triCityNews/ Monmouth's News & Arts Weekly: PUBLISHER'S MESSAGE

A must-go social event: Monmouth Conservation Foundation fundraiser for Asbury’s Springwood


Here’s a great sign of the growing cohesiveness and shared values of the triCity region of eastern Monmouth County.

It’s the new activism in Asbury Park of the once old-money Monmouth Conservation Foundation [MCF]. The group has committed to provide at least $150,000 toward the development of the Springwood Avenue Park in Asbury’s West Side.

The needs of urban areas are a new priority for MCF, and one which its board has enthusiastically embraced. This is indeed unity of progressive thought in our region. And you can be a part of the action by attending MCF’s annual fundraiser for the Springwood Park at Talula’s on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park on Sunday, May 3 at 6 p.m.

The fundraiser is billed as “Pizza and Pasta for a Purpose”, and Talula’s is one of this newspaper’s favorite places to write about. Tickets are $60 per person and children under 12 are $25. Visit the MCF website to reserve tickets at, and then click on events and then click Springwood Park. Or call MCF at 732-671-7000.

Last year’s MCF event for the Springwood Park at Porta — another triCity favorite — was shockingly well attended. Attendees were not your usual suspects at an Asbury Park fundraiser, but they were enthusiastic and positive about being here. It’s a great thing, as this is an organization with many connections in government and the private sector. Asbury now gets the benefit of that reach.

The Monmouth Conservation Foundation was founded about four decades ago by the late Judith Stanley, among the most prominent of local Republican royalty who lived in a spectacular mansion on the Navesink River off Navesink River Road. Cofounder was the late Michael Huber of Middletown, a gem of a philanthropist who was close with influential environmentalists of his generation. [The late Dery Bennett of the American Littoral Society — one of my role models — always spoke exceptionally well of Mike Huber.]

Since its founding in 1977, the MCF has done wonderful work in preserving tens of thousands of acres of open space in Monmouth County. Fun fact: This Publisher was on the board of trustees in my late twenties about twenty-five years ago.

Most of MCF’s work, however, was in blue-blooded horse country. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Such land was the most threatened, and you see the tragic results of overdevelopment in once beautiful places like Middletown, Holmdel, and Colts Neck. Hell, even Marlboro and Manalapan were, once up on a time, beautiful open land. All this didn’t have to go down exactly as it did — it’s a result of decades of political bullshit — and at times outright corruption — from influential development interests getting their way at the state and local levels. But I digress. The leadership and trustees of MCF have been a varied lot — like the Publisher of this wacko alternative weekly newspaper — but we’ve all had a strong commitment to open space preservation, and a willingness to fight the good fight against powerful developers.

But it’s time to direct part of MCF’s focus and resources to serving those in challenged urban neighborhoods who need open space — specifically, attractive and safe parks — as much, if not more, than the rest of the county needs open space in their towns.

MCF Executive Director Bill Kastning said that beyond the $150,000 committed to be provided by his organization, there’s a shortfall in available funds to do a remaining $100,000 worth of landscaping.

“We are now reaching out to nurseries and growers in Monmouth County and elsewhere, primarily those whose farmlands have been preserved through the use of state, county and nonprofit t moneys,” Kastning said. “We are hopeful through our outreach efforts to achieve the in-kind donations and thereby eliminate the remaining shortfall identified by the city.”

Lisa McKean, MCF’s Managing Director for marketing and development, said the new stress on urban areas is very much in the vision of MCF cofounder Mike Huber. [MCF is also working on a project at Chris’ Landing in Red Bank, she said.]

“Caroline Huber is a close, wonderful family friend of mine,” said McKean. “Caroline’s husband, Mike Huber, was co-founder of MCF in 1977. Caroline went to a meeting with Bill and me last week to hear more about Springwood. The meeting included Paul McEvily of Interfaith Neighbors. Caroline was very impressed with the Springwood Park project and plans for Asbury Park, overall.”

“Subsequent to that meeting, I had dinner with Caroline...she explained to me how she knows that these kinds of recent initiatives that MCF is pursuing are very much in line with what Mike had in mind when founding MCF,” McKean said.

“According to Caroline, the vision which Mike had for MCF included related projects in underserved areas where MCF could aid in creating pockets of open space and green...such as in the West Side of Asbury. [These projects are] for those who cannot readily access the parks and space MCF is also preserving in more traditional areas. It is about an even greater good,” she said.

McKean said the Springwood Avenue project is a turning point in the history of MCF.  “The MCF board, until Springwood, did not actively pursue such projects, but they are realizing how important it is to broaden the scope of MCF’s work and are more willing to explore appropriate opportunities attached to social causes – in keeping with Mike Huber’s overall vision,” she said.