Controlled Burn

Recent Stockton University graduate, Tim McWilliams, now working for the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service, grabs his drip torch before starting a controlled burn in the forest at Stockton University on Wednesday November 23, 2016. The Pinelands Short Course, to be held March 11 at Stockton, will include a tour of the school's managed forest this year. (Viviana Pernot / Staff Photographer)

The Pinelands Commission has added a half-day guided van tour of the Mullica River watershed and new classes on the environment and local history to its 28th annual Pinelands Short Course.

Atlantic County history and the Leeds family will play a big part in this year’s event, held March 11 at Stockton University in Galloway Township, said commission spokesman Paul Leakan.

Norman Goos will tell the story of 1st Lt. Jeremiah Leeds, a key figure from a colonial family that owned almost all of what is known today as Atlantic City. Goos is President of the Col. Richard Somers Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Brian Regal, a Kean University assistant professor of the history of science and medicine, will discuss the origins of the story of the Jersey Devil, and how that story evolved from the politics of early colonial Atlantic County, said Leakan. Legend has it the “monster” was born to the same Leeds family.

Three on-campus outdoor field courses include one on identifying bird species, a tour of Stockton’s campus forests, and a look at biodiversity hotspots on the school’s campus, a university spokesperson said.

The Mullica River tour will be 2½ hours, and will include stops at various watershed habitats.

The Pinelands Short Course provides a venue for the commission to educate the public, which is part of its mission. More than 1,400 people have attended the course in the last three years alone, said commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg.

Registration is now open for the daylong event.

There will be 38 presentations to choose from, covering a wide variety of ecological and cultural topics, according to the commission.

President Harvey Kesselman said the university is pleased Stockton faculty will share their knowledge at the Short Course. They include forest expert George Zimmermann, entomologist Jamie Cromartie, river expert Claude Epstein, professor emeritus, and birding expert John Rokita.

New courses include: Coyotes in New Jersey; the Fungi Kingdom and its Importance to the Pinelands; Raptors and Reptiles in the Pinelands (with live animals); The Life Story of 1st Lt. Jeremiah Leeds, a “Piney” who once owned almost all of what is now Atlantic City.

Other new topics include an overview of insects’ roles in the Pinelands; the geologic and land use history of Pinelands rivers; a virtual field trip of the rivers and streams in the Barnegat Bay watershed; the Lenape and their use of the region’s environment; and honey bee rescue.

Returning popular presentations from the past include threatened and endangered snakes in the Pinelands, the Jersey Devil and origins of New Jersey; the secret world of plants and pollinators; and Pinelands frogs and toads and wilderness survival skills.

Pinelands-themed food, coffee and other refreshments will be available for purchase at Stockton’s Campus Center, and there will be Pinelands music.

The Pinelands Short Course is registered with the New Jersey Department of Education, and professional development credits are available to New Jersey teachers who attend, the commissions said.

Senior citizens and students get discounted registration fees.

To request a hard copy of the brochure and registration form, call 609-894-7300, ext. 125. The form is also available online at

Contact: 609-272-7219


Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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