2005-10-27 / Front Page

Event helps conservation foundation raise $150,000


Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — The Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) held its 28th annual dinner dance on the latest addition to the Monmouth County Park System.

The event, which raised about $150,000 for land preservation in the county, took place on the Fisher-Stern tract on Sept. 17.

Drew D’Appolito, the park manager of MCF’s latest acquisition, said the park system took over the 44-acre Fisher-Stern property in July. Although the land is currently open to the public, there is no parking yet, he said.

D’Appolito said there is “incredible wildlife” on the property.

“Birders will go wild here,” he said.

The park system is still evaluating Catherine Fisher-Stern’s house, where she lived on the property until her death in early 2004, for structural soundness vs. historic worth, according to D’Appolito. The grand old house on the river is in need of repair.

Andy Coeyman, director of acquisitions for the park system, said the original house on the property burned down many years ago. That house, he said, was rumored to have been owned and lived in by George Washington’s nephew.

Park system director James Truncer said the new park links the 741-acre Hartshorne Woods Park and the 258-acre Huber Woods Park, which are also county-owned in Middletown.

Three celebrities who have done a public service announcement for MCF also attended the dinner dance. Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the rock band Blondie and a Middletown resident, showed up with red tresses.

Disc jockey Big Joe Henry was also in attendance. He said he has been a Sea Bright resident for 15 years and likes the area so much that he commutes to Trenton for his radio show rather than move closer to work.

“I think this is a tremendous charity,” Henry said.

Frank Dicopoulos, a Marlboro resident who for 19 years has played Frank Cooper on the soap opera “The Guiding Light,” also attended the event. He and his wife, Teja Anderson, moved into the area five years ago, he said, because they wanted to raise their two children in a place with farms and open space that is close to New York City. Anderson, an MCF trustee, said she would like to work with the foundation on the preservation of the former Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital property.

Anderson is familiar with conservation work. Her sister, Judy Anderson, is the head of Columbia Land Preservation in Columbia County, N.Y.

MCF President Judith Stanley Coleman told the crowd that the preservation of the Fisher-Stern property has been a dream for MCF for 15 years. She said that dream has now become a reality.

Earlier this year, MCF announced a $5 million capital campaign to continue preserving land. So far, the organization has reached $2 million toward that goal, according to Coleman.

Coleman thanked the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders for all it has done for MCF, giving a special thanks to Truncer and the park system.

“It’s not just a problem of saving land,” Coleman said. “It’s a serious health problem.”

Coleman also said if county acreage is not preserved, it will become an urban area.

“That’s no good for children,” she said. “If you don’t have good health, you have nothing.”

Coleman, who said the county needs better zoning, asked attendees “to tell elected officials they have got to make it happen.”

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