Musconetcong Island Park
A New Park
The Musconetcong Island Park project was completed in Spring 2023. The park is open for public access from dawn to dusk, except during floods, snow or icy conditions.
Musconetcong Island Park is located at 152 Asbury West Portal Road, Asbury NJ 08802. The park is located in the middle of the Musconetcong River and is accessed by staircase from the downstream side of the bridge crossing the river. When entering the park you first step down onto a concrete platform that represents the footprint of the prior laboratory building. From the platform you can then take another few steps down onto the island and explore the river banks and see the Historic Asbury Mill just across the water.
Parking is available at the Historic Asbury Mill on the Warren County (northern) side of the river and along the road across the street from the Asbury Graphic Mill on the Hunterdon County (southern) side of the river.
The two-story concrete block building was the former Laboratory for the Asbury Graphite Mill and was constructed between 1925 and 1940 (Asbury Historic District Nomination Form, 1993). It was built on top of the foundation of a woolen factory that was destroyed by a fire in 1881. Graphite is an inert, non-toxic mineral used for lubrication and other purposes. Graphite refining began in Asbury in 1895 when Harry M. Riddle purchased the existing mills and converted them to process this niche mineral (Asbury Graphite History). Today, Asbury Carbons is a fourth generation family business and one of the few original milling businesses still operating along the Musconetcong River. The Laboratory was abandoned by the early 1980's; it lacked modern plumbing and flooded frequently.
Rudy Digilio, a former mill worker and laboratory manager, describes working along the Musconetcong River in some of the river's last remaining riverfront factories. This five minute video includes descriptions of working in the quality assurance laboratory.
The quarter-acre island in the Musconetcong River contained an abandoned former mill building donated by Asbury Carbons to the Musconetcong Watershed Association in 1999. The building was deemed unsafe, and while there was a stairway to the island, public access had been barred by a guardrail.
Thanks to the NJ Green Acres Program and the National Park Foundation, the MWA was able to secure initial funds to remove the abandoned building. The area is a favorite spot for fishing, swimming, and kayaking and is connected to the Asbury Historic District and Bethlehem Township by a sidewalk.
Thanks to a public referendum, the New Jersey Green Acres Program became able to fund stewardship projects that would increase public access for recreation on land owned by private entities, like the MWA. The MWA was awarded a grant from this new Green Acres funding in 2017 and secured matching funds in 2018 from the National Park Foundation as part of a special Wild & Scenic Rivers 50th Anniversary funding round, supported by the Coca Cola Foundation. In early 2018, MWA received permission from the NJ State Historic Preservation Council for the building's demolition, with a provision to photo document the building interior and exterior, conduct an oral history project recording experiences of those who worked in the Laboratory and Graphite Mill, and install an interpretative sign sharing the history of the area.
Pictured (From Left to Right): Mary Paist-Goldman, MWA Board of Directors; Bill Gierke, MWA Board of Directors; Mayor Jeff DeAngelis, Franklin Township (Warren County); Brandee Chapman, NJ Green Acres Program; Alan Hunt, MWA Executive Director; Freeholder Susan Soloway, Hunterdon County; Mayor Paul Muir, Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon County)
This project is also part of "Love Your Park", a pilot initiative of the National Park Foundation to develop volunteers to "adopt" and care for areas within the National Park System. The New Jersey Youth Corps Phillipsburg is a local partner that adopted the park. While the Musconetcong Island Park is privately-owned, the Musconetcong River is a National Wild & Scenic River as part of the National Park Service's Partnership Wild and Scenic River Program.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Hunterdon County Cultural and Heritage Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the National Park Foundation, the Coca Cola Foundation, and New Jersey Green Acres in funding the project through to completion.
We want to thank all those who supported this project, whether through volunteering, donating, or simply sharing our updates on social media. The Musconetcong Island Park is now open for everyone to enjoy safely. For more information about the park or to get involved in caring for it, please contact the MWA: (908) 537-7060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.