MIDDLETOWN, NJ –Middletown Township will use a $10,000 grant from Sustainable New Jersey as seed money to plant a garden of indigenous plants at the Poricy Park Conservancy.

The township, in partnership with the Poricy Park Conservancy, will create a diverse garden of native trees, shrubs and groundcover near the park entrance. The project involves removing some of the invasive and destructive species that threaten the health of the native woodland preserve and of the mammals, insects and birds that call it home.

“This is an important project for us. In addition to its environmental value, the garden will be a great instructional tool for school children, residents, and landscapers,” said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger. “We need to work toward instilling a multi-generational understanding of the local ecology to ensure Middletown’s quality of life is sustainable.”

Middletown is one of only 10 municipalities to receive a $10,000 grant through the 2010 Sustainable New Jersey Small Grants program, said Township Planner and Community Development Director Jason Greenspan. The grants program is funded by Wal-mart.

Sustainable New Jersey grant monies will be coupled with a grant the non-profit conservancy received from the state Department of Environmental Protections Federal Recreational Trails Grant program to fund installation of a handicapped-accessible trail and sensory garden. The trail will allow everyone to enjoy and learn about native plantings, said Poricy Park Executive Director Joyce Ferejohn.

Meanwhile, Middletown is working toward earning a Sustainable New Jersey certification. Sustainable New Jersey is an incentive program for municipalities that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. Certified towns are competitively positioned to seek resources for many green initiatives, said Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante.

The township has already adopted a series of resolutions that solidify the township’s commitment to the environment and sustainable living. These include establishing policies regarding anti-idling, agreeing to participate in the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s Live Where you Work Program, pledging support for state’s Wildlife Action plan and Sustainable Land Use; and endorsing adoption of green building practices, Greenspan said.

“Sustainable New Jersey dovetails perfectly with our Green Initiative, a local cache of eco-friendly projects and programs aimed at helping Middletown live greener, conserve energy and reduce dependency on foreign oil,” said Mayor Scharfenberger, who spearheaded the initiative in 2007.

Recycle2$ave, which challenges residents to recycle in order to cut costs and generate revenue is the latest program added to the initiative. Other projects undertaken since 2007 include energy audits at township buildings; Buy Middletown, an awareness campaign that encourages residents to shop local; a bio-fuel pilot program which utilizes used vegetable oil to fuel township vehicles; installation of energy efficient light bulbs in township buildings; and Dock and Roll, a free community shuttle service.

Sustainable Jersey is a collaborative effort between the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future and the Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The policies and other substantive contents of the program are developed though a transparent participatory process involving non-government agencies (NGOs), academics, government, and the business community. Program sponsors include Wal-mart the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, PSEG Foundation, New Jersey Natural Gas, Church and Dwight, Covanta Energy, Elizabethtown Gas, Nautilus Solar, the Smart Energy Group, United Water, Verizon and CDS-Xerox. For more info, visit www.sustainablejersey.com.