Pohatcong Native Arboretum, Washington Township, Warren County, New Jersey - Press Coverage

Skylands Visitor Magazine - Local Roots

Article and photo by Tom Drake

The Pohatcong Creek winds thirty miles through Warren County from its source just west of Hackettstown to the Delaware River south of Phillipsburg, following another of the many Appalachian ridges that run across Northwest New Jersey. Its watershed lies parallel and between those of the Musconetcong River to the south and the Pequest to the north. Just about halfway along its route down to the Delaware Valley, the river crosses State Route 31 between Oxford and Washington Borough. As it approaches Mine Hill Road, butting up to Round Top Mountain [924 feet], the river enters a Washington Township park, part of Pohatcong Creek Natural Area, and home to Pohatcong Native Arboretum.

The proliferation of non-native species of flora and fauna in New Jersey has long been a concern for ecologists, especially in our fragile wetlands where a sustainable natural balance is imperative. Conservancies all over the state are reestablishing native species wherever they can. Here at the arboretum, visitors can see exactly what some of those plants are.

The arboretum was eleven years in the making, students from the Warren Hills Regional High School planted the first trees here in 2002. Since then, in fits and starts, but always under the guidance of local botanist and native plant specialist, Anthony Pasquini, Pohatcong Native Arboretum has become home to an ever-expanding collection of over 150 species of native trees, shrubs, [and vines.]

In a fenced-in, deer proof area, specimens are organized by family and planted in raised beds covered with glacial stones; some from the Delaware River, some from the mountain. Signs identify each plant family by its familiar name: Dogwood rather than Cornaceae; Rose rather than Rosaceae, Hydrangea, Birch, Laurel, Maple, Heath, Hazelnut, Ash. The “energetic center” of the project, the Circle of Life, incorporates native American Indian spiritual aspects, contributed by “Seneca Jeff" Stevens, who oriented plants in ways they grow naturally, included markers for the compass directions, and added a beautiful sculpture reminiscent of a dream catcher.

The exhibition rises up the hill out of the fenced area with new plantings of oak, ash, an American chestnut, beech, even a Jersey pine. There is also the Robert Rush Memorial log cabin assigned for future use [as an art gallery]. Then its on to the woods more natives: a cherry here, a black walnut there, and a big old tulip tree. Did you ever walk in the woods and wonder exactly what each and every plant within sight was? A trip here gets you started !

Pohatcong Native Arboretum is open daily during daylight hours

2013 article updated December 2018 - Tom Drake

Anthony C. Pasquini exemplified by joy and fulfillment after completing and presenting the arboretum to Washington Township, Warren Hills Regional, Rutgers University, local citizens, tourists, and plant lovers; and for the enjoyment of everyone.

Care of Pohatcong Native Arboretum in new hands

Founder and Producer of Pohatcong Native Arboretum, Anthony C. Pasquini, says farewell to Warren Hills High School senior James Duffy

By Kevin Kunzmann, Express-Times

In March 2002, Anthony Pasquini, Mark C. Vodak, professor and Extension Specialist at Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Forestry and a few colleagues received four grants for eco-restoration projects in Warren County. "At the time, Jeff Stevens and I were dealing with an arboretum, while trying to find tree labels, and (Stevens) said, 'Why don't we make an arboretum,' Pasquini said

After finding a location just off Pohatcong Creek in Washington Township and more than a decade and a half of physical and financial labor, Pasquini has finished the task. The founder and developer of Pohatcong Native Arboretum handed the home of 143 tree, plant and shrubbery species over to representatives of the Warren Hills Regional High School, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Washington Township, N.J.

I gave my life to it," Pasquini said Thursday. "And now I have my life back."

"Pasquini described the arboretum as both a native tree museum of northwest New Jersey and one of the most comprehensive collections in the Mid-Atlantic region. It contains signs identifying the species, about 40 tons of decorative stone from the Delaware River and certain elements of Native American culture, contributed and inspired by Jeffrey Stevens' Native American heritage.

"Its inspiration comes from its locations, from being present and in tune with nature," Pasquini said. "It's built to last, and it'll be around longer than our lives will." The arboretum will also play an educational role. Rutgers' dendrology courses and Warren Hills' science classes will preserve the arboretum while making it a part of their respective curricula.

Warren Hills senior James Duffy is a member of the school's Students Against Vandalization of the Environment club. He serves as the school's main supporter of the arboretum, providing assistance to Pasquini and organizing volunteer help. "I was a junior looking for extracurricular activities, and this was right up my alley," Duffy said. "My biggest hope is that high school students remain involved with it."

Chris Blackwood, a Warren Hills junior and fellow club member, will take over Duffy's role at the end of the school year. He said he hopes to help expand the arboretum to its full potential."Learning about something like this could develop into a passion," Blackwood said. "I have a drive to learn everything I can about plants."

Pasquini also found professional assistance in Warren County Agricultural Agent Bruce Barbour of Rutgers, who first got involved six months ago and plans to stay on the project to help find Pasquini's replacement coordinator. "My job is to educate people about the environment," Barbour said. "Something like this is too special to let go. Washington has a great resource here as an educational tool."

While a new arboretum staff is taking shape, Pasquini is walking away from the project that he molded from a spur-of-the-moment idea to a physical presence in the community's environment. He has completed a master's degree in city and regional planning at Rutgers and is looking into professional urban park development in Philadelphia.

Pasquini is just glad there was an ending at all to the arboretum............

["I would like to see the place taken care of properly and funded. I will always have an interest in the plant collection, overall development, and well being of the arboretum.]

Washington Township Has a Celebrated Plant Collection - Pohatcong Native Arboretum, Native Tree Museum of New Jersey

Washington Messenger - December 2018 (excerpt) updated January 2020

Did you know Pohatcong Native Arboretum, a Washington Township Park, has over 150 species of native woody plants! An outstanding collection of trees, shrubs, and vines - an amazing educational and scientific wonder to behold. The public arboretum was founded with a grant through Rutgers University with the Warren Hills Regional high school students putting the first plants in the ground in 2002. In an all out effort the collection was tripled between 2010 and 2015.

Pohatcong Native Arboretum and its celebrated plant collection are the result of a grassroots effort produced by founder Anthony Pasquini's unrelenting determination, a steady flow of nickels and dimes, a handful of students and volunteers, and Washington Township's DPW keeping the place from going to seed.

The public arboretum is beautifully maintained. But it won't take long to fall into disrepair without the attention of the next round of caring individuals and volunteers!

It is an exciting time to be a part of Pohatcong Native Arboretum as inspired members of the community rally around this extraordinary place of nature, art, and beauty at this exceptional moment for growth and expansion. (See Contact & Staff section for details).

New Jersey arboretum ready to blossom

Channel 69 News, Allentown, PA

New Jersey arboretum ready to blossom -To watch news click here- https://www.wfmz.com/news/area/newjersey/new-jersey-arboretum-ready-to- blossom/article_9ccbea18-539d-5886-90c4-6b4d1874d0c4.html

Jul 10 2013

WASHINGTON TWP., N.J. - From towering trees, to tiny shrubs, a new arboretum in Warren County, New Jersey is finally ready to show off the goods. The Pohatcong Native Arboretum has opened after 11 years of planning and planting. It's located in the Pohatcong Natural Creek Area in Washington Township. Township native Anthony Pasquini founded the arboretum. He and design assistant Jeff Stevens -- who's Native American -- stayed true to the area's roots. "Every day we did ceremony and then we just really drew from the mountain and the valley and the river. And the design just fell together beautifully that way," said Pasquini. The four-acre arboretum is home to 130 species of native shrubs and trees. Students from nearby Warren Hills Regional High School also helped to put many of these plants into the ground.

Ceremony to Celebrate Arboretum Completion

By Emily Cummings, Warren County Reporter

July 8, 2013

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Pohatcong Native Arboretum will hold a dedication ceremony on Tuesday, July 9, at 6:15 p.m. announcing completion after 11 years. Park creator and founder Anthony Pasquini, a native plants specialist, said that this is a comprehensive display and regards the amount of species of the park as unprecedented.

"It was an enormous research project," he said, adding that the space will be dedicated to the community.

Pasquini said he began the arboretum in 2002 with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension and involvement from students at Warren Hills Regional High School, who planted the original 40 species. He hopes that the space will be used for tours and school curriculum, calling it a "recreational and educational resource." Each individual species in the arboretum is identified by label.

"It's definitely a labor of love," Pasquini said.

A Showcase for Plants of Northwest New Jersey

By Rema Rahman, Associated Press

July 08, 2013

One man's passion for planting has led to the creation of the Pohatcong Native Arboretum in Warren County, a Native American-inspired nature sanctuary nearly 11 years in the making, where a garden of trees and plants native to northwest New Jersey is set for public display.

Creator and founder Anthony Pasquini said he was still fine-tuning the site in the days leading up to Tuesday's dedication ceremony, which will mark its public opening.

Pasquini said his work planting and designing the arboretum is done and that he hopes to hand over maintenance of the site to the community.

"It's been such a long project and I've dedicated my life to it," Pasquini said. "Now it's time to celebrate."

Pasquini has been laboring over the arboretum in Washington Township since the fall of 2002. A passionate gardener and plant enthusiast, Pasquini enlisted the help of Rutgers University, the local high school, and fellow professional planter, Jeff Stevens, who was 23 years old at the time, to help design the seven-acre site.

Stevens said he incorporated spiritual aspects from his American Indian background to help design the project, including paying close attention to details in nature, such as plants facing in certain directions. Stevens said he hoped the arboretum would make people more aware and appreciative of nature.

"You don't just have to be Native American . . . to understand the energies and the directions and the bounty of Mother Nature," Stevens said.

Pasquini said he chose the site out of love for the nearby Pohatcong Creek. A native of Washington Township, Pasquini said he had many fond memories of swimming in the creek and climbing nearby mountains, and wanted to create something people could appreciate there.

For Pasquini, the work entailed not only planting but also researching what trees and plants were native to the area and going on plant-finding missions in the woods and in nurseries. He also tended to the garden over the years by planting, weeding, and maintaining the area regularly.

The arboretum will display more than 130 species of plants and shrubs, all native to northwest New Jersey, among them willow, maple, and oak trees including the northern red oak, the official state tree. Twenty-two members of the rose family will be on display along with wild hydrangeas, azaleas, and magnolias.

Pasquini said there was no question he would finish the arboretum despite several setbacks, including not having enough tools and materials at times.

"When you start something like this, it's hard to abandon it," Pasquini said.

Acres of plants go native at Pohatcong arboretum

By Valerie Sudol / The Star Ledger / Garden Diary

July 11, 2013

For all the development, New Jersey has a rich and diverse array of public open space - wild places on one hand and planted landscapes on the other. The latter includes gardens and arboretums in virtually every county. Despite the state of the economy and shrinking public budgets, development of botanically interesting sites is something of a growth industry. Strange, but true.

The newest entry is the Pohatcong Native Arboretum in Washington Township, Warren County, which was dedicated Tuesday at the 91-acre site at Mine Hill Road. In late April, we saw the formal opening of Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, a 28-acre site on a former early 21st century estate, and late last year, the Thielke Arboretum in Glen Rock announced development of a prehistoric garden of very ancient plant species on a portion of its 11-acre grounds. These projects often arise from the vision and passion of driven individuals, and in the case of the Pohatcong site, that would be Anthony Pasquini, a lifelong resident of Washington and former program supervisor for Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service. Founded in Autumn 2002, Pasquini has spent the past 11 years getting the native plant arboretum not off the ground exactly, but into it.

Starting with 40 species native to northwestern New Jersey, the arboretum now has a collection of 130 indigenous species from 34 plant families, ranging from such familiar characters as white pine, flowering dogwood and American holly to such relative rarities as the pawpaw, shagbark hickory, and swamp rose.

"This has been an enormous research project, first to identify the native trees and shrubs of the Highlands and then to locate them," Pasquini says.

Very much a part of the project and supplying a lot of the planting muscle are students of Warren Hills Regional High School, which abuts the arboretum grounds. The township, which owns the site, its public works department and local environmental groups are other partners.

The new arboretum with its labeled plants, occupies about seven acres of this pristine parcel. The pleasures here are of a low-key sort - hiking, fishing, botanizing and "simply enjoying the round-topped mountains, the trees and sky," as Pasquini says.

Warren County sits astride the New York-New Jersey Highlands, a mountainous region formed some 400 million years ago when volcanic islands collided with the North American continent-in-the-making. Glaciers plowed their way through the area from 21,000 to 13,000 B.C., gouging out lakes and leaving behind rocky moraines.

This is prime trout stream country - the Musconetcong, Pequest, and other tributaries offering good sport for freshwater fisherman. The Kittatiny Ridge is the highest elevation at 1,803 feet, but the Pohatcong Ridge includes Pohatcong Mountain at a not-to-shabby 924 feet.

"I have been working on this project as something I can offer my hometown," Pasquini says. Warren Hills is my alma matar. I've swum in these streams, climbed these mountains. Realizing this vision has been fulfilling and joyful."

"Native" refers not only to plants, but to people. Not a great deal is known about the early inhabitants of the regions, but historians believe that the ancestors of the Lenape had settlements in the area as early as 1000 A.D.

The arboretum's original design was contributed to by "Seneca" Jeff Stevens, who brought a Native American sensibility to the project with construction of a stone "Circle of Life" - which fits right into the reverence for the natural world that Pasquini hopes to inspire.

After 11 years, he is ready to hand off the arboretum to a new group of leaders, and is actively seeking a coordinator - and the next series of grants to move the project forward. The township handles most of the general maintenance, but Pasquini worries about the fragility of all planted landscapes.

"The arboretum will always need tending and, without it the whole project could fail," he says. "The more people who love the arboretum the better. We are proud to say there is a major arboretum in Washington Township, New Jersey, and we hope it is here for a long time."

Anthony returns to the arboretum project in Fall 2010. In an all out effort, he triples the plant collection and labels all the trees. Pohatcong Native Arboretum lives on!

Pohatcong Creek arboretum nearly complete after 11-year effort

By Todd Petty / The Warren Reporter

March 26, 2013

WASHINGTON TWP. — Founder and director of the Pohatcong Creek Watershed Native Arboretum here is completing his 11-year involvement with the arboretum and plans to pass it off to the community this summer.

Anthony Pasquini began work on the arboretum with 40 species of plants in 2002 with Rutgers Cooperative Extension. The arboretum is located on Mine Hill Road in the middle of the in Pohatcong Creek Natural Area, a Washington Township Park. The scope of the arboretum has grown considerably since then. In 2012, 45 species were added, and the four-acre arboretum currently includes 130 species of trees and shrubs. It's located along the Pohatcong Creek.

The diversity of the arboretum itself is reflected in the local landscape, which is “so rich and diverse,” Pasquini said, adding that he “wants as many people to fall in love” with the arboretum as possible. The arboretum is one of the most comprehensive in the mid-Atlantic, Pasquini said.

The project will be completed before the dedication ceremony in June, Pasquini said. Yet to be completed are ID plaques, signs, website and logo.

Pasquini said he has put in 10,000 hours of work and some of his own money into it. He hopes to be reimbursed for his expenses through grants. Hundreds of people have been involved with the project, he said, including high school students and the local department of public works who have helped with maintenance.

Township Administrator Peter deBoer said Pasquini has been in contact with the Township Committee throughout the project and has “put a lot of hard work over the years into the project.” “He’s done a good job,” he said.

James Duffy, a junior at Warren Hills High School who has worked as Arboretum chair, helps to coordinate activity with the students there. Students help with planting and maintenance, he said, adding that they also use the arboretum for educational opportunities.

Pasquini thanked Harmony Sand & Gravel in Belvidere and Arborcare of Port Murray for donating materials and services.

The project could easily fall into disrepair without the public support, said Pasquini, who is hoping the project will be maintained with the help of new leadership and the community.

The trees and shrubs were labelled in an innovative style twelve years into the project, by one-of-a-kind, framed anodized aluminum ID plaques, welded at a 55 degree angle, then permanent bonding tape-mounted, on 3/4 inch stainless steel posts, set in concrete. The lettering on the anodized ID plaques lasts up to 50 years!

Pohatcong Creek arboretum founder hopes Warren Hills High School will take over

The Warren Reporter

on November 08, 2011

WASHINGTON TWP. — The Pohatcong Creek Native Plant Arboretum was founded in 2002 along the Pohatcong Creek one mile north of downtown Washington. The arboretum is a culmination of Anthony Pasquini's work begun in 1997 consisting of 15 or so ecological forest restoration projects around the state of New Jersey. Pasquini has kept the arboretum alive in fits and starts for 9 years. All the while juggling his spare time to take care of all the other projects. But now he is digging in for an all out effort to somehow bring this whole thing to completion.

He began what he calls his “pet project” while he was working at Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Forestry in New Brunswick. The arboretum, located on Mine Hill Road, was initially funded with federal grant money. The Washington Department of Public Works and a handful of students over the years from Warren Hills High School have also helped to maintain and develop the project.

Though the fenced-in area is essentially completed, an area roughly 225 feet by 75 feet, populated with baby trees and shrubs, there is still extensive project expansion and development to be done, Pasquini says. Identification plaques, an interpretive sign, labeling of large trees, and clearing new planting areas to increase the collection, are examples of things that he would like to add.

"Plus there is the issue of plant mortality. A few difficult plants needed to be replaced several times. We watered with buckets from the river until we thankfully received a reliable water source. Protecting trees with tubes and fencing can help to make friends with the local deer population. Man's follies have left a terrible mess. Deer eat everything and sometimes eliminate plant species entirely," he says.

The surrounding property includes 91 acres that feature additional wild native plants and shrub specimens. There are over 60 species of plants and trees in the arboretum, according to Pasquini. The plants and trees are arranged by botanical family.

"The energetic focal point of the arboretum is arranged as a Native American medicine wheel laid out horizontally with a tree planted for each compass direction. This also represents ceremonial grounds in a circle of life with a fire mound in the center. And a reference to glowing stones inside a sweat lodge," he said. "There are seven directions: the sun, the east, the north, the west, the south, the earth and the "self", which pulls all of these directions together. Prayers for help and blessings are asked to the 4-legged, 2-legged, winged, root, rock, and water. There are many traditions with various beliefs."

Pasquini is looking to the Warren Hills High School, which is less than a mile from the arboretum, to absorb the project, perhaps as part of the curriculum. “We are hoping that the teachers will come up with their own ideas,” he said. During a presentation to the community at the arboretum on Wednesday, Nov. 2, he said the experience would “offer some career skills and enjoyment” for students.

Superintendent Thomas Altonjy said the school is gauging the interest level of its students. “We’re exploring different ways that it could tie into our curriculum and that student groups could be actively involved. It’s something that we’re exploring as a tie-in to extracurricular activities or curricular endeavors and it could be a learning experience.”

The location of the arboretum is important to Pasquini, who is an alumnus of Warren Hills High School. He also said that he spent a lot of time in the area visiting his grandparents, who lived for 50 years about a mile from the project.

But for the larger community, “it’s so important because it’s promoting native plants and it’s promoting protection of Pohatcong Creek and watershed. The arboretum is a representation of the native plants that are in the Pohatcong Creek watershed. I love the area, I am from the area, and I want people to enjoy those native plants as much as I do and have the opportunity to learn,” he said.

According to Pasquini, there have been about 35 volunteers from the school and local community who have spent the last two months planting trees and shrubs, edging the beds and laying glacial stones. “One person can’t sustain something like this,” he said.

Nick Allen, a senior at Warren Hills High School who recently planted a Shag Bark Hickory tree at the arboretum, has been involved with the project since early last spring and throughout the summer. He said that he enjoys working at the arboretum and wants to study forestry or plant biology in college.

Dawn Moore, director of curriculum and instruction at Warren Hills, said she would like to see students get involved with the project. “In the age where the environment is so important, I think it’d be an important facet,” she said.

Pasquini says he is looking for donations for the identification plaques that will identify the genus and species of the plants in the arboretum. If you’d like to make a donation, call Anthony Pasquini at 908-343-5274.

Pohatcong Creek Native Plant Arboretum needs volunteers

By Gina Varamo, Express-Times

on June 05, 2011

Anthony Pasquini started the Pohatcong Creek Watershed Native Plant Arboretum in 2002. He never thought the project would be completed, but nine years later, he is not giving up, and is out there again working like mad to somehow accomplish this seemingly, never-ending goal.

"It's been a labor of love," Pasquini said recently at the arboretum in Washington Township, Warren County. "This is exactly what I want to do with my life. But also what is common in all of our true endevours, it brings a touch of desperation and distress. Loving plants as many of us know can drive us to drastic means."

The arboretum on Mine Hill Road contains 57 species of trees and shrubs native to the Pohatcong Creek watershed area in northwest New Jersey. It is open to the public, and is part of a Washington Township park with 91 acres.

The project started in 2002 with a federal grant awarded through the state's division of watershed management. Pasquini and assistant designer Jeff Stevens created the plans for the arboretum. Students from Warren Hills Regional High School's environmental club SAVE, and Future Farmers of America helped Pasquini plant in its beginning stages, he said.

"The Warren Hills students did a great job," Pasquini said. "Now, I hope the arboretum can bring joy to the students, teachers and the community as a whole once it is completed."

To finish the project, Pasquini plans to place weed barriers in the beds and cover them with decorative glacial stone. He also wants to purchase identification tags that will list the plant's genus and species and their common names.

Pasquini is looking for volunteers and about $2,000 in donations to help him finish the arboretum.

"I have been committed to the project for years," he said. "I want to put in all of the effort to get it perfect so it lives on.

Pasquini said the project has mainly been a "one-man show." The township owns the property and cuts the grass, but he has been trimming the trees and maintaining the beds. Since all of the grant money had already been exhausted by 2003, he also used his own money to buy plants needed to expand the native plant collection, he said.

"It was just irresistible," he said. "It is a special place like no other, that I want the whole community to enjoy as I have."

As a result, Pasquini hopes Warren Hills Regional, his alma mater, will begin to maintain the arboretum once it is completed. The students started the project in the beginning, and he would like to see them continue with the project throughout the years.

"It's time for the high school to come back to take it on," Pasquini said. "It's close to the high school, educational and will bring joy to the students and the community. It just makes sense, and it will live on through the students." Daryl Detrick, a teacher at the high school, was involved in the original planting of the arboretum in 2002. He said Pasquini is very passionate about the project, and it is a great educational opportunity for the students."I think it is a great thing to add to the curriculum. I hope we find interest within the school and are able to utilize it."

Photo by Duane Sedlock

Pohatcong Native Arboretum, Washington, New Jersey

Organizational Acknowledgement:

Anthony acknowledges Landmark, a worldwide organization offering courses in leadership, communication, and transformational personal growth. In particular, Landmark's Team, Management, and Leadership Program. The program provided innovative tools, including a quarterly planning structure to fulfill project goals, which contributed tremendously to this accomplishment.

Pohatcong Native Arboretum was essentially completed as the result of 14 consecutive quarterly plans! For an opportunity for more information visit https://www.landmarkworldwide.com/