The New Jersey School of Conservation is on course to reopen and will include a partnership with Sussex County Community College and courses to be taught by college personnel.
The school will offer several programs starting next month. Some will be free and others will have a $20 admission fee. The courses will cover a variety of environmental topics throughout the property in Stokes State Forest, including fishing, hiking, tree biology and even how to avoid getting lost in the woods.
For a full listing of the summer schedule, including times and course details, visit www.friendsofnjsoc.org/events.
SCCC President Jon Connolly will also be involved and lead courses titled "Dendrology and Tree Biology" on June 7 and "Nutrients and Energy in Ecosystems" on June 14.
Connolly is a research biologist who earned a master's degree in forest science at Yale University and a doctorate at the University of Maine. He taught middle school science and college biology before beginning the administrative career that led him to SCCC.
"We are thrilled to be involved with the School of Conservation," Connolly said. "It has a storied history of environmental education, and we are excited to now be part of it."
The school was in danger of closing last spring when Montclair State University — which had managed SOC since 1981 — announced that it would return the property to the state due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation, a nonprofit that provides support for the school, finalized a temporary access agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection through the end of the year. Under the terms of the deal, the organization can use 135 of the school's 240 acres for various day programs, fundraising efforts and open houses.
The access agreement is renewable for two more annual terms, and the DEP is expected to request a long-term lease agreement during that time.
With a more secure future outlook, SOC officials are excited for a partnership they said will mutually benefit the school and the college.
"While I'm particularly interested in the immediate program possibilities, the long-term prospects and outcomes from NJSOC and SCCC working together are huge," said Shayne Russell, vice president of the friends group.
"This is such a tremendous way for the community to get involved with both the School of Conservation and SCCC and will serve as a wonderful introduction to both for lifelong learners and prospective students," Russell said. "Can you think of a better way for the family of a prospective student to get a feel for what SCCC is like than to spend the afternoon on a walk through the woods with the college president?"