PLUMSTED – The State Department of Environmental Protection held its 10th Annual WILD Outdoor Expo, showcasing New Jersey’s outdoors and opportunities for recreational activities, on Sept. 7-8 at the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area, 401 Hawkin Rd, New Egypt.
The free expo ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days and featured more than 100 exhibits, demonstrations and seminars highlighting wildlife, conservation and New Jersey’s outdoors heritage.
“This event provides a great opportunity for residents and visitors to discover new and exciting ways to enjoy the great diversity of outdoor experiences that are available in New Jersey,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said.
McCabe added, “this also is a great opportunity for families and people of all ages to appreciate the beauty of our environment, learn about conservation, try new activities, and see some of our wildlife and aquatic life close up.”
One of the expo’s highlights was a giant mobile aquarium which held a variety of warm-water game fish from the Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in Hackettstown.
Casting and fishing demonstrations, as well as instructional tutorials for new anglers, also took place.
In addition to the mobile aquarium, visitors sharpened their camping and backpacking skills, tested their archery skills, learned how to build a bat box, improved their tree identification skills, and observed birds of prey and reptiles up close.
Other activities included nature photography and educational programs about a variety of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, shooting sports and wildlife watching.
New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Golden said, “we are very fortunate in New Jersey to have many different types of ecosystems to explore and enjoy.”
“The expo provides a great opportunity for people to enhance their enjoyment of these opportunities while learning about the importance of protecting these resources for all to enjoy,” Golden said.
Numerous exhibits, demonstrations and seminars focused on air, water, soil, plants, animals and history. Representatives present provided advice about fishing, hunting, scuba diving, forestry stewardship and other related subjects.
The expo also included an equipment flea market offering outdoor recreation and other environmental-related products for purchase. Refreshments were available from food trucks and vendors.
Hatchet tossing, archery and fishing out of a water tank were among some of the recreational activities enjoyed.
Norma Maxfield, South Hackensack, is a member of the Garden State Black Powder group. She was demonstrating her skill at triangle loom weaving. “I’m weaving with one stitch, seven feet across. I’m making a shoal.”
Her fellow GSBPA members were also dressed in period attire, the not-for-profit organization’s mission is to promote and celebrate America’s colonial history from 1740 through 1840. The group gets its name from the shooting of traditional black powder weapons. It’s an educational and recreational organization.
The two-day event also provided a showcase for forest fire prevention by members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service who distributed materials to attendees and celebrated the 75th birthday of their well-known mascot, Smokey The Bear.
A giant figure of the forest fighting bear was seen standing tall in a pickup truck next to the group’s table.
“We had a big celebration for Smokey at Liberty State Park on Aug. 9,” Sector Fire Warden Dale Carey said.
While Smokey is a rather friendly fictional bear the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife also distributed a pamphlet to let park visitors “Know the Bear Facts” about black bears in the state.
Some of the bear facts about the native black bears were that they are the largest land mammal in the Garden State and their prime habitat consists of mixed hardwood forests, dense swamps and forested wetlands. They were nearly wiped out a century ago by habitat destruction and indiscriminate killing.
Black bears today are thriving, particularly in the northwestern area of New Jersey. Their range is expanding south and east and black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties of the state. Never fed bears. It is illegal and it is dangerous.
Wolves were on display and some were able to be petted during the event. Among the groups present were Wolf Visions which is dedicated to the education, preservation and restoration to all wolves. Also present were members of the Howling Woods Farm of Jackson which is involved with rescue and adoptions and provides educational programs and tours.
Many of the activities and programs fulfilled Boy Scout and Girl Scout badge requirements.
For more information about New Jersey’s wildlife management areas, visit njfishandwildlife.com/wmas.htm.