Hazlet Township welcomed its brand new Environmental Building at 399 Middle Road on April 24, 2021.
Members of the Hazlet Township Committee, Environmental Commission and other supporters gathered outside the building for a ribbon cutting. Then, in celebration of Earth Day, the members handed out bundles of free tree seedlings to the public from 11 am to 2 p.m
“The building is beautifully built and is in a perfect location, at the entrance to Hazlet’s 260-acre Natco Park,” said Mayor Tara Clark. “I know our Environmental Commissioners are incredibly excited to have this new facility and we have plans to put the building to great use and serve the community.”
The new solidly built, one-story building includes a meeting room with sink and two restrooms with baby changing stations, which will be open to the public during daytime hours. It sits at the mouth of sandy trails of a park with a vast array of diverse wildlife. Natco Park is also home to freshwater wetlands, streams, marshes and even a 30-acre lake.
Township Committee memeers in the sunny meeting room.
Years ago, the Environmental Commission worked out of a building located next to Middle Road School. But it had fallen into disrepair and was eventually dismantled a few years ago.
Now the Commission will have a dedicated meeting room, decorated with photographs of the park’s American Bald Eagles and ospreys.
“I’m just so pleased. It’s been a longtime coming,” said Barbara Lejda, who has volunteered on the Environmental Commission for nearly 30 years. “The Environmental Commission does so much, and Natco is a big part of what we do. I love it.”
Township Committeeman Scott Aagre explained how the process to create a public access point for Natco Park began five years ago. It was the perfect location, he said, because it was an unused township property (“a sand pit,” he said), conveniently located at a trailhead and easily accessible from Middle Road. “This is the right spot,” he said. “From here you can get to five other trails. You can go right up to Natco Lake, which you can see from Route 36.”
Steel shutters will protect the windows of the meeting room.
The building’s windows will be protected with steel shutters and the area will be under video surveillance. Police will do regular checks.
This is the beginning of the opening up of Natco Park,” said Committeeman Skip McKay. The Township Committee has authorized the purchase of a motorized quad vehicle for trail maintenance, cleanups and emergency rescues. It also recently commissioned an environmental resource inventory of the Park in order to identify its exceptional natural resources and unique features. The report will provide the township with a wealth of information to help renovate the park’s trails and environs, and enable visitors to enjoy it for many years to come.
There are two restrooms.
Joe Pobega, a volunteer on the township Open Space Commission, reflected upon an intense door-knocking campaign in 2006 to garner support for a referendum authorizing a township Open Space tax, a necessary element to allow Hazlet to apply for grants and Monmouth County Open Space matching funds. “Residents should know that one-penny tax is funding the building,” he said,. Another volunteer Annie Eng, said it is satisfying to see the fruits of their labor. “People didn’t realize what we had, now they can come explore this special park.”
Committeeman Mike Glackin said the classroom space will be well utilized. “We’re going to bring out the community and get the high school students and Scouts involved.”
“What Hazlet is doing sends a real message that environmental improvements and education is worth investing in, to help communities become healthy, grow and make their towns greener,” said Greg Remaud of the NY/NJ Baykeeper, which recently set up an office in Hazlet Township..