Growth Versus Preservation in Egg Harbor City

Egg Harbor City in Atlantic County lies between Galloway and Mullica townships with the Mullica River forming its northeastern border. Established in the mid-19th century shortly before the American Civil War by German Americans, many from Philadelphia and Baltimore fleeing anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant violence inspired by the Know-Nothing movement, Egg Harbor City reflects this past with streets named after famous German citizens as well as the world’s cities.

In his book Jersey Genesis, Henry Charleton Beck notes that Stephen Colwell, a wealthy Philadelphian, and William Ford owned what is now Egg Harbor City along with large portions of Galloway and Mullica “from the channels back of Brigantine to the line beyond Westcoatville.” After Colwell died in 1871, his widow Sarah Richards Colwell gave the municipality a hand-written deed for a parcel of land that included what is now the 400-acre Egg Harbor City Lake Park with restrictions on how the land could be used.

View of Egg Harbor City Lake on a clear spring day with blue sky and water and lake ringed with pine trees in the Jersey Pine Barrens
Egg Harbor City Lake (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Railroads and Wine

Beck described Egg Harbor City as “the village that deserted a river for a railroad,” referring to a historic railroad that connected Philadelphia and Camden to nearby Atlantic City. The Atlantic City Line currently runs along the same track with a stop at the Egg Harbor City Rail Station. The rail line runs parallel to the nearby White Horse Pike and forms one of Egg Harbor City’s borders. Beck mentioned that the original plan was to develop the township from the railway to the Mullica River.

According to the  VisitNJ website, the Egg Harbor City Historical Society maintains the Roundhouse Museum with “displays that cover the city’s Teutonic history, its time as a health sanitarium (the Roundhouse once belonged to a Dr. Smith, who touted the town’s therapeutic waters)” along with “glassworks displays and information on the town’s oenophile background (there were 96, mostly mom and pop, wineries located here at the turn of the century!).” Today, two wineries, Renault Winery and Sylvin Farm Winery, maintain production in Egg Harbor City. 

Pinelands Designations

When I lived in Brigantine, I drove through the most heavily developed section of Egg Harbor City along the White Horse Pike on a daily basis. Located in the southwest corner of town, this area is designated a Pinelands Town according to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), one of “seven large, existing spatially discrete settlements, generally with wastewater or water supply systems.” 

The section of Egg Harbor City located along the Mullica is designated a Preservation Area District, “the heart of the Pinelands environment and the most critical ecological region…. No residential development is permitted, except for one-acre lots in designated infill areas and special ‘cultural housing’ exceptions, on minimum 3.2 acre lots for property owned by families prior to 1979. Limited commercial uses are also permitted in designated infill areas, which total approximately 2,100 acres in size.”

In between the Pinelands Town and Preservation Area, is the section with a CMP designation as Forest Area, “a largely undeveloped area that is an essential element of the Pinelands environment. It contains high quality water resources and wetlands and provides suitable habitat for many threatened and endangered species. Clustered housing on one acre lots is permitted at an average residential density of one home per every 28 acres. Roadside retail within 300 feet of pre-existing commercial uses is permitted, as are low intensity recreational uses.”

Egg Harbor City Lake Park

​​Egg Harbor City Lake Park, the popular recreation area given 150 years ago by Sarah Colwell, became the subject of controversy last year. TackeDirect, a retail fishing outfitter retail company based in Egg Harbor Township, sought permission to build a warehouse at the park. The plan, initially approved by the Land Use Board of the City Council, met with concern and resistance from many residents and protest from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. As a result, the plan was ultimately rejected. 

Sustainable EHC Meeting

This video is from the November 23, 2021 meeting of Sustainable EHC, the city’s green team. It’s long, but if you go to about the 1:20 mark, there’s a great in-depth discussion about the history of the park and details about the redevelopment plan from citizens of EHC. I learned a lot from this. Here’s a summary of what was said during the meeting:

Sarah Colwell’s deed restricted where public parks, marketplaces, residences would be built. Extra large lots were set aside for use as small farms. The original German settlers planned to build a city all the way to the Mullica River with Egg Harbor City Lake park preserved as a section of green space within the envisioned vibrant urban center. With the passage of state regulations to protect wetlands, an urbanized Egg Harbor City never came to pass. Today about “eight to nine/tenths” of the municipality is not developable. The places that could be developed are upland areas such as a pocket of upland in the park not protected by the state wetlands regulations. 

Along came TackleDirect, who originally wanted to build, not just a 70,000 square foot warehouse, but wanted to move their entire operations to Egg Harbor City, something that would require over 40 acres. Seeing themselves as a “nature-based business” promoting fishing, they wanted a location next to the lake and designed their planned site to be wilderness-like, outdoorsy and countrified. They also wanted to be involved with New Jersey’s Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program. 

Ultimately, though, the residents of Egg Harbor City wanted to protect the history, recreational opportunities, and character of the lake and park. Sustainable EHC sent a position letter to Mayor Lisa Jiampetti and the Egg Harbor City Council stating “TackleDirect would be a welcome addition to the city’s business community, but that the project should be located outside of the 400-acre park’s boundaries. Members believe there are other areas in Egg Harbor City that need to be redeveloped in accordance with New Jersey’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, such as the Tower site, old city landfill, and the Acme, Better Built Door and marine building sites along the White Horse Pike.”

See the following articles for more information about the controversy:

Celebrating the Past and Shaping the Future in Galloway

Across the bay from Brigantine Island lies the township of Galloway, one of my favorite places near the shore and in the Pine Barrens. As the reputed birthplace of the legendary Jersey Devil, Galloway is steeped in the bygone folklore of the Pines but is also the home of Stockton University, a relatively new but thriving center of learning. When I lived in Brigantine, I used to ride at Split Elm Equestrian Center located less than 10 minutes from the main campus and the base of Stockton’s Equestrian Team

Last month I was in Galloway again for two days devoted to the Pine Barrens at Stockton’s main campus. On Saturday, March 12th, Stockton held the 33rd Annual Pinelands Short Course described as “a daylong event featuring educational presentations that explore the unique history, ecology, and culture of the Pinelands.”  

In March 2020, the 31st annual short course was canceled just as the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the nation. I had been registered that year for a field trip at nearby Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge that would have been “a tour of the Refuge’s eight-mile wildlife drive, where earthen dikes have created fresh- and brackishwater marsh that is an ideal habitat for a variety of bird species.” Instead, I visited the refuge later that fall when it reopened.

In April 2021, the 32nd annual Pinelands Short Course took place virtually as a “short discussion” on Zoom hosted by Paul Leakan and Joel Mott from the Pinelands Commission and featuring John Volpa, retired teacher, former Director of Education at Pinelands Adventures, and founder of the Black Run Preserve. In 2020, John had been scheduled to present Serendipity: John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens before the event was canceled. That program focuses on author John McPhee’s famous book about the Pine Barrens. Instead, John presented an online version of this for Pinelands Adventures and the Pinelands Commission. His presentation can still be viewed on the Pinelands Commission’s Youtube channel. Other participants last year included:

  • Ted Gordon, Botanist and Historian
  • Terry O’Leary, Retired NJ Park and Forest Service Educator
  • Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, Ocean County Soil Conservation District
  • Samuel Moore, Cranberry Farmer and Retired NJ Forest Fire Service Warden

The short course was back in its regular format this year. I registered and attended three presentations: Atlantic County’s Ghost Railroad: The Brigantine Railroad and Trolley System; Water and Wildlife: Pine Barrens and Barnegat Bay; and the Stockton Campus Birding Walk. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible with cold drenching rain in the morning switching over to a wintry mix later in the day.  

Atlantic County’s Ghost Railroad

My first program of the day was Atlantic County’s Ghost Railroad: The Brigantine Railroad and Trolley System. Presented by Norman Goos, librarian for the Atlantic County Historical Society, this program delved into the history of the Brigantine Beach Railroad. From 1890 to 1910, the railroad connected Pomona in Galloway to the then sparsely populated island of Brigantine. Unfortunately, the railroad was short-lived. Plagued by storm damage, accidents, and labor issues, the rail company went out of business. Goos described how most of the tracks were removed for scrap during World War I. I described this presentation in more detail in a separate post: The Ghost Train of Brigantine.

Barnegat Bay

Next was Water and Wildlife: Pine Barrens and Barnegat Bay. This program was presented by Karen Walzer, Public Outreach Coordinator at Barnegat Bay Partnership. Karen described Barnegat Bay as a series of barrier islands, which are really “giant sandbars,” where the freshwater of the pinelands mingled with the salt water of the Atlantic ocean, creating a brackish ecosystem of tidal wetlands and salt marshes. Noting the threat of rising sea level, she highlighted the importance of wetlands as a buffer between the bay and nearby homes, protecting them from flooding and storm surge.

She also discussed the impact of pollution caused by overdevelopment and fertilizer runoff. Algae blooms, unhealthy growth of algae fueled by pollution, killed sea life. The end of Karen’s presentation focused on ways to protect and restore Barnegat Bay. Rain barrels, rain gardens, and green infrastructure mimicking nature help protect against runoff. Because shellfish such as scallops, oysters, and clams filter and clean water, efforts to control overharvesting, restore oyster reefs, and increase populations are underway

I was particularly interested in this program because of Barnegat Bay’s ecological similarity to the backwaters of Brigantine, an area I’ve been familiar with since childhood. These coves, thoroughfares and channels are connected to Great Bay. Both Barnegat Bay and Great Bay are vital estuaries on the Jersey Shore. I cover Karen’s presentation in a separate post in the context of the importance of estuaries and how Great Bay escaped some of the issues with pollution that threaten Barnegat Bay: Estuaries: Where Beach Meets Barrens.

Best Birding Locations

Because of the freezing wet winter weather, the Birding Walk was switched to an indoor presentation of best birding locations in and around the Pine Barrens. The presenter was Joshua M. Gant, a park naturalist with Ocean County Parks and Recreation. I list Joshua’s recommended spots with links to each for more information in a separate post: Where are the Best Birding Spots in South Jersey?

A Presentation of Best Birding Spots in South Jersey at 2022 Stockton University Pine Barrens Short Course
A Presentation of Best Birding Spots in South Jersey (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Rancocas Creek Farm Birding Walks, Historical Harrisville, and More

Representatives of Pinelands Adventures, an initiative of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) offering paddling trips, hikes and educational tours, also participated in the short course. I spoke to Krissy Raudys, who took charge of Pinelands Adventures last year as the new director. According to her bio on the Pinelands Adventures site, “Krissy’s enthusiasm for adventure and passion for the outdoors brought her to the heart of The Pinelands. With years of experience leading trips and developing programs in many different outdoor industries, her expertise and creative ideas are a welcome addition to the Pinelands Adventures team. Coming equipped with an adventure degree, naturally she spends her free time in other outdoor pursuits playing with nature and gravity.” 

Krissy and I discussed Birding in the Pines, a two-hour birding walk through the PPA’s 72-acre Rancocas Creek Farm led by birding expert and guide Steve Sobocinski. I joined Steve on the walk last autumn and published a blog post about the various species we encountered. I’m looking forward to participating in the walk again this summer when many migratory species will return. Krissy said they hoped to begin offering the walk on a monthly basis this year. Pinelands Adventures opened for the season this past weekend on April 9th. 

In spite of the torrential rain, Jeff Larson, Pinelands Adventures’ most experienced tour guide and long-time Pine Barrens resident, led a bus tour of the historical ruins of Harrisville. A graduate of Stockton with a degree in business, Jeff told me that he designed and has conducted this tour for the short course since “about 2015” with the exception of the two years lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Originally called Ghosts of the Wading River, this year the program was renamed Harrisville: 19th Century Life on the Wading River. According to the description, this trip gives participants “a glimpse into what life was like along the Wading River in the Pine Barrens during the 1800’s. In this three-hour excursion, participants will explore the ruins in and around the former town of Harrisville and surrounding area.” 

Jeff also includes a stop at Harrisville on his Industries in the Pines tour at Pinelands Adventures, which I covered in another post last year. In that trip, Jeff explains how paper manufacturing became an important industry in the Pine Barrens. This led Richard Harris to purchase a papermill and expand a town near the Wading River, which became known as Harrisville. 

Pinelands Adventures also offers Jeff’s Harrisville tour on their guided trip calendar. You can register for the June 12th excursion at 10 AM at this link. Cost is $30 per person. In addition, Jeff also designed and leads the Into the Woods ecological tour, formerly known as the Pine Barrens Habitats tour.

Lines on the Pines

The 15th annual Lines on the Pines took place the following day, Sunday, March 13th, also at Stockton’s Main Campus. Billed as “an annual gathering of artists, authors and artisans whose passion is the Pines,” the event was free and open to the public. 

Linda Stanton started Lines on the Pines in 2006 after reading several books about the Pine Barrens. The first event was held at Sweetwater Casino where it remained until 2008. After a fire destroyed Sweetwater Casino, the event moved to various venues from 2009 and 2017 throughout Atlantic County, including the Frog Rock Golf and Country Club and Kerri Brooke Caterers in Hammonton as well as Vienna Inn and Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City. In 2018, the event moved to its current home at Stockton University. I attended for the first time in 2019. As with the short course, the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’ve always been curious about the name of the event and reached out to Linda to find out what inspired it. “When I started the event it was to be a salute to authors who wrote about  the Pine Barrens,” Linda explained. “Writing is lines, the topic is pines so I called it Lines on the Pines. This event is sponsored by my nonprofit: It’s a Sign of the Pines.” 

Author and friend Barbara Solem has participated in Lines on the Pines every year the event has taken place since its inception.  I visited Barbara’s table this year where she offered her books for sale, including:

Barbara is also a member of the Batsto Citizen Committee and gives tours of historic Batsto Village. She was kind enough to give me a tour of the village in 2020 when it partially reopened during the pandemic. In addition, she gives tours of historic Atsion Mansion in Shamong and used to lead the popular Ghost Towns tour (based on her book) and John McPhee’s Pine Barrens tour for Pinelands Adventures, frequently with Jeff Larson as her driver. Barbara told me that she and Jeff were planning a tour of Atsion Village on June 4th at 1 p.m. Cost is $45 per person.

Jeff, who attended Lines on the Pines this year, participated in the event in 2008 as a musician. A professional guitarist and music teacher, Jeff composed two albums of music with a Pine Barrens theme: Leeds Devil Blues and The Barrens

At the table next to Barbara’s was Allison Hartman representing Pinelands Adventures. Allison started as assistant director last year. According to Allison’s bio, she “runs the day to day operations of Pinelands Adventures. Allison is a beach kid who feels like she’s won the job lottery: she’s made paddling into a career. She’s a South Jersey native and has been leading kayak and paddleboard tours through the salt marshes for more than ten years. Allison is a graduate of Stockton University’s Marine Science program and a senior fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program Fellowship.” Allison will be teaching kayak lessons this year. The class fee is $60 per person. Dates currently on the calendar include June 5th and 26th at 10 a.m. 

Many more groups were represented, filling several rooms and drawing a large crowd. Overall, the return of Lines on the Pines appeared to be a great success and made for a fun day! Here are some more highlights.

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

The Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, “a 171-acre wildlife refuge, wildlife rehabilitation hospital, and nature center” in Medford, had one of their resident Great Horned Owls with them to meet the public. Cedar Run is one of my favorite organizations, and I’m proud to volunteer for them in a grant writing capacity.

One of Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge's resident Great Horned Owls at the 2022 Lines on the Pines
Cedar Run’s Great Horned Owl (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Pine Barrens Diamonds

Paul Evans Pederson, Jr. is a local artisan who creates jewelry from glass found around the Pine Barrens left over from the days when glass factories were in operation. He calls his work “Pine Barrens Diamonds” and notes on his business card that he keeps South Jersey “glass-making traditions alive, using hand-made, hand-tooled” South Jersey glass.  I mentioned to Paul that I lived in Atco, which had a glass factory in the past. He said he finds a lot of glass in Atco. I already have a pair of purple Pine Barrens Diamonds earrings purchased at a PPA event. Paul pointed out that purple was a rare color. I bought another pair of earrings made from multi-colored, opal-like glass. 

Dr. James Still

Representatives from the Dr. James Still Historic Office Site and Education Center were on hand to discuss the mission of the center, which focuses on “teaching, restoring and preserving the Legacy” of the man known as ‘‘The Black Doctor of the Pines.” Dr. Still was a 19th century physician who built a successful medical practice in the Pine Barrens despite the racism and prejudice he faced. The center, located in Medford on the site of Dr. Still’s office is “the first African American Historic Site preserved by the state of New Jersey.” It will open on the first and third Sundays of each month from noon to 4 p.m. Books about Dr. Still available for purchase at the center include:

  • Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still by Dr. James Still
  • The Underground Railroad by William Still
  • The Kidnapped and the Ransomed: The Narrative of Peter and Visa Still after Forty Years of Slavery by Kate E.R. Pickard.

Pine Barrens Photography

In addition to authors, musicians, and artisans, Lines on the Pines draws photographers such as Rich Lewis, whose work focuses on the Pine Barrens, particularly landscape photos. I met Rich once before on a photo “safari” at Franklin Parker Preserve with the Bog Iron Outdoors Facebook group. Rich offers photography tours and workshops and published a book entitled The Ultimate Pine Barrens Photography Guide Book. 

Rich also co-chairs the Pinelands Juried Photographic Competition and Exhibition committee, an annual event sponsored by the PPA. The 2022 exhibit is currently open to the public until April 29th and can be viewed at the PPA’s headquarters in Southampton Township.

Lines on the Pines in 2023

Linda told me that next year’s topic for Lines on the Pines will be horses. Her organization is going to release a short book about horses in the Pine Barrens, and she invited me to contribute. As an equestrian, I’m excited for the opportunity and can’t wait to see everyone’s contributions! I’m looking forward to next year’s Pinelands Short Course and Lines on the Pines!

Stockton’s Annual Day of Service Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The King Holiday and Service Act of 1993 transformed Martin Luther King Jr. Day into a national day of service. South Jersey’s Stockton University has honored the day with its “signature Annual Day of Service” since 2005. Learn more about it here: MLK Day of Service – The Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning | Stockton University. The school decided to include the 2022 MLK Day of Service and the African American Cultural Heritage Short Course as part of its 50th Anniversary Signature Events celebrating 50 years of teaching from Fall 2021 through Summer 2022. The school also is notable in African-American history with Vera King Farris serving as Stockton’s president from May 25, 1983 to June 3, 2003. Dr. Farris was the first female African-American president of a public college in New Jersey.

Stockton University and the Osprey

Originally founded in 1969 as South Jersey State College, Stockton  began teaching its first students in September 1971 at the now demolished Mayflower Hotel in Atlantic City while its new main campus in the Pine Barrens of Galloway was under construction. The Argo, the school newspaper produced by students, began printing in 1971. The first class graduated in 1973. Accredited in 1975 as a four-year state college, the school changed its name in 1993 to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Stockton University Atlantic City is the school’s newest campus. Other campuses and locations include Hammonton (Kramer Hall), Manahawkin, and Woodbine. The Noyes Museum of Art, with galleries in Atlantic City and Hammonton, is also part of Stockton University.

On January 9, 1973, the same year of its first graduating class, Stockton University chose the osprey as the new school’s official mascot, beginning a long and proud tradition. The osprey bested nine other (mostly) worthy candidates in four rounds of voting, winning in the final round against Sandpipers. The 10 candidates included “Jersey Devils, Argonauts, Ospreys, Blue Herons, Scorpions, Hobbits, Skunks, SandPipers, Mosquitos, and Clamdiggers.” The university’s website comments on the appropriateness of the osprey, “embodying Stockton’s fierce, graceful, and hardworking community all in one symbol.” The title of the university’s anthem is Ospreys on Parade. The Stockton University Seal incorporates an image of the osprey: “The osprey, Stockton’s mascot, has a spectacular six-foot wing span, occurs world-wide, and can be seen hunting fish over the campus lakes spring through fall. We are proud to call our athletic teams the Ospreys.”

Check out this new photo gallery on the Beach and Barrens Facebook page with more images of America’s Fishing Hawk!