Green

Don't Drain The Swamp: Area Resident Premieres Documentary on Fight to Stop Jetport at Wildlife Refuge

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Scott Morris, a Chatham resident for 25 years, produced the documentary that premiered on Saturday "Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Stop the Jetport" Credits: TAP Chatham
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Larry Fast, the co-producer of the documentary "Saving the Great Swamp: The Battle to Defeat the Jetport" which premiered on Saturday in Morristown Credits: TAP Chatham
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MORRISTOWN, NJ - The closing scene rises up with a widening aerial shot of the 8,000-acre expanse of the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge, a place that might not exist today if not for the people documented in the film: "Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Stop the Jetport."

The documentary, which took two years to make and was produced by Chatham resident Scott Morris with co-producer Larry Fast, who had the idea to make the film, premiered before an appreciative packed house at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

A newspaper account in the Newark Evening News first revealed in 1959 the plans Austin Tobin, the head of the Port Authority of New York, along with New Jersey Gov. Robert Meyner to build a jetport with 1,200-foot runways by filling in Morris County's Great Swamp.

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"I remember everything about it," Alice Lundt, now 100 years old, said. "We had a township committee meeting the night this came out. You talk about six people (committee members) who were all devastated by the news. Tobin always seemed to get his way."

Lundt, the longtime Chatham Township clerk, was in attendance for the premiere of the documentary, along with her daughter, Christy Lambertus, who came in from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to see it.

"There was a presentation at the Chatham Historical Society (about the battle agains tthe Jetport) and that was the germ for the idea to make the documentary," Lambertus said.

The documentary is based on the details presented in the 1978 book authored by Cam Cavamaugh, Saving the Great Swamp: The People, the Power Brokers and the Urban Wilderness

The late Peter Frelinghuysen was a New Jersey congressman at the time and he joined in the fight against the jetport plan. His son, current Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, spoke before the documentary was shown.

"The Battle to Save the Great Swamp was not an easy one. It was a true David vs. Goliath struggle and many New Jersey natives, men and women, rose to the occasion, raising their voices, raising money and quite frankly raising hell," Rodney Frelinghuysen said. "Nearly 60 years ago, Mr. (Marcellus) Dodge and my father, and so many others, faced down the Port Authority of New York as it was known then and defeated the Port Authority of New York

"This is the first time New Jersey challenged New York's regional supremacy and we won. The jetport plan was defeated and the 1200-foot runways were scuttled and the Great Swamp Wild Refuge was born - a true national treasure. This was a community effort that bound together neighborhoods, communities and towns like never before. What we might say today, New Jersey at its best. Yes, this was a victory of historic consequences, but let the documentary speak for itself."

Morris, a resident of Chatham for the past 25 years, recalled that he first believed the film was going to be made during a meeting at "Angie's" on Main Street in Chatham.

He hopes to get the film on public television sometime in 2017 and at that time it will become available on DVD. The premiere was shown free of charge to attendees, thanks to the generosity of the F.M. Kirby Foundation.

"I talk about the four Ps to describe this film," Dillard Kirby said in his introduction to the film. "Politics, Power, Philanthropy and Public Community."

Narration of the film was done by Blythe Danner and Ben Morris, the producer's son and a student at Rice University, composed the music for the film. 

Chatham Township's own Tom Salvas received credit in the film for the still photography he contributed.

 

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