Monthly Archives: January 2023

Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Mornings With Smalls

 I leave my truck and begin my long walk to our butterfly garden in Overpeck Park and, as usual, I am overly focused on where I have to be, whom I have to call, text, email or actually meet with by the end of the day. There are pressing issues of the day to say the least, some that may bring a ray of hope; others will make me want to throw in the towel. However, as I round the corner to the Bergen Equestrian Center there he is, a large figure framed by a beautiful blue sky. A smile comes to my face; my good friend is here when I need to visit with him the most. My old pal Smalls.

I stop and rest and put my arms on the white fence and cannot help but feel everything is as perfect as it should be. There in the distance is my close friend for many years, Smalls the horse. He picks his head up, I wave, and he begins his long meandering stroll over to greet me. He is in no rush, no reason to hurry, he purposely shows me that I should slow it down and take it easy. He will be there shortly.

Smalls is the most gentle of giants, a large Draft Horse that could be a bit intimidating if you did not know him better. His personality is even bigger than he is. He finally arrives at the fence, lifts his big head over, and with those beautiful dark eyes says, ‘Good Moring, it a beautiful day.’ I pet his nose; we look up quietly at each other and just rest.  ‘See any good birds today?’ He looks up in the air.  “Catch you on the way back,” I say as he nods his head and goes about his business.

 I am not sure when Smalls and I first met or what we said to each other. But I am sure it was how most best friends meet by enjoying some activity together. In this case, it was just being outside.

 Now sometimes, understandably, Smalls does not have the time to come over for a visit. Life is like that sometimes for all of us. Some mornings the grass might just be too sweet and lush to pass up and other times he just likes canoodling with his horse friends on the other side of the fences. S that is when I wave and move along.  However, like a good friend, he is always there when I really need him most.

Smalls is a very good listener. In fact one of the best listeners I know and after all that is the best thing a friend can do, just listen. I am not sure he takes my morning gripes and indignations seriously but his face does not give it away if he does not. He nods his head with a sympathetic expression, like he understands and looks me in the eye as if to say, ‘I hear you buddy.’

One thing Smalls does not tolerate is anyone feeling sorry for themselves. I can recall one warm spring morning when I thought my job was just getting too tough and I was the one who should really be put out to pasture. As Smalls walked up to me and put his big head over the fence he gave me a little nudge  ‘Hey,’  said, ‘what is up with you big guy ?’ Smalls answered with a stern look:  ‘Wake up and smell the flowers. ‘It’s a gorgeous day ! We are surrounded by friends who care about us, we are doing what we love and by the way, we have plenty of good snacks to eat too so get on with it. Do what you have to do. I am always here to talk.’ Did I mention Smalls is a great philosopher also?

 My mornings with Smalls are very special. It is one the great joys of my life to be able to stop even for a minute or two and share the news of the day or just rest silently along with him to enjoy the wonders of nature around us. Smalls does not have to talk. He does not have to come up with world shattering solutions or be wiser or smarter than anyone else. He just has to be himself and do what he has always done for me, just be there. Thanks Smalls! See you soon!

In my next column I will be telling more of the Smalls Story, how he came to the center of the Bergen Equestrian Center and the lives he has touched since being there. Stay tuned. It’s an amazing story.

See all of you in the Meadowlands !  

Native Plant Day and Butterfly Day dates announced!

The Bergen County Audubon Society and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s Native Plant Day will take place on Sunday, May 21, 2023, and Butterfly Day is scheduled for Sunday, July 23, 2023. These programs are great days for all ages and take place in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst. We will post more information on each event closer to the dates.

Native Plant Day features walks and talks spotlighting native plants and explaining why they are critical to the environment. Butterfly Day includes walks, talks, and kid’s games and crafts. There’s also a scavenger hunt, costume contest, music and more.

Meadowlands Bald Eagle Festival a Rousing Success

Credit Joe Koscielny

Many thanks to the 250 plus people who came to River Barge Park for Sunday’s (Jan. 15) splendid, first-ever Meadowlands Eagle Festival, and thank you Bergen County Audubon Society for playing such a huge role in its success!

From our great exhibitors to kid’s activities, and, of course, our resident Bald Eagles, we could not have asked for a more wonderful day! Check out this photo gallery and be on the lookout for our next big event, Native Plant Day in April.

Credit BCAS
Credit Sandy Urato
Credit BCAS
Credit NJSEA
Credit Sandy Urato

Credit BCAS

Credit Sandy Urato
Credit BCAS

Tell Your Friends: First-Ever Meadowlands Eagle Festival Sunday Is This Sunday, Jan. 15, at River Barge Park in Carlstadt!!!

It’s just about time to make your way to River Barge Park in Carlstadt for the first-ever Meadowlands Eagle Festival. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is co-sponsored by the Bergen County Audubon Society and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and is free to the public. In addition to Eagle walks and plenty of informational tables, BCAS President Don Torino will give a talk at noon: “Return of the Bald Eagle.” The talk and information tables will be inside, and there will be coffee and light refreshments. In addition, there will be prizes for kids up to age 12 who bring eagle artwork.

MRRI Staff Participate in National and Regional Conferences

The Meadowlands Research and Restoration Institute (MRRI) is a critical NJSEA department. Through their daily work and long-term studies, MRRI plays an absolutely critical role in helping to improve the Meadowlands Environment and wildlife habitats, both now and for the long-term future.

MRRI staff recently spoke at several national and regional conferences, further highlighting the respect and admiration rightly given to the Institute by organizations throughout the country. Co-Director and Chief Restoration Scientist Terry Doss was a panelist and spoke at two conferences: “Long Term Restoration Results and Lessons Learned in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary” and the “Restore America’s Estuaries Coastal & Estuarine Summit.” Chief Chemist and Laboratory Supervisor Cheryl Yao presented at the American Geophysical Meeting.

Read all about Terry and Cheryl’s presentations in the news section of the MRRI website – click here