Sierra Club Leader Remembered

Greg Auriemma (holding Sierra Club sign) and several others at Hands Across the Sand opposing offshore drilling, several years ago at Island Beach State Park. (Photo courtesy Helen Henderson)

BRICK – Greg Auriemma, the chair of the Ocean County chapter of the Sierra Club, was remembered by friends and colleagues.

Greg Auriemma (From Cathy Auriemma Facebook page)

Auriemma had gone missing weeks ago while hiking alone in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. He was found dead, apparently of natural causes. There had been reports of a powerful storm that had blown through there while he was camping.

He was credited for restarting the Ocean County chapter of the Sierra Club 20 years ago.

“He brought a lot of people together,” said Helen Henderson, a member of the Sierra Club and the American Littoral Society. He energized people, inspiring them to take on the challenges inherent in protecting the environment. “He made people feel like anything is possible.”

First encountering Auriemma in her struggle against development on the Lacey rail trail, she said he never wavered in his support of the natural environment and the need to keep the trail open space.

Greg Auriemma made major progress in his battle with cancer before he died on a hiking trip to New Hampshire. (New Hamshire FIsh & Game)

He was well versed in the law, and made himself available to help others in their own local causes, she said.

“He will be missed,” she said. “I don’t know who could possibly fill his shoes.”

“He was involved in pretty much every environmental issue in Ocean County in the last 20 years,” Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said about his actions. “Whatever the issue was, Greg was a part of it.”

He listed campaigns Auriemma had been involved in, from fighting sprawl, to closing Oyster Creek Generating Station, to keeping an eye on Ciba Geigy, to the health of the Barnegat Bay. There were smaller issues, too, such as beach clean-ups and hikes that he was a part of.

When Brick was deciding on purchasing Trader’s Cove, Auriemma was on the forefront of that, and continued to be involved when developers wanted to put a restaurant there, Tittel recalled. He also helped the Metedeconk River be classified as Category One by the state. This protects the river from “any measurable changes in water quality” because of the river’s importance in local ecology, water use, fishing, or recreation. He also spoke out against the Eagle Ridge development plan that could put as many as 1,800 homes on a former golf course in Lakewood.

“When you drive around Ocean County and you see open space and see the shimmer on the water, that’s his legacy,” Tittel said.