2022 Presenters

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Dorothy Guzzo

Executive Director

NJ Historic Trust

 

Dorothy P. Guzzo is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Historic Trust, an agency affiliated with the Department of Community Affairs.  Ms. Guzzo oversees the administration of the historic preservation matching grant and loan programs. The Historic Trust was created in 1967 to advance historic preservation in New Jersey for the benefit of future generations through education, stewardship and financial investment programs that save our heritage and strengthen our communities.  Formerly, Ms. Guzzo served as the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer having oversight of the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places program, implementation of the state’s cultural resource regulations, and certifying projects to qualify for the Investment Tax Credit. Ms. Guzzo served on the Governor’s Heritage Tourism Task Force advancing the development of the State’s Heritage Tourism Master Plan.

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James Kern

Warren County Commissioner

James R. Kern III is one of three at-large Commissioners for Warren County. Commissioner Kern is a liaison to many groups, including the departments of public safety , public health, and the County Planning Board. Kern was elected to the Commissioner Board  in 2018 and reelected to a second term in 2021. During his first term in office, the county introduced a $91 million budget that reduced the County Purpose Tax by more than a half a million dollars. Also notable was the overall spending plan at its lowest since 2004. Commissioner Kern has been an advocate for regional planning and supportive of Warren County’s robust farmland preservation program. This past year, he spearheaded the creation of an Environmental Advisory Committee which will work with different stakeholders to protect and restore Warren County’s natural resources. Commissioner Kern believes this new group will help increase environmental awareness, ensuring that both residents and visitors alike can enjoy a health environment and improved quality of life.

Prior to his time as Commissioner, Kern severed as Mayor and Councilman in Pohatcong Township. He was elected at age 22; the second youngest elected mayor in New Jersey history. As mayor, Kern had promoted a transparent and fiscally responsible municipal government. He helped craft statutes for voter approved bonding and pay-as-you-go spending. Kern was also active in working with the Musconetcong Watershed Association in their efforts for dam removal and achieving wild and scenic designation in the township.

Commissioner Kern received his Associate of Arts Degree from Warren County Community College and his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Rutgers University. He works for CHUBB Insurance and is an avid fan of the New Jersey Devils.

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Tom Drake

Publisher

Skylands Magazine

Tom has decades of experience promoting northwest New Jersey and all it has to offer. In 1990 he founded the Skylands Visitor magazine in partnership with the Skylands Tourism Council to promote tourism in Northwest New Jersey. The tourism council is long dissolved, but the publication has survived primarily to the overwhelming support that has come from a wide range of brilliant writers and photographers. The magazine has since presented over 800 independently researched articles pertaining to recreation, culture and history in the region, most of which are available on the publication’s website, njskylands.com. Tom resides in Columbia and is active with the Knowlton Township Historic Commission and township Planning Board.

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Jeffrey Vasser

Director

Division of Travel and Tourism

Jeffrey Vasser was nominated by Governor Phil Murphy to serve as Executive Director of the NJ Division of Travel & Tourism in May 2018 and was confirmed by the NJ Senate the following September. Jeff brings significant experience to his current role. Before joining the Division, he served as CEO of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association where he was responsible for marketing the hotels, restaurants, and attractions in the region. Prior to that, Jeff served as president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority for 11 years, overseeing the daily operations of the public authority responsible for two major convention and event facilities and marketing the destination that anchors the region's $8 billion tourism industry.


Earlier in his career, Jeff served as a Senior Consultant with the Public Sector/Gaming and Entertainment Group of Deloitte & Touche having done feasibility studies for tourism, arts and culture, and sports-related clients. From there, Jeff was Chief Financial Officer of Cipriani International, a $60 million hotel, retail, and foodservice firm overseeing areas such as finance, human resources, facilities, and IT. Jeff began his career in hotel operations with Four Seasons Hotels.


Jeff is a graduate of Cornell's School of Hotel Administration with a concentration in hospitality management. He also received his Master of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and is a graduate of Atlantic City High School. He resides in Linwood with his wife Angie and two sons, Carson and Zachary.

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Renata Barnes

Coordinator

Outdoor Equity Alliance

 

This native New Yorker, who was raised in Hopewell Valley, is proud to serve as the Outdoor Equity Alliance Coordinator. A graduate of Mercer County Community College and New York University, Renata has long been passionate about issues of racial equity, equality, and justice.

 

After spending almost two decades living in New York City and working in the film and television field as a production coordinator and 2nd Assistant Director, she moved back to Hopewell Valley. With her family in tow, she immersed herself in the community becoming involved with STRIVE PTO, writing the MercerMe column “The Taste Chase” and co-founding and leading Hopewell Valley Race and Diversity(now called Hopewell Valley Together) for 7 years. Barnes counts it an honor to be a part of the FOHVOS vision of a more accessible, equitable and inclusive outdoor experience for every person.

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Michael Muckle

Director

NJ Youth Corps of Phillipsburg

 

Michael Muckle found his way to the Service & Conservation Corps movement through his own term of service as an AmeriCorps member in 1997. During that time, he caught the public service bug and never looked back. Oftentimes you can find him working alongside his Corpsmembers on a variety of environmentally-themed service projects; he never misses an opportunity to turn service into a teachable moment.

 

His passion for the Corps Movement runs deep. Michael has unique insight into the dynamics of crafting programs for the youth he serves gained through his own corps experience providing advocacy, removing systemic barriers, and creating equitable spaces for youth to learn and grow.

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Kyle Richter

Executive Director

Lake Hopatcong Foundation

 

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation dedicates itself to protecting the environment and experience of New Jersey’s largest lake by bringing together public and private resources to encourage a culture of sustainability and stewardship. The Foundations works to achieve its mission through initiatives under 4 core pillars: Advocacy, Environment, Education, and Community.

 

Kyle joined the Foundation in 2021 and brings a decade of experience in the conservation field. Before joining the Foundation team, Kyle served as the Watershed Programs Manager at the Musconetcong Watershed Association for 7 years. Kyle led the Association’s education and outreach programs and managed restoration projects throughout the watershed. Originally from Naples, Florida, Kyle came to New Jersey for college and has called it home ever since. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science from Rutgers University and a professional certificate in Watershed Management from Michigan State University. Kyle is also a 2017 Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. When not at the lake, Kyle enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, and spending time with his family, especially his dog, Phoebe!

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Kerry Kirk Pflugh

Executive Director

New Jersey Conference of Mayors

 

Kerry Kirk Pflugh is the Executive Director for the New Jersey Conference of Mayors. She brings with her extensive experience as the former director for local government at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and former Manager for the Office of Watershed Education, Estuaries and Monitoring. She is also the current president of the Friends of the New Jersey School of Conservation, which has been providing teachers and students with environmental education experiences and training for over 70 years. She is currently spearheading efforts to restore the historic CCC education center.

 

Ms. Pflugh’s area of expertise is strategic communication planning focusing on citizen participation in environmental management decision-making. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the New Jersey Conference of Mayors Cabinet Liaison of the Year Award and the George Hammell Cook Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Professional and Civic Matters.

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Zac Cole

Long-Distance Trails Program Coordinator

New York-New Jersey Trails Conference

 

Zac joined the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference in 2022 as the Long-Distance Trails Program Coordinator. Zac grew up in northern Italy with plenty of opportunity to hike and visit the Alps. These experiences and his commitment to environmental conservation set him on the path to a career advocating for the natural environments we all love to recreate in. Prior to joining the Trail Conference, Zac was Outreach & Education Program Director at the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and gained ample experience in environmental policy and advocacy. Before that, Zac held several positions in the UK and Austria working on projects related to urban sustainability and corporate environmental and social responsibility.

 

Since moving to New Jersey, Zac has devoted the last few years to exploring his local trails and cycling throughout the region and is proud to call the New Jersey Highlands home. Zac holds a BA in English Literature and an MSc in Environment & Sustainable Development.

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Jeremy Travers

Founding Board Member

PEACE NJ

 

Jeremy grew up on Lake Hopatcong, the headwaters of the Musconetcong River where he gained an appreciation and interest in water and water sports. As an adult he began exploring and appreciating the downstream Musconetcong River more when he began paddling near Saxton Falls and Lubbers Run. Ever since encountering a bear on the river, Jeremy has been documenting all his kayak trips through photo and video. Jeremy is active on social media, and hopes that his visual storytelling will positively inspire others to get out and explore.

 

In 2016, Jeremy became River Watcher volunteer which deepened his appreciation for the river. He considers himself a steward of the outdoors and spreads his passion by connecting with people about their experiences kayaking and walking the river’s banks, and by talking about conservation science. Through networking, Jeremy has expanded his volunteering to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, and has recently become a founding board member for the newly formed non-profit, Peace NJ (People Enjoying Active Conservation in the Environment in New Jersey).

Joe Macasek

President

Canal Society of New Jersey

 

Joe Macasek is President of the Canal Society of New Jersey (CSNJ), former President of the Roebling Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Friends of Historic Speedwell board member, and serves on the Morris County Heritage Commission. He is the author of the Guide to the Morris Canal in Morris County and offers lectures on local history topics and industrial archaeology.

Mr. Macasek holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design from the Pratt Institute. Joe chairs CSNJ’s Morris Canal Greenway Committee and member of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s Greenway Working Group Executive Committee. These committees are working with county and local officials to create a state-wide Morris Canal Greenway corridor. CSNJ partners with the New Jersey State Park Service to operate Waterloo Village, a 19th-century Morris Canal Town. Each year CSNJ volunteers engage thousands of visitors with a truly one-of-a-kind visitor experience.

Elliott Ruga

Policy and Communications Director

New Jersey Highlands Coalition

 

Elliott Ruga is the Director of Policy & Communications at the NJ Highlands Coalition. He is the founding chair of the Boonton Trails Committee, which coordinates among all of the stakeholder groups and their grant funded projects to develop the Boonton Heritage Trail, incorporating the newly designated Boonton Iron Works Complex Historic District, the rehabilitation of an historic stone arch bridge across the Rockaway River, an abandoned steel railroad trestle, all connected by a mixed-use trail, which will also serve as the Boonton component of the statewide Morris Canal Greenway. Elliott is currently vice chair of the Boonton Historic Preservation Commission, where he served as chair for 10 years. Elliott served on the Morris County Open Space Committee and the Morris County Heritage Commission.

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David Helmer

Executive Director

Morris County Park Commission

 

David Helmer began his career with the Morris County Park Commission in 1997 as a part-time staff person, moving up the ladder until becoming the Executive Director in 2002, a position he has held since. Dave grew up in Morris County, where he currently resides with his wife and three children. He is a trustee the Willowwood Foundation, and the Tubbs Trust to care for the property and structures at the Willowwood Arboretum in Chester Township, and a member of the NJ Recreation and Parks Association, National Recreation and Parks Association, and National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials.

 

The Morris County Park Commission’s goals are to develop and preserve the county’s unique and dynamic system of diverse natural, cultural, and historic resources, and provide innovative education and recreation opportunities for the region’s residents and visitors. The Commission’s current stewardship responsibly includes 38 parks, 207 miles of trails, and over 20,000 acres of preserved land, including 6 sites on the National and State Register of Historic Sites.

Dr. Michael Horne

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

 

Dr. Horne was raised on a family farm in the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania. Recognizing the importance of the natural world, he earned his BS in biology and secondary education from Juniata College, and his Ph.D in wildlife ecology and statistics from Pennsylvania State University.

 

Dr. Horne has worked as a consultant for the Environmental Protection Agency, and as a national Superfund site liaison for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. After years of travelling to polluted sites throughout the nation, he settled down at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in 1999, where he was responsible for the non-game wildlife program, contaminant cleanup, and watershed management issues.

 

Dr. Horne played a key role in the establishment of Cherry Valley NWR, and his experience includes management and land acquisition at Cherry Valley, Wallkill River, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR.

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George Cassa

Co-owner

Shannon’s Fly and Tackle Shop, Califon

 

George Cassa graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy with a degree in marine

engineering and later received a master’s degree in management science from Stevens Institute

of Technology.  He was employed in the ship design field for over 40 years. Before retiring he joined Shannon’s Fly and Tackle Shop as a partner in 2005. A lifelong NJ resident, George was a trustee of the Great Swamp Watershed Association for several years where he chaired the Land Use committee.  He is a trustee and past president of the NJ Highlands Coalition, where he currently chairs the policy committee.  He is also a trustee and policy committee chair of the Raritan Headwaters Association and is on the boards of the Morris County Trust for Historic Preservation, the NJ Chapter of the Native Fish Coalition, and the Tewksbury Historical Society.  George has served on the Tewksbury Township, NJ, Scenic Roads and Bridges Commission for several years.

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Emily Baldauff

Mid-Atlantic Organizer

Trout Unlimited

 

Emily is a native of Northeast Pennsylvania and has worked extensively throughout the state and mid-Atlantic region. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management from Keystone College.

 

Emily’s career in conservation spans the fields of climate, watershed management, water quality and restoration, permitting, environmental education, wildlife, policy, and habitat conservation. Most notably, before joining TU she worked for Berks County Conservation District, Pike County Conservation District, and PennFuture. She is also currently the Susquehanna North Branch Water Trail Coordinator for Endless Mountains Heritage Region in Towanda, Pa and an Adjunct Professor at Keystone College in LaPlume, PA teaching Environmental Science and Environmental Management & Policy.

 

Emily is an avid angler, kayaker, backpacker, hunter, birder, and hiker. She enjoys traveling around the USA, Central, and South America to go on these adventures. Time spent in the woods or near the river with her husband, Nick, and their beagles, Kip and Flash, is her favorite place to be.

Ms. Dale A. Rosselet

Vice President for Education

New Jersey Audubon

 

Ms. Rosselet has been with New Jersey Audubon since 1983 and has extensive experience teaching pre-school, elementary, and secondary grades in both formal and non-formal situations. As Vice President for Education she oversees all statewide and center-based educational programming efforts for the organization as well as nature center operations.  She currently chairs the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education and is past President of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, NJ’s statewide professional organization for environmental educators.  

 

Additionally, Ms. Rosselet has led dozens of U.S and international nature-based and birdwatching tours for NJ Audubon and other organizations.  She is an accomplished birdwatcher and co-authored Birding by Impression:  A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds with her husband, Kevin T. Karlson.

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Ben Spinelli

Executive Director

Highlands Council

Ben Spinelli is a dynamic and innovative leader with expertise in environmental policy, land use practices, land preservation, and strategic planning. His career spans both the private and public sectors including 20 years as a trial attorney, three-terms as the elected Mayor of Chester Township, Morris County, and several senior-level roles in government at the local, state, and federal levels.

 

In 2015, Spinelli co-founded a consulting partnership to provide regulatory and policy guidance to businesses, landowners, and government entities in New Jersey. The business later merged with another firm to provide services to a larger range of clients including multi-national corporations and energy partnerships.

 

He is an active volunteer and has served on several community boards and nonprofits, including serving as a coach for local youth football and lacrosse teams. As a self-proclaimed “Jersey guy,” through a combination of Spinelli’s work and his avocations, he has managed to visit each of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities.

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Laurie Rapisardi

Executive Director

Hackettstown BID

Laurie Rapisardi is the Executive Director of the Hackettstown Business Improvement District.  She was born and raised in Hackettstown and continues to raise her family here.  She has a deep love for the Town Of Hackettstown, the community, and the businesses that make up this special town in Warren County!  

She is committed to helping the Hackettstown area businesses thrive while creating events that will engage the community and surrounding areas in a fun and meaningful way.  One of her greatest loves is seeing people happy and having fun in Hackettstown.  She enjoys collaborating and supporting the local economic development, recreation and outdoor areas.  Laurie's mission and goal is to provide ALL visitors the opportunity to enjoy the many adventures and offerings of  Hackettstown and Warren County.

 

She serves on other committees and organizations that allow her love for her hometown and her mission to help others to include the Hackettstown Rotary, the Warren County Economic Development Committee, Warren County Bicentennial Advisory Board, Girl Scouts of America just to name a few.

Ricardo Alvarado

Co-owner

Everitt House Bed and Breakfast, Hackettstown

 

Ricardo Alvarado is a Puerto Rican/American Performing Artist, Independent Film Producer, Director & Writer. Alvarado is known for his roles in the independent feature films Unwelcome Advances and Pablo On Wheels, and for his co-starring roles on Bull and Jimmy Fallon to mention a few. Ricardo in his earlier years worked as a printer and runway model, and appeared in various commercials. In 2003 Alvarado released Unveiled, a music project featuring his own electronic recordings from the ‘90s. He has toured his music in the US, Caribbean Islands and Canada accompanied by video releases. Ricardo’s experience also includes core roles on the TV show Blue Bloods season 12 and upcoming season 13.

 

Since November 20 Alvarado has partnered with Don Osinga to reopen and manage the Everitt House Bed and Breakfast in Hackettstown, NJ. Osinga and Alvarez have created a unique boutique style bed and breakfast with an intimate curated experience. “Everitt House has become my first love, meeting people from around the world & watching our guests make new friends amongst each other is priceless. Not to mention the need that was there for a place to stay in Downtown Hackettstown with this kind of hospitality and comfort” says Alvarado.

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Lauren Theis

Director of Education

Raritan Headwaters Association

 

Lauren Theis is the Director of Education at Raritan Headwaters where she has been creating experiential programs in nature for kids of all ages for over 15 years. Working with a staff of over 20 naturalists, Lauren directs and designs programs that focus on multidisciplinary, hands-on, opportunistic learning in order to help folks create meaningful connections with nature. Lauren graduated from Cook College, Rutgers University with a degree in the Biological Sciences, is a certified yoga instructor, and loves to interact with nature through the arts.

Dwight Hiscano

Owner

Dwight Hiscano Photography

 

Dwight Hiscano is a photographer who has dedicated a good part of his decades-long career to capturing our state’s landscapes on film and digital sensor. With particular emphasis on the rugged landscapes of the Highlands, where his family has owned land for over a century, Dwight has channeled his efforts toward using photography to promote the preservation of endangered landscapes.

 

Dwight's photographs are held in collections in the U.S. and abroad, and have been featured in numerous group and solo exhibits including the Nature’s Best exhibit at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic sponsored International Mountain Summit in Italy, and the Capitol Rotunda. Dwight’s photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Outdoor Photographer, Nature’s Best, Black and White Magazine, Nature Conservancy Magazine, and Photographic Magazine.  He recently won Black and White Magazine’s Single Image Spotlight Award, was a finalist in the 2018 International Color Awards, and was twice nominated for the Black and White Spider Awards. His work has been featured prominently in books, posters, calendars, websites, and annual reports in the US, Europe and Asia.

 

A lifelong conservationist, Dwight has also served on the boards of The Nature Conservancy’s NJ Chapter and the Summit Conservancy in his hometown of Summit, New Jersey.  He founded and curates the Annual Highlands Juried Art Exhibit with the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, now in its sixth year.