LENAPE WOODS NATURE PRESERVE:
A HUMAN & NATURAL HISTORY
The following text provides a guide to the history and ecology of Lenape Woods Nature Preserve in Atlantic Highlands. Nestled among tall trees and steep slopes, Lenape Woods offers approximately 51 acres of beautiful and natural woodlands and freshwater wetlands that are the headwaters to Many Mind Creek. These wonderful resources (located in a modest 1.2 square mile community) are available from dawn to dusk for hiking, walking, cross-country skiing, bird watching, nature observation, and everyday enjoyment. It is the goal of this document for people to gain a better understanding of the natural environment in Lenape Woods and to inspire individuals to explore the woods soon.
WHERE IS LENAPE WOODS LOCATED?
Lenape Woods is currently separated into two sections, east and west. The Borough of Atlantic Highlands hopes to soon connect both sections through the purchase of lands for open space and the creation of trail easements from local property owners.
Lenape Woods East (approx. 36 acres)
Main entrance is located near the corner of East Highland Avenue and Ocean Blvd. On-street parking is available on East Highland Avenue.
Lenape Woods West (approx. 15 acres)
Main entrance is located on the corner of Sears Avenue and East Washington Avenue. On-street parking is available on East Washington Avenue. A secondary entrance is located near the intersection of East Highland Avenue, Mount Avenue, and Sears Landing Road. No parking is available.
WHO MAINTAINS THE PRESERVE AND HOW CAN I HELP?
Currently, many people and organizations volunteer their time to maintain the woods for all species to enjoy. In the past several years, volunteer labor from residents and various local organizations, such as Boy Scout troops 22 & 97, Cub Scout Troop 22, the Hartshorne Unit of the Girl Scouts, the AH Shade Tress Commission, and Brookdale College students affiliated with New Jersey Water Watch, have been crucial to preserving the preserve. Activities have included collecting over 3 tons of trash and debris, creating trail borders and waterbars, planting trees in open areas, manufacturing information kiosks, and creating an outdoor classroom at the bottom of the Mountain Laurel trail.
The Borough has also been involved in helping to purchase trees, fund an information kiosk in Lenape Woods East, and fund the purchase of boundary signs throughout the preserve. Borough employees have also helped in planting trees, and in the collection and removal of over 3 tons of trash and debris over the years.
If you would like to help improve the health of Lenape Woods for all species to enjoy, trail maintenance events occur six times a year during autumn and spring. It is always 1-3pm the third Sunday in September, October, November, February, March, and April. Join your friends and neighbors to help improve your local community!
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME?
The name of the preserve and the hills within the area both come from the Native Americans, the first human occupants to this region. The local native peoples in eastern Monmouth County were called the Navesinks. The Navesinks were part of Lenape society. The Lenape were a native North American people of the eastern Algonquian language family (that extended from southeastern Canada to North Carolina) and shared with other Algonquian groups an Eastern Woodlands culture, which is an archaeological term that in New Jersey dates from 1,000 BC to AD 1600.
The Eastern Woodland era has been generally characterized by archaeologists in New Jersey as containing a pattern of increasing social and technological complexity, such as the development of the bow and arrow, and triangular lithic points for more effective hunting practices. In addition, pottery vessels were adopted (after a period when stone vessels were used) that allowed for more efficient cooking and the storage of surplus plant foods. Traditional food-getting activities, such as hunting, gathering, fishing, and the harvesting of shellfish was supplemented with the adoption of growing plants. Tropical plants, such as maize, squash, and beans, that were introduced from Mesoamerica and in the Midwest were also farmed with domesticated plants, such as sunflowers, amaranth, marsh elder, and goosefoot and related plants that added to an already diverse diet.
The Navesinks could have made extensive use of the terrestrial and marine resources in Atlantic Highlands by travelling to upland sites to undertake hunting and gathering activities, and along the bayshore coast for shellfish harvesting, gathering, and fishing. Small-scale cultivation could have taken place near the fertile soils of freshwater wetland areas near local creeks and streams.
WHO IS POPAMORA AND WHY IS THERE A TRAIL NAMED AFTER HIM ?
During the mid-1600s, Popamora was an elder of the Navesink group of Lenape people. In March 1664, a group of European businessman from New York and Rhode Island wanted to purchase land in the Raritan and Sandy Hook bayshore region to establishment new European settlements. They negotiated and signed a deed with several Lenape elders, including Popamora, for lands that covered the entire Navesink peninsula that stretched from Keansburg to the Navesink River. At the time, it was the first and largest land sale deal along the Jersey Shore between Native Americans and Europeans. In return for 35 square miles of coastal real estate, Popamora and the Navesinks received from the European people wampum and goods, such as 5 coats, 1 gun, 12 pounds of tobacco, and 10 gallons of liquor; worth about $23,400 in today’s value. In honor and out of respect for Popamora who honored these woods and all living things, we named a trail after him.
ARE THERE ANY EARLY EUROPEAN REFERENCES TO THE LAND?
The earliest general reference to land in present-day Lenape Woods comes from Robert Juet, who was a ship’s officer or a master’s mate on Henry Hudson’s third voyage that attempted to find a northeast passage to the Orient. In September 1609, as Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon, was travelling along the Jersey Shore and entering present-day Sandy Hook Bay, Juet noted in his journal that, “to the northward off us we saw high hills….This is a very good land to fall with, and a pleasant land to see.”
In addition, Thomas Henry Leonard in, From Indian Trail to Electric Rail (1923) on page 77 mentions that the headwaters of Many Mind Creek (present-day Lenape Woods West) was called “Deep Hollow” during the American Revolution. Local American Revolutionary soldiers used this site for their horses to remain safe and feed on wetland vegetation during the winter when snow and bitterly cold temperatures made it difficult to ride. The surrounding steep slopes to the creek would have naturally hidden horses from the British, who were stationed at neighboring Sandy Hook.
WHY AND WHEN WAS LENAPE WOODS MADE INTO A NATURE PRESERVE?
In the 1950’s through the mid-1990s, lands around Lenape Woods were adapted for various anthropocentric uses, such as gravel pits, an office site, and residential development. During this time, the woods was being used by local residents as an illegal dumping ground from everything to newspapers, glass bottles, and aluminum cans to refrigerators, car parts, and rubber tires.
In the mid-1990s, with the threat of development from the construction of over 50 townhouses, a group of concerned citizens and neighborhood associations from Middletown, Highlands, and Atlantic Highlands banded together to preserve these woods forever. They termed themselves, the “Lenape Woods Coalition” and received widespread financial and political support throughout the Bayshore region and Monmouth County. By the end of 1997, through the assistance of NJ State Green Acres funds, the Borough of Atlantic Highlands purchased five tracts of land along the Route 36 corridor that essentially created the origin of the Lenape Woods Nature Preserve.
In 2001, eight more acres of forested land was acquired (in part via NJ State Green Acre funds) for Lenape Woods East through a joint venture between Atlantic Highlands and Middletown Township that helped to stop an 8-year fight against Sudden City. If approved, the development plan would have created 5 large buildings for residential use with 470 units near the preserve.
Today, the battle goes on to preserve more land surrounding Lenape Woods Nature Preserve. This will help to create a greenway to connect both sections of Lenape Woods, provide sufficient openspace for conservation, and increase the recreational needs of the community.
WHY IS LENAPE WOODS ECOLOGICALLY IMPORTANT?
The preserve provides habitat for a diversity of plants and animals. Many of these species require a forest or wetland ecosystem to survive. The number one reason why species become extent is the loss of habitat through human development activities. Lenape Woods provides food, nesting, and places to live for many animals.
Photosynthesis is the physical process in the plants that uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce energy-supplying sugars for either a tree or plant. In the process the leaves give off pure oxygen for species to breathe.
Plants in Lenape Woods helps to prevent erosion, which is the wearing away of soil by wind and rain. In a landscape that has little or no vegetation, or areas with impervious surfaces, heavy rains fall uniformly flows over portions of the landscape and can transport fertile soils into rivers and streams to cause flooding and a degraded natural environment. The forest canopy (treetops) intercepts and gradually re-distributes precipitation that would otherwise cause this flooding and erosion. In addition, the roots of the trees and other vegetation hold soils in place and prevent siltation and the clouding of streams and rivers.
Forests also increase the ability of the land to capture and store valuable groundwater to lessen the impact of droughts or long-term dry spells. Plants are especially efficient at capturing water from fog, which it distributes, like precipitation, into the soil. Water stored in tree roots, trunks, stems, and foliage, as well as the soil of the forest floor, enables forests to maintain an even flow of water in the headwaters of Many Mind and Claypit creeks in times of heavy precipitation or drought.
Riparian vegetation along Many Mind Creek shields the water from summer temperature extremes that may be very stressful, or even fatal, to aquatic life. The cover of leaves and branches brings welcome shade, ensuring that the stream temperature remains cool in the summer and moderate in the winter. Cooler shaded streams have less algae and are able to hold more dissolved oxygen, which aquatic species need to breathe.
WHAT IS THE HYDROLOGY OF LENAPE WOODS?
Snow melt and precipitation in the preserve generally flows south and constitutes the headwaters of two nearby creeks: Many Mind Creek and Claypit Creek.
Many Mind Creek: Precipitation from atop the slope along East Highland Avenue percolate into the soil to form a groundwater source. In Lenape Woods West, Many Mind Creek can be seen as a narrow, slow-moving stream that upwells from groundwater sources in clay layers in the earth north and northeast of the wooden bridge. The area along the creeks’ path is a poorly drained palustrine freshwater-forested wetland system. Soils near the creek are nearly always waterlogged and contain common hydrophyte plants, such as skunk cabbage and arrow arum.
Claypit Creek: Lenape Woods East constitutes the headwaters of the northeastern tributary to Claypit Creek located in the Navesink community of Middletown Township. Precipitation from the steep slopes flows as a groundwater source to upwell as a narrow, slow-moving stream at a site along Navesink Avenue to travel to the creek.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS IN LENAPE WOODS?
There are two major ecological problems in the preserve. First, there is a diminishing biodiversity through the loss of forest habitat in the region. Habitat disruption is a piecemeal process, with the habitat being broken into progressively smaller and more isolated fragments. Habitat fragmentation is disruptive for two reasons. First, remaining areas of habitat becomes separated and configures into “islands.” If these islands of habitat become inordinately far apart, various species may not be able to reproduce. The species may recede if all the isolated islands of habitat become so diminutive that no island could feasible maintain a self-sustaining population. Secondly, habitat fragmentation leads to edge effects, which leads to the loss of breeding grounds and introduces invasive non-native species, such as the Brown-headed Cowbird. These activities have resulted in the loss of natural habitat for native plants and animals.
The second major problem is the introduction of non-native and invasive species. Large numbers of non-native (exotic) species are displacing naturally occurring species within the region. They often have no natural control factors and thus can cause extensive damage to local habitats. Their effects have been devastating over the past century – including the demise of the once prevalent American Chestnut and the American Elm. Both trees were destroyed from the introduction of foreign species. Exotic plants and trees, such as Japanese honeysuckle and Norway maple, have invaded tracts of land within Lenape Woods. Consequently, these plants have displaced the native vegetation. Local botanists have estimated that as many as 33 percent of all plant species presently existing in New Jersey are non-native.
Lenape Woods Nature Preserve is going through continuous change called succession, which arises in biological communities over an extended period of time. The fragments of natural vegetation that exist reflect the historic influence of human activity. Nevertheless, it is believed that as time goes by and more people become aware, Lenape Woods will improve, create a richer habitat for plants and animals.
WHAT IS PEANUT STONE AND BOG IRON?
Peanut stone and bog iron are the two most common minerals in Lenape Woods.
Peanut stone is a conglomerate of quartz and other pebbles imbedded into an iron-oxide rock. The formation of peanut stone took place 11 million years ago and is the most recent geological deposit in the Inner Coastal Plain, which is why it commonly crops up near the surface. Since the 1880s, residents have been using peanut stone to construct fireplace chimneys, stone walls, and the “old stone bridge” over Grand Avenue.
Bog iron (as the name implies) is commonly found in marshes and flooded woodlands, and can be found along heavily eroded sandy steep slopes. Bog iron is generally a smooth rock with a reddish color, as it contain 40% metallic iron. Bog iron was formed via a complex process: ground water, the iron content in marl, and mud and decayed vegetation in swamps was mixed and dried over thousands of years to harden into thick deposits of ore. In Monmouth County during the 1600s and 1700s, European settlers mined bog iron in local streams and creeks to produce utensils, such as plows and axes, and cannon balls for the American Revolution.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON ANIMALS IN LENAPE WOODS?
Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Brown Creeper (Certhia familiaris), Brown Thrasher (Taxostoma rufum), Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Common Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Common Flicker (Colaptes auratus), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Downey Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocpus pileatus), Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus), Red-bellied Woodpecker (Centurus carolinus), Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buto jamaicensis), Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), Rufous-sided Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Screech Owl (Otus asio), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitts carolinensis), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia).
Cabbage (Pieris rapae), Eastern Tailed Blue (Everes comyntas), Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Spring Azure (Celastrina agriolus), Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis), Viceroy (Limenitis archippus), White Admiral (Limeniis arthemis).
REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS:
Common Garter Snake (Thannophis sirtalis), and Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)
COMMON INSECTS & SPIDERS:
American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), Eastern Wood Tick (Ixodidae family), Mosquitoes (Culicidae family), Nine-spotted Ladybug Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), Northern Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia), Northern Walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata), Painted Lady Caterpiller (Cynthia cardui), Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa), Red-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius), Short-legged Shield-back Katydid (Atlanticus testaceus), Tent Caterpillars (Lasiocampidae family), Yellow Jackets (Vespidae family).
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON PLANTS IN LENAPE WOODS?
Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica), Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Common Plantain (Plantago major), English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), Maple Leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris), Morning Honeysuckle (Gaura angustifolia), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii), Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens), Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans), Poison Sumac (Rhus vernix), Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), Swamp Dewberry (Rubus hispidus), Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens), White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus)
American beech (Fagus grandifolia), American chestnut saplings (Castanea dentata), American holly (Ilex opaca), Black Oak (Quercus velutina), Black locust (Robinia x holdtii), Eastern Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Gray birch (Betula populifolia), Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), White oak (Quercus alba), Sweet birch (Betula lenta), White cedar (Thuja occidentalis), White pine (Pinus strobus), Northern Pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), Northern Red oak (Quercus ruba), Norway maple (Acer platanoides), Pin oak (Quercus palustris), Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Red maple (Acer rubrum), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Turkish Sweet Gum (Liquidambar orientalis), White ash (Fraxinus americana).