FOR YOUR GPS: the address is 905 Wells Mills Road, Waretown, NJ 08758.
From the Garden State Parkway
North and Southbound:
From Philly, points west: Route 70 or 539 to Route 72 East; turn right (east) on Route 532 for 3.8 miles to Wells Mills County Park. See map
"When the doors to Wells Mills County Park were opened in 1991, those assembled couldn't help but notice the fragrance of newly bloomed flowers, the scent of pine needles and the melodies of birds gathering material for nesting all surrounding the new Nature Center. While speeches were being made on the shaded deck and grassy lawns, many minds wandered to another time - when, very close to this special location in the Piney woods, there had been music in the air. That was years ago when the Albert Brothers, Joe and George, had held their Saturday night "Old Home Place" jams in their backsoods cabin. The fun and excitement of those nostalgic days were gone but not forgotten.
Another of the true Pine Barrens native sons to frequent the Old Home Place was Merce Ridgway. Born in the tiny hamlet of Bamber, his family was musically talented; thus he grew up appreciating the stories and songs of the Pine Barrens. He also devloped a talent for setting his own stories and life experiences to music and played with a group called the Pine Hawkers.
When George Albert passed away, the gathering became too much for Joe. The group of pickin' Pineys moved to a new location and Merce became the founding president of the Pinelands Cultural Society.
The Pine Barrens is an exquisite ecological system The vast unbroken forest of pine, oak and cedar is the largest tract of open space on the mid-Atlantic coast. You can search shady cedar swamps for the rare curly grass fern or hike through a forest of pygmy pine trees no taller than a man. The pure, slow moving streams are fed by a huge underground aquifer of seventeen trillion gallons which supplies the marshes and bays of South Jersey with some of the cleanest water in the world. The population of this vast area once depended on natural resources for its survival. The pines were used for charcoal making, the cedars for lumber, the naturally formed bog iron was melted down for pots, pans, kettles, stove pipes and later, cannons and cannonballs. The sand was used to make glass, the clay for brick and tile making. The land produced an abundance of blueberries, cranberries, pine cones and sphagnum moss. Families depended on deer, rabbit and waterfowl for meat on the table. Clamming, oystering and fishing also proved profitable. For their cultural entertainment and recreation, the people of the pines would get together to have country "hoedowns". Whoever was good at whatever instrument would have a turn at pickin' and singin'.
about that idea - the one to have "Piney" music ringing through the air
once again - the idea to have the original Piney crafters and artisans
gathered together; to have food, fun and friends, all with one common
love; the love of their own Pine Barrens. That idea became reality
once again in 1995 when 5,000 people flocked to Wells Mills to celebrate
the Pines and its culture. The Department of Parks and Recreation
sponsored the first "PINE BARRENS JAMBOREE: DOWN HOME MELODIES AND MEMORIES"
and we are doing it again, every October!"
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Member, Board of Directors, Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce
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