The scenic and peaceful Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, residing in New Jersey in a town called Short Hills. The Sanctuary and Arboretum offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to get outside in nature while also learning about the importance of conservation and preservation of these natural resources. With a variety of hiking trails and the option to participate in programs that are fun as well as educational, visitors will spend all day there without even noticing.
The grounds consist of over 16 acres, featuring over 3 miles of trail paths. When visiting the grounds, make sure to be aware that this area is the center of local preservation and conservation protocol. That means no dogs are allowed on the premises, even those on leashes, and picking of any plant or flower life is strictly prohibited.
Hiking and walking trails - The trails at the arboretum wind through kettle moraines, a natural, glacier created amphitheater, and multiple hilly slopes that are both beautiful as well as potentially challenging to hikers. There are over 40 different species of trees, a variety of wildflowers native to the New Jersey area, and many ferns. There are also a variety of what are called “micro habitats,” which are smaller areas of the park that provide the ability for large diversity in flora (plant life) and fauna (animal life). The trails and the grounds also provide an oasis for the many migrating birds that call the arboretum home in the spring as well as the fall, giving them food supplies as well as refuge during their often-long journeys.
Stone House - The Stone House features multiple animal exhibits (some featuring mounted bird and mammal specimens). There are also some live exhibits (featuring a few snakes - the corn snake, rat snake, and eastern king snake - as well as more traditionally cuddly creatures like rabbits). This exhibit just celebrated its grand opening in 2017 (after being renovated from its 1933 original state), offering a museum like experience while on the peaceful grounds of the arboretum. There are many discovery stations and interactive exhibits, allowing children to get hands on with conservation and learning. It also now features a kitchen, as well as a meeting space and reception area.
There is also a functioning beehive for guests to view, allowing them to get an up-close look at a process not often accessible to everyone. The beehive has been on the grounds since 2010 and had 7000 bees at that time! Since then, and with care from the resident beekeeper, the hive has continued to flourish, and the population of bees has tripled to over 21000 bees!
The arboretum and sanctuary happily host school field trips for children in grades pre-k through 5th grade. Every tour and field trip opportunity for students is meant to meet NJCCCS standards as well as supplementing current science curriculum with the new NGSS standards.
Field trips are 90 minutes in length and are given half indoors and half outdoors, unless specifically requested otherwise. Students should make sure to be informed to dress appropriately for the weather, as there is the possibility that they may be outside in a wide variety of weather conditions (rain, sun, etc). They are offered Mondays through Fridays, from 9:30am through 11:00am, and then again from 12:30pm through 2:00pm.
There are a selection of program topics depending on the grade level of the student as well. Younger students can enjoy programs like Tree-rific Trees, Birds, and Flowers & Pollinators, where older students can enjoy programs like Rocks & Local Geology and Soil & Compost.
The Arboretum and Sanctuary hosts many different special events throughout the years, with an emphasis on those that educate and allow guests of all ages to interact with nature.
There are adult programs and workshops, meant to bring out the “kidult” in everyone. Many of these events often function as a social hour as well, allowing adult visitors to learn and also socialize.
Besides the adult programs, there are also family oriented programs for both adults and children alike. There are events like the hot chocolate hike and other monthly hikes that are guided by tour guides and themed (hikes in the past have featured winter animals, frogs, and Earth Day). There are sometimes small fees associated with the programs, so check the website ahead of time for additional information.
They also offer summer camps (as well as occasional spring break camps), as well as simple recreation based programs (normally offered in the warmer weather months) to entice adults, children, and families to be outside and enjoy nature while also learning about the importance of conservation.
Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, 324 Forest Drive South, Short Hills, NJ, 07078, Phone: 973-376-3587