Archive for the ‘In the Woods’ Category

Ford payouts don’t make up for the damage they inflicted

Anyone who lives in the Bergen County area knows that Ford Motor company screwed the town of Ringwood and the indian tribe that lives there. Over a period of 3 decades they dumped paint and toxic sludge into old mines and sometimes along the sides of the roads in Ringwood. The materials came from a car manufacturing plant that was in Ramsey at the time and has long since closed down. As local residents became sick with all manner of illnesses, eventually Ford admitted what they did and made a token effort at cleaning up what was now designated a Superfund site.

As years progressed and lawsuits were filed, nothing more was done until an award winning series of articles was published by the Bergen Record in 2006. That spurred action by the EPA and promises of arrests and fines by the prosecutors. Fast forward to 2010. There’s still sludge in the mines and it likely will never be properly remediated. Ford settled the lawsuits, but anyone expecting to be fully compensated for the loss of loved ones and the suffering caused by cancer and other illnesses was dissapointed. The settlements ranged between 5K and 35K per person.

Words can’t express how inadequate this is. It’s a testament to how toothless our government can be at times. Ford didn’t just flaunt the law, they ruined hundreds of people’s lives and left an area that is basically unihabitable. They killed numerous people and in the end, heres a few grand, sorry about the cancer, kthxbye? The punishment that Ford received is a joke. The fact that they will be allowed (for a 2nd time) to walk away without fully fixing the situation is criminal.

Maybe they should use the Ford logo as the official state superfund logo.

Bill Ervolino seeks the Iron Door

I’ve visited the Iron Door a few times. I actually suggested the idea to him but didn’t go with him because he’d already gone to the jet in the woods with me. His editors wouldn’t have gone for another trip with the same guide, so I suggested Brian Snat and voila. Another expedition for the intrepid Record writer.

I take a Bergen Record reporter to the jet in the woods

A few weeks ago, a local Bergen Record columnist asked me if I knew of anything abandoned and cool. Naww… don’t know nothing like that…. I immediately thought of the jet in the woods, and today the article came out No pics on the website though.

Here’s a few posts on my blog about the jet:

Original post

Jet is finally positively ID’d

Even more info

me + survivor runner up + plane expert + mud + crashed military jet = tv show pilot

I was contacted several weeks ago by a man asking where the jet in the woods was. After a series of emails he explained that he was producing a pilot for a tv show called Abandoned America. Ian Rosenberger, (3rd place finisher on Survivor Palua) was to be the host and they were looking for interesting local things to shoot for the pilot. They thought the jet in West Milford might be a good choice. I volunteered to take him on a scouting trip to the jet, which we did a week later.

After several weeks of discussion, investigation and general paranoia that I wouldn’t be prepared, we went to the site yesterday to shoot the video. I brought in Ian Hopkins, who settled the debate over what kind of plane it was when he found a stamp of the model on the inside of the wing. He was far more knowledgeable about aircraft then I was, so it was logical to bring him on board. As the “historian” and “local expert” for the segment, I knew I needed to nail down more information. I knew the basics of the incident, but had very little hard data. I managed to track down a local resident who had interviewed a police officer who was on scene the day the jet crashed and obtained a copy of the interview.

The film shoot was to happen at 11am Sunday but for a variety of reasons, including lack of a car, I arrived at 1pm. I met Ian Hopkins for the first time and was introduced to the film crew and to the host Ian Rosenberger. He is 6 foot 8, skinny, and generally likeable. Did I mention he’s a jolly green giant of a man? I recalled how I liked him a lot on Survivor Vanuata, but decided not to pester him with questions about the show and his experience. We were there to film a video of a crashed jet, not an episode of the Survivor fan club.

What amazed me was Ian was wearing flip-flops. I had warned the film crew that the area gets very very muddy during the summer and it had rained a fair amount in the previous days and so it would be worse then normal. I advised wearing boots and bringing a change of footwear, socks and maybe even pants. So was he a non-believer or did he not get the message? or did he just not care? Regardless, I knew he was in for a muddy icky ucky trip…

We filmed an intro bit at a rock wall just inside the trailhead. After getting rid of some jitters and wondering how to look, where to look, and trying not to smile like a geek we got into the shoot. There were a lot of people there. Besides the three of us, there were three film guys, a sound guy, a director and two producers, as well as one of the producers girlfriend. I had been clued in only the day before that a family of bears lives about 200 yards away from the crash site. Luckily if they hear you making noise, they were give you a wide berth as they want no part of you, so I was confident that a dozen people trekking thru the woods with camera gear would make more then enough noise to keep them away… now as for the poisonous snakes that live here, that’s another story.

After the intro shoot we trekking down the hill and thru the boulder field towards the jet, which is about a 7-9 minute walk from the trailhead. The best time to view the jet is in winter because a) it’s not muddy and b) there’s little folliage so you can find the jet easily. In the summer you can be 75 feet away and not see it. I actually got a little disoriented by the dense brush but if you know where to go, it’s pretty hard to miss it.

When we got close I could see this was the worst I’d ever seen the mud. Several time I was in the mud halfway to my knees. Ian’s feet were a mess from the start and after about 5 minutes he gave up and ditched his flip-flops entirely and just went barefoot. Considering there’s snakes, ticks and pieces of metal from the aircraft around, this was not the best move, but he got by ok. Below is a picture of us afterwards. You can see Ian’s feet and they’re a mess even after he washed them off. He was covered with a layer of mud most of the time.

Here’s what my pants looked like when i got home. I sank half way to my knees in spots, but got mud all the way up to my knees. I also had muddy hands and arms and it took a lot of scrubbing to get the mud from under my fingernails…

We spent about 2 hours shooting video and eventually it was all over. The original idea was that they would film an entire pilot episode, featuring the jet, Bannerman Castle and North Brother Island. The entire episode would be shown to the networks to see if they wanted to pick it up as a full series. Now it appears as if they are going to pitch the series solely based on the jet. THANKS GUYS! NO PRESSURE! NOPE, I DON”T FEEL AT ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR SUCCESS (OR NOT) OF YOUR TV SHOW!

They will be doing all the graphics and voice overs and editing and hope to be pitching it by early July with an answer very quickly. I do not know if the show gets green lit if this will be used, re-shot or not used at all. obviously I’d like to see it used, but even if it doesn’t, this was a fun experience. I will be given a copy of the finished product and (with their permission) will post the video on this site.

Oh,… as for the true story of the jet crash… I’m going to remain silent on that and wait till I have the video to post.

There’s more photos over on Flicker

interesting info on the jet in the woods

I recently visited a resident who lives about 300 yards south of the jet in the woods. I had a long talk with him about the area and the jet crash. His home is interesting, the driveway is paved with blocks taken from the West Side Highway in NY, given away for 25 cents a piece when they paved it with concrete…

The woods where the jet crashed are deceptive. The crash site is right on the rim of a lake, which is now covered over with layers of branches, tree limbs, leaves dirt and other plant life. they’ve woven themselves into a permeable layer over water in some cases 40 feet deep. Called a quake bog, if you jump up and down you can feel the ground bounce like trampoline. He took a stick about 2 feet long, scratched a bit of surface dirt off, then shoved it into the ground with the ease of a knife thru butter. If the jet had crashed another 100 feet, it would’ve pierced this top layer of plantlife and sunk to the bottom, like crashing thru a frozen lake.

Looks pretty solid, eh?

While there he pointed out bear tracks and the fact that a mama bear, about 700 lbs worth, had slept right about 100 feet from his house…

Bear tracks

Why all this talk about the jet in the woods? Can’t say right yet…

background on the Pasadena Terra Cotta factory

An interesting accounting of the Pasadena terra cotta factory.

I previously posted about the Pasadena Terra Cotta factory and it looks like my friend was right about the name.

$800k grant will help reforest South Mountain Reservation

“It looks like a healthy canopy, but it’s in fact a dying forest.”

Sometimes nature needs a little help.

Endowed with $800,000 in state and Essex County grants, the South Mountain Conservancy’s members, local residents and oth ers have embarked on a plan they hope will help reforest nearly all 2,000 acres of the South Mountain Reservation. Battered by what advocates call an overpopulation of deer and the subsequent loss of native flora, large swaths of the reservation resemble what one conservancy member calls a moonscape. The group intends to change that, even if it takes the better part of a decade, or even longer. “We’re on a mission to restore the forest,” Dennis Percher, the chairman of the conservancy’s board of trustees said yesterday, following the project’s announcement by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.

Except for brambles of invasive plants, such as Japanese barberry, and a thick canopy of leaves, the forest floor is dangerously undergrown, said Percher. “You should not see through the forest like this,” Percher said while looking southeast into Maplewood Township, 200 feet or so below the park. “It looks like a healthy canopy, but it’s in fact a dying forest.”

Percher said he wants to make the forest “scary” again, to the point where if one walking off a trail just might get lost among the park’s oak, beech, hickory and maple stands. A census of living things last summer counted far fewer birds, amphibians and even insects than once thrived among the reservation’s hills, ponds, fields, streams and woods. That dearth of life has wreaked havoc with the biological chain, park advocates say.

And that’s where the $800,000 — half from the state’s Green Acres Fund and half from the county’s Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund — and hundreds of hours of volunteer and paid-for sweat equity comes in. The conservancy, with the help of community and corporate groups and landscape architects, will eventually plant hundreds of native species in 43 fenced-in sites, ranging from one to 14 acres, that altogether make up about 1 percent of the reservation.”But that will be the seed source for the other 99 percent,” said Percher, a trustee since 2003.

Biologists estimate it will take at least 10 years for the native species to take root throughout the reservation. Eventually, though, the forest will serve as an open invitation to frogs, turtles, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, butterflies, mi gratory birds and countless other critters, said conservancy trustee Tricia Zimic.”What I’ve noticed over a series of years is that every spring it was way too quiet,” said Zimic, a Maplewood artist who has walked daily in the reservation, which she calls her backyard, for seven years. “It looked liked a moonscape. I was wondering where everything was. Where are the plants? Where are the animals? Why doesn’t it look like the forest I grew up with?”

Inside a roughly 40,000-square-foot site enclosed by Cyclone fencing, adjacent to the dog park off Crest Drive, Zimic’s work is about to bloom. In what the conservancy calls a wildflower and butterfly meadow, a number of species of flowers and plants have taken root, courtesy of about 600 hours of volunteer work. “You come back in two months, and a lot of this will have greened out,” Percher said, calling it a harbinger of what’s to come on a much larger scale.

The project is not without controversy, however. Trained and licensed sharpshooters have killed nearly 300 deer over the last two winters, much to the displeasure of some community members, who say the deforestation is due as much to global warming and herbicide use as to hungry deer. Despite the kills, the deer population is still three to four times what a healthy forest this size can tolerate, Percher said.

DiVincenzo acknowledged the kills are controversial. But he stood by the decision to license and bring up to 10 sharpshooters into the park over about eight days in January and February of this year and last. He indicated the deer hunt in the reservation will continue next year, although perhaps for fewer days. “Our forest has been destroyed … because of all the deer in here,” he said in the park yesterday. “There’s no question we did the right thing.” He said the park project is likely the largest of its kind in the nation. “This is a beautiful reservation,” he said. “I want to bring it back.”

Jersey’s Bat Hibernaculum

There are nine species of bats that can be found in NJ, six of which stay here year round. Caves are their natural habitat but are become increasingly disturbed by human contact, leaving them unsuitable for them to hibernate in.   Abandoned mines and tunnels are rarely entered by people because of their relative lack of safety, and are now their preferred place to remain during the winter.
The Hibernia Mine in Rockaway Township, Morris County was first used by bats in the 1930s. Thrillseekers and explorers persisted in entering the mine, leading to attempts to seal the mine. Doing so would seal it off from the bats as well, making this an unsuitable solution.

Enter the Bat Gate

In 1994,  the Endangered and Nongame Species Program was able to install a bat gate, which is a specialized gate that keeps people out but lets bats freely enter and exit. The mine is now part of the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Mangement Area, and an estimated 30,000 bats call the mine home. During the months of July & August the bats can be seen at dusk leaving the mine by the thousands. Bat watching has become so popular that watch stands were installed to give people a comfortable place to view from.

There is a geocache here.

Camp Nobebosco aka Camp Crystal Lake

Camp Nobebosco is a nationally accredited boy scout camp in Blairstown which has been operating since 1927.  In 1979 the low budget horror flick Friday the 13th was filmed here. The movie spawned countless sequels, and practically invented the slasher horror film genre, inspiring Freddy Krueger (who he later fought) as well as Michael Myers. Camp Crystal lake was originally said to be in NJ (where the original was actually filmed) but subsequent movies claim the camp is located in CT (where the 2nd film was shot)

I visited the camp on Friday,, January 13th, 2006, and met with the camp troop leader. He politely told me no one allowed on the property and all requests had to go thru the are Boy Scout leadership. To his knowledge all film crews, newspaper and tv reporters have been refused access. If they catch someone trespassing the police are called in. He further says that they have many problems whenever the 13th falls on a Friday and said that if the boy scouts new then what they know now they never would’ve participated in the film project. Then again, who ever would’ve though that this low budget flick would generate over half a billion dollars worth of revenue over the next 3 decades?
Since I could not get very far,  here’s a web page which has photos of the cabins and the lake. This site does a side by side comparison of screen shots and actual locals. And here’s another website which features a similar side by side comparison..

the roads were strangely quiet and foggy on January 13th, 2006 when I visited…

trolley graveyard is no more

Some time during the summer most of the trolleys, cars and buses were hauled off by persons unknown. A local neighbor says about 2-3 days were spent with cranes, flatbeds and dumpsters, cutting up the pieces of the old hulks and disposing of them. He’s not sure who it was, why it was done or even who owns the property. These are probably the last pics anyone will see of the Trolley Graveyard… they were taken a few months before the wrecks were hauled away on a return trip I had made to the trolley graveyard.