Natural Resource Inventory of Crosswicks Creek in Chesterfield, NJ
(This is the Executive Summary of a very large study that is available in its entirety at the Municipal Building.)
AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc on behalf of the Chesterfield Township Environmental Commission conducted a Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) of the Crosswicks Creek watershed within the municipal boundaries of Chesterfield Township (the "study area"), with particular emphasis on the Crosswicks Creek riparian corridor. The objective of this study was to develop an NRI that could serve as an amendment or supplement to an existing planning document, The Crosswicks Creek/Doctors Creek Watershed Greenway Plan (FX Browne 2004). This amendment was needed to fill the Greenways Plan's Data gap for Chesterfield Township.
The focus of the NRI was (1) natural and physical resource identification and (2) the evaluation of public access feasibility to Crosswicks Creek. The scope of the project included the compilation and organization of municipal landowner records, an on-water stream survey of the entire main channel within the municipality, a pedestrian survey of properties abutting Crosswicks Creek, the analysis of existing natural and physical resources data, and an evaluation of public access feasibility at select locations along the riparian corridor. The study was conducted from January 2006 to June 2006 with such assistance from the Chesterfield Environmental Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
The Crosswicks Creek watershed is situated in the Costal Plain physiographic province with sediments that are predominantly Cretaceous sand, silt, and clay. The bedrock geology of the study area is composed of the Merchantville, Woodbury, Englishtown, Marshalltown, Wenonah, Mount Laurel and Cohansey Formations; the surficial geology is composed of Pensauken Formation, Marshalltown Formation, Colluvium and Alluvium Units, and Alluvium. The study area is underlain by 54 soil mapping units belonging to 19 soil series across nine soil associations. These soil series are Adelphia, Colemantown, Collington, Donlonton, Fallsington, Fluvaquents, Freehold, Holmdel, Keansburg, Keyport, Kresson, Manahawkin, Pemberton, Pits, Sassafras, Shrewsbury, Tinton, Urban and Woodstown.
The study identified 280 plant species across 76 plant families along the riparian corridor. When combined with existing vegetation data reported by Rogers and Golden (1976) and Stein (1992), a total of 400 plant species across 96 plant families are documented for the entire Township. A small portion of a high significance-ranked NJDEP Natural Heritage Priority Site is located around the Extonville Road bridge area; the majority of this site is located in neighboring Monmouth County to the east. The NJDEP Natural Heritage Program did not report any listed plant species to be documented in the study area.
The NJDEP i-Map data indicates the following resources are present within the study area: forested habitat for priority concern species (i.e. hermit thrush, Catharus guttata) suitable forested wetland habitat, suitable emergent wetland habitat, suitable emergent wetland habitat, and grassland habitat for priority concern species (i.e. eastern box turtle, Yerapene carolina). A small bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) foraging area is also mapped around the Iron Bridge Road area. Similarly, the results of the inquiries by AMRC to the NJDEP and the USFWS indicated the occurrence of eastern box turtles and occasional bald eagles within the study area.
An evaluation of public and private properties abutting the Crosswicks Creek suggests that a Township-owned parcel identified as Block 106, Lot 17 one of a few likely candidate properties for the development of a public access point. The physical characteristics of this parcel coupled with its location with respect to a remnant ice house dam, present an amenable set of conditions for a canoe/kayak launch and a passive recreation/resting area. However, the volume and speed of motor vehicle traffic around the property entrance will require some consideration with regards to maintaining public safety. Alternatives include the establishment of a public access easement via adjacent private property(ies).
In addition to the Township-owned parcel, a small number of private properties may also be considered for the development of a public access point. These properties are listed in the entire study at the Municipal Building.
In summary, the findings of the NRI indicate that the largely undeveloped Crosswicks Creek watershed within Chesterfield Township serves as an important greenway link between similarly undeveloped areas to the east and the ecologically-important Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown marsh to the west. The ecological value of this undeveloped watershed in Chesterfield is further increased by the amount of land that is farmland preserved and safe from development. Maintaining the integrity of this greenway through preservation, conservation and public education and involvement is paramount.