HARMONY TOWNSHIP, NJ (Warren County) – In the heart of northern New Jersey lies Merrill Creek Reservoir, a picturesque natural haven that offers opportunities for redemption and adventure.
It serves as a place of second chances, where individuals from diverse backgrounds find solace and purpose.
Among those individuals is Charisma Rivera, salutatorian of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg’s (NJYCP) class of 2023. She represents one of many NJYCP graduates this year who have been granted a second chance through the organization’s partnership with Merrill Creek Reservoir to train and hire students.
After being unable to complete her high school education, Rivera enrolled in the NJYCP’s Second Chance GED Program. Rivera expressed her gratitude to the NJYCP staff during her graduation speech on June 30, acknowledging their dedication to guiding “beautiful misfits” toward a brighter future.
At Merrill Creek, a sanctuary for wildlife that boasts diverse habitats and animal species, FirstEnergy and one of its electric companies, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), collaborate with community groups to provide opportunities for personal growth.
The NJYCP students participated in various conservation projects. From conducting rare turtle surveys to planting trees as part of a Conservation Innovation Grant, these students became stewards of over 1,000 acres of public lands. The work they undertook mirrored the efforts necessary for their future lives.
Located in JCP&L’s service territory, Merrill Creek is a 250-acre reservoir with a capacity of 15 billion gallons of water, surrounded by a 290-acre woodland preserve. Owned by a consortium of utility companies, including JCP&L and its sister company Met-Ed, the reservoir is designed to maintain water flow in the Delaware River – especially during the summer, when the river is typically at its lowest. As co-owners, each of the utilities provide funding for programs and staffing at Merrill Creek.
“Merrill Creek Reservoir weaves together tales of second chances, conservation efforts and community outreach, inviting people from all walks of life to embrace the beauty of nature and their own potential for growth and transformation,” said Jim Fakult, president of FirstEnergy’s New Jersey operations. “We’re proud of the offerings provided at Merrill Creek because their programs align with our commitment to a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued, included and respected.”
The reservoir also serves as a bridge between the local communities and nature.
The Arc of Warren County, an organization dedicated to individuals with developmental disabilities, holds an annual fishing event for its clients at Merrill Creek. This year, around 50 participants were paired with skilled fishing partners and provided with everything they needed to enjoy a day by the water.
“Merrill Creek Reservoir is so happy to host the annual event for the folks from The Arc of Warren County,” said John Parke, an environmental specialist at Merrill Creek Reservoir. “We look forward to this event each year because it brings so much joy to all who participate just by being outdoors, surrounded by nature with friends and family, and finding that sense of tranquility that fishing offers.”
To further foster community engagement, Merrill Creek recently expanded its hours. With fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife watching among the most popular activities, the reservoir is open year-round at 7;00 a.m. The facility closes to public access at 8:00 p.m. during the summer through Labor Day, 6:30 p.m. from Sept. 5-30 and 4:30 p.m. from Oct. 1 to March 15.
To learn more about Merrill Creek Reservoir and its community offerings, visit www.merrillcreek.com.