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  • Writer's pictureChris Vitalos

Save Roaring Rock Park

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

Roaring Rock Park - Autumn 2021
Roaring Rock Park - Autumn 2021

I spent most of my volunteer time in 2021 with an environmental conservation initiative called "Save Roaring Rock Park" (SRRP). In January, an acquaintance I met with the local Democratic party asked me if I would be interested in joining a group, which was forming, to push back on municipal led commercial logging in the 400 acre public park. At that moment in time, I was looking to accomplish something different, given my role with the local Democrats for the past few years and election cycles was getting fairly routine.

I quickly realized that the people who were joining SRRP had significant subject knowledge expertise with New Jersey environmental law, and conservation efforts. I was delighted that one of the team members, John Trontis, was a former assistant director of New Jersey Parks and Recreation for the state's Department of Environmental Resources! I quickly realized this group had serious credibility and talent. Of course I had to join in..

So for the next few months, I contributed by creating the website, social media feeds, publishing the newsletter, and taking the lead on digital promotions. The website benefited from the graphical design talents of a fellow SRRP team member, James Esposito. James created much of the digital artwork for the site, as well as designed our iconic lawn signs.

I also organized several volunteer efforts in Washington Borough, namely setting up the New Jersey Highlands Coalition (our fiscal sponsor) tent during several Washington Business Improvement District led events. Borrowing from my local Democrat experiences, I also canvassed Washington Township to raise awareness among the residents on what their elected officials were undertaking within the Park. To my surprise, many were not even aware of the presence of Roaring Rock Park, let alone of the logging issue itself.

The local Democratic committee became concerned around May 2021, sensing I was spending, in their opinion, "too much time" with SRRP and it was impacting my availability to perform the municipal chairman role which I held. The situation culminated in a July meeting with members of the Warren County Democratic Committee who raised their concerns directly with me. Listening to them, and considering how much satisfaction I was deriving from working with SRRP, I chose to resign the Washington Borough Democratic Municipal Chair and focus my time on the SRRP effort.

Looking back on that decision now, it was one of the best I made.

In October 2021, my volunteer efforts were recognized by NJHC, who awarded me as part of a team, the Wilma Frey Volunteer Award. I was surprised, and delighted to receive an award. The simple act of thanking someone for their efforts has such a morale boost.

I quickly felt guilty too, since I knew many people who contributed so much and whose names were not on the award. I made an effort to thank them, publicly and privately.

Our team was surprised, then delighted, by Washington Township Committee's decision to TERMINATE the logging activity by a unanimous vote on November 16th, 2021.

Roaring Rock Park FMP Termination resolution 2021-193

Going forward, I am going to continue to contribute to the betterment of parkland around Warren County. I enjoy doing this, and I do like working with the team!

Team SRRP at National Night Out August 2021
Team SRRP at National Night Out - August 2021

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