The Best Kept Secret Outside of Jersey – Andy Devine’s Pine Barrens
Most people think of New Jersey as a superhighway known as the Turnpike surrounded by belching refineries and wastelands with New York on one end and Atlantic City on the other. But that’s a New Yorker’s view of what lies on the opposite end of the George Washington Bridge. In reality Andy Devine’s home state is so much more, though we Jerseyans like to perpetuate that myth to keep all undeserving out. Truth be told this beautiful state is home to one of the most unspoiled places on the East Coast, the Pine Barrens, an enormous and all-encompassing tract of open space that covers 1.1 million acres, or 22 percent of New Jersey's land area. Also known as the Pinelands, or to the natives simply “The Pines,” this special place is classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and in 1978 was established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve. It includes portions of seven southern New Jersey counties, and encompasses over one-million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. It contains 56 communities, from hamlets to suburbs, with over 700,000 permanent residents. It is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston and is underlain by aquifers containing 17 trillion gallons of some of the purest water in the land.
Agriculture, including blueberries and cranberries, as well as row and field crops, is extremely important to the region's economy. New Jersey is among the top states in the nation in the production of blueberries and cranberries, and virtually all of these are grown in the Pinelands. In and about the Pines in the summer, especially around the communities of Medford, Pemberton and Chatsworth, you’ll see roadside farmstands aplenty such as Andy and Julie frequented, with especially succulent tomatoes, peaches and sweet corn.And in the fall the Pines many flooded cranberry bogs are awash in crimson during harvest time.
Low, dense forests of pine and oak, ribbons of cedar and hardwood swamps bordering drainage courses, pitch pine lowlands, and bogs and marshes combine to produce an expansive vegetative mosaic unsurpassed in the Northeast. The Pinelands also contains over 12,000 acres of "pygmy forest," a unique stand of dwarf, but mature, pine and oak less than 11 feet tall. Here can be found 850 species of plants, including rare plants such as the curly grass fern, and broom crowberry. Theregion contains unusual range overlaps where species of 109 southern plants and 14 northern plants reach their respective geographic limits. Development of the unique flora of the Pinelands is also closely related to the occurrence of fire, as some pinecones have evolved to only open and seed under intense heat. Thirty-nine species of mammals, 299 Bird, 59 reptile and amphibian species and 91 fish species have also been identified as occurring within the Pinelands. They include 43 animal species listed as threatened or endangered by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
So come on down and visit us, but bear in mind, as they say on “Piney Power” dot com: The Pine Barrens is becoming a popular tourist destination. It offers history, nature, boating, camping, fishing, swimming, and most of all, peace and tranquility. It's important to families who live here, whether for a few years or many generations, that our peace and tranquility be preserved. A local lawyer or doctor won't look any different than his neighbor who works the land. Thousand dollar suits aren't what impress people of the Pines - taking care of nature and fellow man is what matters. To that end, it is important for you to know that as a visitor to our precious Pine Barrens, you should show respect for the flora and fauna, for the historical buildings or their remains, and show respect for the "locals". Walk and drive gently. Treat our Pine Barrens as you would want a visitor to treat your own home town - and your own family. Thank you.
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Gwen Jones, after spending years writing several unpublishable novels, decided to learn what she was doing wrong or give it all up. So after earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University, she’s now so good they even allow her to teach there. An unabashed born-and-bred native of Southern New Jersey and the Jersey Shore, she lives with her husband, Frank, and the absolute cutest cat in the world, Gracie.
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