SOMERS POINT — The Patcong Creek Foundation will open a children’s environmental museum in the Somers Point Youth Center, which the nonprofit organization has leased for $1 a year.
The Seashore Science Center will have hands-on exhibits that talk about crabs and crabbing, energy and efficiency, pollution and the effects pollution has on the region, said foundation Chairman Ron Meischker.
“We think kids should see the marine life that is out there,” Meischker said. “If that helps them develop a level of interest, sets them on a path to be a marine biologist, boat builder or being a tugboat captain ... we think we are meeting our mission at that point.”
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The five-year lease was approved recently by City Council. The building is on Marks Road, just off Bethel Road in Lawrence “Bud” Kern Memorial Park.
Meischker, who is also a Somers Point councilman, said the museum should open in about six months.
Meischker had gone to the youth center to see whether he could extend its Wi-Fi to an area of the nearby firehouse, and found it had been moved to the senior center, because “nobody had been using the youth center,” Meischker said.
So foundation Executive Director Lisa Bender came up with the idea of making it a children’s museum and the office for the foundation, Meischker said. She and Meischker took the idea to the recreation commission, the economic development advisory board and the public schools, and got support from all, he said.
Glenn Insurance has agreed to sponsor a turtle exhibit, Meischker said. It will include box turtles, snapping turtles and diamondback terrapins.
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Bender said the foundation is a 501c3 charity that grew out of the annual Assault on Patcong Creek crabbing tournament, which last year attracted 400 crabbers. It will be held June 21 and 22 in 2019.
“It’s a huge event every year. It started making money, and the group decided they should start doing some good with that money,” Bender said.
She said the foundation does environmental education and stewardship initiatives.
It participates in three cleanups a year — the Linwood Environmental Commission’s Patcong Creek Cleanup in May, one in October at the Corbin City Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area and a new one the foundation started this year along Bay Avenue in Somers Point, called the Steelman Bay Cleanup.
“We believe in volunteerism as stewardship,” Bender said. “Once someone helps, they want to keep things clean.”
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The foundation has worked with Somers Point schools on lessons and field trips, and this year is sponsoring the Science Fair and STEAM Expo, she said. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
“We will be mentoring students to help with science fair projects,” Bender said. They will work with the city’s public school students and with those at St. Joseph Regional School.
The group also started a bimonthly speakers series last month, hosting New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Shellfisheries acting Chief Russ Babb, who talked about the ecology of oystering and crabbing.
For more information, visit patcongcreekfoundation.org.