square foot space featuring interactive exhibits, classrooms and a 250-seat auditorium, and work is also under way on the County’s first Sensory Friendly Trail nearby.

The Warinanco Sports Center at Warinanco Park in Roselle has been expanded and upgraded, with the ice skating rink now offering year-round activities, with a July schedule that ranges from a videography challenge to a rubber duck hunt.

Also in Warinanco Park, a new wheelchair-accessible fishing dock provides a close-up view of the many turtles swimming in the lake. More information about recreation programs and activities for people living with physical, cognitive or developmental challenges is available from the new Office for People with Special Needs.

In terms of out-of-the-ordinary fitness programs, this year Union County continues pairing free yoga sessions with the annual free Summer Arts outdoor concerts series. The County’s free Family Flix outdoor movie series also features fun children’s fitness activities before each film.

For information on all programs and activities in Union County parks, including archery, horseback riding, boating and more visit the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation online at ucnj.org/parks-recreation or call 908-527-4900.