Raritan River Conference To Focus On Waterway’s Future
Monday, June 13, 2011 • 8:33pm
The third annual Sustainable Raritan River Conference, set for Thursday, June 16, will offer a panoramic view of the river’s future, including its impact on riverside commerce for municipalities along the area’s main body of water.
This year, a business roundtable for companies and leaders in the region’s municipalities will serve as a forum for the private sector to discuss measures for saving energy and reducing waste.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill will open luncheon remarks before Judith Enck, federal Environmental Protection Agency Region II administrator, will give the keynote address.
Cahill will focus on the city’s relationship to the Raritan and Rutgers University’s role in its preservation, which has become more targeted and apparent over the last two years.
In October 2009, the head of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the head of the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences jointly launched the Raritan River Initiative. Last year, Rutgers President Richard McCormick created a task force to design new programs in the area.
Judy Shaw, director of the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, co-chairs the task force along with Robert Goodman, dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Shaw has led efforts to unite towns along the river to make connections to everyday life in New Brunswick, Highland Park, Piscataway and other communities.
“It’s not just the Raritan River itself. It’s the Stonybrook, the Millstone, the Greenbrook. It’s all the tributaries that are all part of the same system. Our efforts - we look at all the tributaries,” she said.
Shaw has been involved in environmental advocacy since she heard Ralph Nader speak in Philadelphia at the very first Earth Day in 1970. She worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection for 20 years focusing on civic engagement, public participation and redevelopment.
She said the mission was always to create environmental policies that reflected needs of the community, the importance of science and strategies to move forward.
“My job was protecting the Raritan and to be part of making sure we had a greenway system that not only provided recreation, but also much-needed mud plain areas, recognizing that realistically we need to live with flooding on the Raritan because we can’t really stop it.
“We need to be able to figure out ways of minimizing the damage and maximizing the value. It all spoke to me and obviously this was something where my background and skills could be put into a wonderful public purpose,” she said.
Shaw said Rutgers is seeking ways to connect the cause to the university’s future through faculty research and curriculum changes making students aware of their roles in the sustainability of the Raritan. According to Shaw, some have contributed already.
“We just finished a project in Highland Park where students in the Graduate School of Planning redesigned a park on the waterfront right across the Albany Street bridge.
“We’d like to see a program for students to take field-experience classes which would combine curriculum requirements with service learning or an internship. They could work with the economic development or environmental commission organizations in other towns, do research on what the area’s needs are and implement programs to help each area – and they would get credits for it,” she said.
The student programs also could reach the general public, Shaw said.
Preceding the conference, a NJN documentary, “Rescuing a River: The Raritan,”will make its premiere on Tuesday, June 14 at 6:45 p.m. at the Metuchen Forum Theater, 314 Main St., Metuchen.
The conference will run from 8:45 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Cook Campus Center, Piscataway. General admission at the door is $50, $25 for students. While the event is geared toward professionals and the business community, Shaw said the public is welcome to attend.
“We want anybody who cares about the future of the Raritan River, whether as an economic development engine for their town or they just want to go boating and swimming, whether they think it’s too dirty or they’ve realized there’s no restaurant on the river and they want to see one there someday,” she said.
The agenda for the 2011 Raritan River Conference can be viewed in PDF.
A workshop presented by Trout Unlimited and Efinger Sports, “Fish the Raritan: Fly-Casting Clinic” is set for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.