Impact100 South Jersey members had a picture perfect day to experience the beauty of the Pinelands with a hike at the Black Run Preserve in Evesham Township. The hike was led by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA), one of our two 2022 $50,000 general operating grantees. Carleton was excited to share their work with our members when Nonprofit Outreach committee member, Susan Andrew, reached out to organize this meetup.
During the 1.5 hour hike through the preserve, members were treated to beautiful scenery and an overview of the history of the Pinelands. They learned about the unique composition of the water and soil that make this ecosystem different from other forest habitats. They also learned how suburban development impacts the environment and the ways PPA works to protect this region’s natural resources, like the Black Run Preserve.
Along the trail they saw the impact of the many volunteers who have organized as the Friends of the Black Run Preserve, a group who mark and maintain the trails for public enjoyment. They were also able to see the amazing work of the critters who inhabit the preserve, most notably beavers. Their engineering and construction skills were on full display in the dams they build to shape their habitat. They also learned about efforts to help manage the challenges of human populations sharing space with natural residents like snakes.
Montgomery talked a bit about NJ environmental protection policies and the advocacy work PPA does to help shape state policy. He also shared how developers and businesses, among others, have a significant influence on policy, and he encourages members to sign up for alerts to stay informed. Impact100 members who love nature and would like to be involved are encouraged to sign up to volunteer with PPA. It’s a wonderful way to experience the beauty of this natural treasure right in our backyard.
An added bonus for members was learning how supporting PPA not only impacts the organization, but how they collaborate with other Impact100 South Jersey grantees! While our grant did not directly fund the collaborations, having operating resources provides PPA with the capacity to find creative ways to work with other organizations in South Jersey to make our community a healthier place to live, work, and play.
We are delighted to know that PPA has worked with our first grantee, Hopeworks, on the Pinelands is for Everyone project. The GIS team at Hopeworks created an accessibility map that will give residents with disabilities the information they need about accessible trails so they can enjoy the Pinelands. The GIS team at Hopeworks is a social enterprise that provides training and creates tech jobs for young people in Camden and South Jersey. It’s a beautiful partnership!
In fact, the Pinelands Is for Everyone initiative has led PPA to create a new position, titled Nature and Disability Advocate. This position will help PPA organize people with disabilities and their allies to make more natural places accessible and to provide more trips like the one we enjoyed, but designed to be inclusive for everyone, whether they walk or use a wheelchair.
Hopeworks’ GIS Director, Luis Olivieri, is now a board member at PPA, and the two organizations are working together on another project to map and analyze how farmland is being managed in and around the Pinelands. Their ultimate goal is to encourage more owners of farmland to change from industrial farming to growing food using organic methods for local consumption. Montgomery and his team believe this kind of regenerative farming is better for the environment, the local economy, and the health of consumers.
PPA also works with our 2021 general operating grantee Farmers Against Hunger. In 2020, PPA created Rancocas Creek Farm on 72 acres of land donated to PPA surrounding its headquarters in Vincentown (Southampton Township). The Farm practices regenerative, organic methods to grow food for its CSA members (where you can buy a share of the farm’s produce to pick up every week during the growing season) and for wholesale (the Farm supplies Farm and Fisherman restaurant in Cherry Hill, for example). The Farm Manager, Jeff Tober, is a board member of our grantee, the New Jersey Agricultural Society which operates Farmers Against Hunger. The Farm frequently hosts gleaning days when volunteers help harvest food to donate food banks and pantries.