Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission

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Elks Pine Woods

 

In 2003, East Brunswick acquired 10 acres along Farrington Lake from the Elks. This little known park is undeveloped except for a few meandering dirt trails. The park doesn’t even have an official name yet. It is almost certain that no one else will be there and you will have the woods to yourself. The park juts out into Farrington Lake and can be seen from Riva Avenue across a beautiful cove that separates it from Lake View Day camp.

 

The park is easily accessible by parking in the large gravel parking lot at the end of the access road to the Elks Lodge (off a long narrow road from Hardenburg lane). A sign near the corner of the parking lot notes the access point to the trailhead.  This small park is a real gem with its outstanding views of Farrington Lake, its truly peaceful feel and deep shade from towering White Pines, and the likelihood of finding a Great Horned Owl or at least evidence of one. 

 

Entering the woods from the parking lot leads through a typical mixed deciduous forest along an easy to follow dirt trail. Bird watching can be interesting in this stretch but the species are likely to be common.

 

A bit further into the woods the trail parallels Farrington Lake and there are a number of spurs that lead to the shoreline. These are good vantage points to scan the water for diving ducks and other waterfowl. But the “piece de resistance” of this park is the towering White Pines in the northwestern corner. Unfortunately storms have damaged some of these huge pines but those that are left are still impressive.

The ground beneath the pines is a soft bed of needles and even in the brightest sun they cast dense shade in the forest below. On the hottest days in summer the shade from these pines keeps the air cool. These pines also harbor Great Horned Owls and their pellets can usually be found easily by searching near the base of the trees.

 

The dense shade and deep layer of pine needles also keep the understory open.

 

Not much grows under these conditions, but one plant to look for is the evergreen Striped Pipsissewa. The green leaves with white stripes are distinctive in any season and it blooms with pretty pinkish white flowers in the spring. 

 

 The trail also passes near stands of young White Pines that are the offspring of the larger ones. In time, these White Pines will also likely reach the canopy and create dense shade that will offset the storm damage that has impacted the more mature trees.

 

Take a walk through this little park and experience what Town Attorney Michael Baker characterized as "the single most beautiful piece of property in East Brunswick."