At first glance, you will be struck by the beauty and size of the meadows and the many flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that surround the Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center, a 822-acre site. A looping trail through one of the fields allows a closer look at the various species of plants, birds, and mammals that reside in the meadow habitat. Adjacent to the meadows are acres of forest and trails, waiting to be explored. Be certain to enjoy the picturesque gorge with its steep slopes through an eastern hemlock forest along the Black River, an important point of interest, but a challenging hike! Digital trail maps are available online.
The Kay center offers hundreds of acres of a variety of high-quality native plant habitats. Over 80 acres of meadow habitat is maintained by mowing and prescribed burning and dominated by goldenrods, little bluestem, and patches of other native species. Mature mixed hardwood forests and hemlock glens thrive along the Black River. Five species listed as species of concern or endangered by the NJ Natural Heritage Program have been documented at the Kay Center, a testament to the high quality of the native ecosystem.
The Kay Center is part of a larger network of more than 1,000 acres of preserved county parkland along the Black River and adjacent areas, extending from the Cooper Gristmill south to Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center and Willowwood Arboretum. A multi-mile series of trails connect these sites.
The Kay Center is a wonderful location to host a small meeting. A 19’ X 26’ meeting room and attached 15’x 20’ glass-enclosed sun porch with doors to the outside create a lovely setting. On a larger scale, you can reserve outdoor space for a tented event with spectacular views of the Somerset hills.
The Kay Center offers a tranquil and beautiful location for bird watchers, nature lovers, and hikers to enjoy their favorite pastime This is a special place for bird watching as you may have the pleasure of spotting American goldfinch, eastern bluebird, red-bellied woodpecker, and wild turkey. Watch for butterflies and enjoy colorful flowers in the Meadow Garden in the Kay Center front courtyard and a butterfly garden on the opposite side of the Center. Spread a picnic blanket and take a moment to just relax and enjoy the vista behind the Center.
As a perfect and scenic location for a memorable hike, head north to Cooper Gristmill, or south to Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center and Willowwood Arboretum, or wander any of the other meadow and forest trails on the site. Bring your camera and binoculars along.
The Special Events page highlights programs and activities, offering unique and fun opportunities for visitors of all ages.
The Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center was dedicated on October 28, 1993. This property, once called Hidden River Farm, was donated by the Kay family to be used as an environmental center, where "each day would bring a new wonder and challenge to learn." The first parcel was acquired on March 29, 1962.
Elizabeth D. Kay (1894-1987) and her husband Alfred were known for their contributions to horticulture, conservation, humanitarian causes, and the arts. Mrs. Kay was interested in horticulture and conservation on many fronts. She was the founder and three times President of the Garden Club of Palm Beach, Florida; and a member of the Garden Club of Somerset Hill. In 1960, the Kays established the Pine Jog Environmental Sciences Center on their farm in West Palm Beach, Florida reflecting their interest in ecology and desire to attract children to nature.
The Kays made carriage trails through fields and woods that wind down to the Black River where a dam was built to create a deep and calm swimming pool with a diving board. A summer house was built alongside the ‘pool’ with showers, changing rooms, a fireplace, and a terrace. Only stone foundation ruins remain today.
The Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center is open daily, 8 a.m. to sunset, throughout the year.
The Morris County Park Commission has recently announced a No Smoking Policy banning all smoking including burning of, inhaling from, exhaling the smoke from or the possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter of substance which contains tobacco or any other matter that can be smoked, or the inhaling or exhaling of smoke or vapor from an electronic smoking device. CLICK HERE for more details. Thank you for your continued support!
things to Do:
* Requires permit/advanced scheduling |(HC) Handicap Accessible
Click below for driving directions
GPS Address: 200 Pottersville Road, Chester, NJ 07930