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Princeton NJ Parks & Playgrounds Press Releases

Two Park Programs Receive State Honors

TRENTON – Two Mercer County Park Commission facilities received programming awards at the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) Annual Awards Dinner in Atlantic City. Park Commission staff members were present on Feb. 25 to accept the awards.

The Park Commission’s Tulpehaking Nature Center was presented the Excellence in Educational & Interpretive Programming Award for its “Watershed Moments” program, and Howell Living History Farm was presented the Daniel M. Gasalberti Recreation Programming Award for “Howell Farm Corn Maze – The Farmer in the Dell.”

“These are just two of the many programs our Park Commission provides that entertain and enlighten people in our communities and throughout the region,” Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said. “They also exemplify the creativity that goes into so many of those offerings.”

“I congratulate our hard-working staff members and volunteers at the Nature Center and Howell Farm on these well-deserved honors,” Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson said. “And I thank the Recreation and Park Association for recognizing their efforts.”

The Nature Center’s free program, which was funded through the D&R Greenway Land Trust, was promoted as a two-part series targeted to 4th- and 5th-grade students with a hands-on curriculum designed to teach them about the river and marshlands in their own backyard.

The first part was a 45-minute lesson that introduced the Delaware River Watershed to the students and included an activity that discussed water pollution and its impact on the watershed. The second part involved a two-hour field trip to the Tulpehaking Nature Center and Roebling Memorial Park. Students learned how to take scientific measurements and draw their own conclusions about the quality of water in their own watershed.

“‘Watershed Moments’ made the best of public and private partnerships, built new relationships with educational partners and brought the wonder of the Delaware Watershed to children who may have never experienced the wonders of the watershed in their community,” the NJRPA said in announcing the awards.

The year was 1997 and the Friends of Howell Farm needed $150,000 to restore the Henry Phillips Barn at Howell History Living Farm. The first fund-raising effort to support the three-year restoration project was a corn maze, cut into a shape of the barn. Guests of the maze were presented with a maze game board, an 11-by-17-inch printed sheet with eight empty squares for puzzle pieces that when pieced together, formed a picture of the maze as seen from above. 

In 2019, “The Farmer in the Dell” Corn Maze hosted 6,000 visitors and put the cap on more than $600,000 raised over the past 23 years of the longest-running corn maze attraction in New Jersey. The Howell Farm Corn Maze sets itself apart from other mazes with a story that changes every year. Because the ultimate goal of the Friends group is to support real farming and experiential learning, the Howell Farm Corn Maze is designed to reflect the educational mission of the farm itself. 

This year’s Gasalberti Excellence in Programming Award was granted to the Mercer County Park Commission’s Howell Living History Farm, “Farmer in the Dell” Corn Maze, for providing 23 years of successful recreational programming that has provided a fun-filled challenge to more than 100,000 maze visitors while providing fund-raising revenue for this unique facility.

The NJRPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting parks and recreation; enhancing the professional development of its members; advocating sound policy and stewardship related to parks, recreation, resource management, and leisure services; and increasing awareness of the value of play and preservation of the environment to interested citizens and the public.

The purpose of the NJRPA’s Awards Program is to honor and identify dedicated leaders, employees and volunteers in the field of Parks and Recreation, and to recognize the state’s outstanding recreation and park agencies for excellence in programming, publicity and facility design. The goal of the Awards Program is to focus state attention on the achievement of park and recreation agencies, to recognize the continuing efforts of staff and volunteers, and to acknowledge support extended by member agencies.

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