NREF is a non-profit, 501C-3 corporation, dedicated to environmental leadership through education, research, interpretation and communication. The organization, founded in 1976, continues to provide ecological programming and activities, educating toward an environmental ethic.
NREF operates the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education under a lease agreement with New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. The Lighthouse Center is the site of the former Lighthouse Camp for the Blind, a facility that had been utilized as a summer camp, by the New York based, non-profit Lighthouse International for 50 years, beginning in 1927.
Located on 194 acres adjacent to Barnegat Bay in Waretown, Ocean County, the site contains such diverse habitats as salt marsh, tidal creek, brackish impoundment, freshwater pond and swamps, maritime forest, dune thicket and open meadows. Facilities on the site include cabins, a lodge, a dining hall, a boat house, two dormitories, accessible restrooms, a computer lab, an outdoor bowling alley, a marine field station, and a craft cottage. Facilities and much of the site itself are handicapped accessible, featuring ramps, handrails inside and out, even along the scenic quarter mile trail leading to the bay front. There is a pier extending 250 feet out into the bay. The “Experience Barnegat Bay” Trail provides access to 8 outdoor learning stations and several natural, scenic, and historical points of interest.
The Lighthouse Camp, which had closed in 1997, was targeted along with the adjacent Bowker Tract in the “Century Plan”, a study produced by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), as two of 100 ecologically significant locations within the Barnegat Bay watershed worthy of acquisition. TPL negotiated the sale of the camp, funded by their organization with a 50% match provided by a New Jersey Green Acres grant. The sale and subsequent transfer of the property to New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife was completed in August, 2000. The Bowker Tract was acquired in 2005 with Green Acres funding.
The lease agreement between NJ Fish and Wildlife and NREF, enables the operation the Center by NREF for education programs, marine research and as an eco-tour site and conference center. “Experience Barnegat Bay” programs are offered, by reservation, to school and scout groups, and civic organizations.
NREF Board of Directors: President: Nancy Eriksen, Vice President: Paul Jivoff, Ph.D., Treasurer: Janet Heller, Secretary: Christine Raabe, Jack Henderson, Mary Carty, Owen Heller, and John Wnek, Ph.D.
McDuffy Barrow is the Center’s Naturalist and Pola Galie and George Snyder the Operations Managers.