Ken Atkinson has preserved over 13,500 acres in South Jersey. Jody Carrara monitored bald eagle nests for the NJDEP just as they were making a come back in our state. And this past summer, the South Jersey Land and Water Trust (SJLWT) welcomed these two experienced individuals into their organization as new staff members.
Since the SJLWT’s creation in 2006, they have worked to preserve and protect the land and water resources of southern New Jersey. In addition to their preservation efforts, they’ve also organized cleanups, conducted stream testing, advocated for better environmental policies, and more. As of this year, however, they decided to expand their programs, so they hired Carrara and Atkinson. Both of these new team members each have over thirty years of experience working in the environment. Carrara is joining the SJLWT as their Program Coordinator, and Atkinson as their new Land Program Manager.
“I’ll be responsible for overseeing farmland and open space preservation activities for the Trust,” Atkinson says, “I’m excited to get started.” As Land Program Manager, he’ll be working to expand land preservation projects for the organization. The SJLWT has preserved over 1,500 acres of open space and over 600 acres of farmland since its inception. Among these are Tall Pines State Preserve and the Oldmans Creek Preserve, but they’re looking to preserve more. Atkinson notes, “I’m really looking forward to helping the SJLWT expand their land preservation program and get more of New Jersey’s natural spaces protected and preserved.”
While Atkinson is focused on land, Carrara will be working on water-focused initiatives. “A large part of my job will involve water quality projects,” Carrara says, “I’ll be in charge of the SJLWT’s rain garden projects and starting some water quality education programs. These can help combat stormwater runoff and water pollution.” Considering the dangerous increase in the toxic algae blooms in New Jersey -- which are caused in large part by stormwater runoff -- these programs couldn’t be more timely.
The SJLWT is excited to have both individuals in their organization. “Both Ken and Jody have so much experience,” Christine Nolan, the Executive Director of the SJLWT notes, “They’re passionate and dedicated individuals who have spearheaded all sorts of environmental initiatives for decades, from recycling programs to land preservation work to wildlife protection projects.”
Indeed, each has a wealth of varied experiences in working in the environment. In addition to her bald eagle-nest monitoring, Carrara has also served in many different roles in environmental organizations. She worked at the Gardner's Basin Aquarium in Atlantic City and served on the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions. She even started a local organization, the Concerned Citizens of Cape May County, for which she received an award from Audubon.
Atkinson, too, has worked for decades protecting New Jersey’s natural resources. While in the County’s Parks and Recreation Department, he created environmental programs for various parks, including Red Bank Battlefield and Scotland Run Park. He later served as the Gloucester County’s Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator. “I helped to oversee the increase of Gloucester County’s recycling rate from 52% in 1993 to 77% in 1998,” Atkinson says, “At that time it was the highest yearly average ever recorded in New Jersey.”
In 2003 he became the Director of the Gloucester County Office of Land Preservation. “I had direct responsibility for the planning, implementation and management of Gloucester County’s farmland and open space preservation efforts,” Atkinson notes, “At the time of my retirement, Gloucester County’s preserved land total stood at more than 21,500 acres, with more than 13,500 acres being preserved under my tenure.” Atkinson was always recognized for his work. He received the Special Service to Agriculture Award from the Gloucester County Board of Agriculture.
Atkinson, Carrara, and everyone at the SJLWT are excited to get to work in continuing to protect and preserve New Jersey’s environment. Each staff member with the SJLWT, like Atkinson and Carrara, come from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common -- a concern for the environment. As Atikinson says, “Each person at the SJLWT brings an expertise and dedication to their individual responsibilities, and it truly feels like a team effort. I’m glad to be a part of this team.”