top of page

2023 Plenary


N  J

Northwest New Jersey

Rivers Conference

Jay Watson-2.jpg

John S. "Jay" Watson Jr.

Co-Executive Director

New Jersey Conservation Foundation

"Jay" is one of three Co-Executive Directors of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and brings with him over 40 years of experience in protecting New Jersey's environment, including nearly 30 years in the NJDEP where he ultimately became the Program Administrator for Green Acres.

Jay was appointed Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, and in 2006 was appointed Deputy Commissioner of NJDEP before retiring from government service in 2010.


Jay currently lives in Lawrenceville, and is a proud graduate of Mercer County College and Florida A&M University.

Martha Sapp

Martha Sapp


NJDEP Green Acres Program

Martha Sullivan Sapp has been with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program for 36 years, serving as Director since 2012. Starting as a project manager handling land acquisition and park development projects, Martha also served as Communications Lead, Policy Coordinator, Rule Manager, Team Leader of the Urban Acquisition and Statewide Park Development Team, and Bureau Chief before becoming Director.

Renata Barnes

Renata Barnes

Director of Programming and Community Engagement

Outdoor Equity Alliance

Renata is proud to return to where she was raised in Hopewell Valley after nearly two decades in New York City as the Director of Programming and Community Engagement at the Outdoor Equity Alliance. Renata leads the Alliance's AgriHood Internship Program, and has led the Alliance's partnership with the 16th Legislative District, Mercer County Park Commission and the Trenton African American Cultural Collaboration to bring the first Juneteenth weekend festival to Trenton.

Renata has also overseen the Avian Internship Program at the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and is a founding member of the Hopewell Valley Race and Diversity (now called Hopewell Valley Together).

Ben Spinelli

Ben Spinelli (facilitator)

Executive Director

New Jersey 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.

Ben 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.

bottom of page