If you’re a fan of local history, two area film makers have created documentary films showcasing two of the most regarded historic stories in Bernards Township. While many people don’t know about the great fight against the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey and what almost happened to the town, Saving The Great Swamp – The Battle to Defeat the Jetport is a reminder on how delicate communities can be.
The second film, Under the Great Oak is a film about the iconic village oak tree that the township lost in 2019 after over 600 years of existence. Let’s take a look.
Saving the Great Swamp – Battle to Defeat the Jetport
Saving The Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport is a one-hour documentary about the events, people and politics behind the struggle to preserve a rural area of New Jersey between 1959 and 1968 including the Great Swamp and Basking Ridge. The fight began when the powerful Port of New York Authority announced plans to construct a huge 10,000 acre “jetport” 26 miles west of New York City in a little-known place called the Great Swamp. In the name of progress, entire towns would be obliterated, the aquifer and wildlife destroyed, and a way-of-life threatened for thousands of people.
The events that followed became one of the most defining environmental confrontations of its time – a grassroots movement that started in a local high school and grew to historic proportions. It was a battle that took almost a decade, a President and an Act of Congress to stop, and ultimately led to the creation of a national treasure – the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
On December 3, 1959, this startling headline JETPORT PLAN UNVEILED” appeared in the Newark Evening News revealing the Port of New York Authority’s intent to claim 10,000 acres in Morris & Somerset Counties to build what would have been the world’s largest regional airport. The proposed plan would have obliterated this serene, sparsely settled marshland and the area’s communities. In its place would be multi-lane highways and asphalt. Angered, confused, and concerned residents responded to this news by launching a monumental, unyielding battle that led to the triumphant saving of the Great Swamp.
December 3, 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of that first newspaper article that sparked what is still referred to today as the greatest grass-roots effort ever made by residents to protect a natural habitat.
Under the Great Oak
A documentary by Basking Ridge resident Michael Reynolds’ takes a look back at Basking Ridge’s iconic great white oak tree , “Under the Great Oak,” that celebrates the life of the great white oak tree that lived in the historic village of Basking Ridge for more than 600 years.
The documentary illustrates the impact the tree had on the community through interviews and the Great Oak Art Celebration, which brought together artists and members of the community to honor the tree and its place in history.
“These two films bring out two of the best stories the area has ever happened and we’re proud to partner with a number of organizations bring these films to a venue in Basking Ridge,” says Brooks Betz, founder of the Mr. Local History Project and the Bernards Township official historian. The Mr. Local History project is looking to bring together these films for a special showing. If you’re interested in knowing more, please sign up to receive additional information.