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Woodbine, NJ Belleplain area attracts those who love nature and the outdoors. Just a few miles away from the barrier island communities of Ocean City and Sea Isle City is the rural community of Woodbine. Bordered by Upper Township, Dennis Township and the Belleplain State Forest, Woodbine NJ has a unique history in southern New Jersey and an easier pace than many of the area's resort communities.
Founded in 1891 by Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the wealthy Jewish industrialist wanted his brethren to escape the difficult times they were experiencing in urban settings so he helped resettled Jewish-American immigrants in Woodbine NJ.
In the 1890s, more than 600 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe moved to Woodbine, and it became the must successful Jewish-American agricultural and industrial settlement in the country. The de Hirsch Fund acquired the 5,300-acre tract of land named Woodbine NJ, with the Millville and Cape May Railroad station at its center, in 1891 and 800 acres of the land was earmarked for the town. The rest of the land was divided into 62 farm plots. Each farm plot consisted of 30 acres, and families were given a house, outbuildings, a horse, a cow, 25 chickens, seed and equipment in exchange for agreeing to repay the fund $1,200 over a 10-year period. Woodbine NJ became the site of the Woodbine NJ Agricultural School, founded in 1895 and world-renown, which closed in 1917. By 1910, industrial operations numbered nearly 40 in Woodbine and economic prosperity continued in Woodbine until the end of World War II. Not only were there more than 50 poultry and produce farms in the area, but many military uniform items were manufactured in the borough making Woodbine NJ the economic hub of the county.
A naval air station was constructed in Woodbine NJ during World War II and although it is no longer a military facility, Woodbine NJ's municipal airport is still in operation and local leaders are working toward establishing the airport facility as a major economic and industrial center.
Accessible from County Route 550, the Belleplain State Forest, on the northwest border of Woodbine, is a vast wildlife area that encompasses 12,255 acres of New Jersey Pinelands.
Belleplain is a mix of lowland hardwood swamps, former agricultural areas, Atlantic white cedar, Norway spruce, Eastern white and Virginia pines, and marshes. Established in 1920, Belleplain contains the 26-acre reservoir known as Lake Nummy, for the legendary chief of the Lenni-Lenape tribe that once occupied Cape May County.
There are two connecting self-guided nature trails around Lake Nummy - a six and half-mile East Creek trail linking two recreation areas and about 10 miles of additional marked trails. A bathing area at the lake is open during the tourism season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There is a small boat dock is on the southern shore of Lake Nummy and a boat ramp on the western shore of East Creek Pond. Boat and canoe rentals are also on site. The state park includes plenty of picnic tables and barbecue grills, a 10-station fitness course, a wildlife observation platform, a staffed nature center, boat rentals and a concession stand at the lake. Belleplain is a popular site for birding enthusiasts and astronomers. The forest's reputation as a "Mecca" for birders and dragonfly/butterfly enthusiasts is growing and several workshops and seminars are annually conducted onsite by staff of the Cape May Bird Observatory.
Hunting, trapping, and fishing are permitted within the forest subject to New Jersey's fish and game laws. Deer, grouse, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, fox, and various waterfowl are among hunters' favorite quarry. Freshwater fish species taken include catfish, perch, pickerel, sunfish, and occasionally largemouth bass from the East Creek Pond.
For vacationers who truly love the outdoors, Belleplain State Forest has 188 family campsites able to accommodate trailers and tents. There are also two group campsites, each with enough space for 75 people, as well as 14 lean-tos that accommodate six people apiece.
While swimming, boating, biking, canoeing, hiking and horseback riding are popular throughout the warmer months, Belleplain is also a favorite spot for those who enjoy cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling and hunting. As night falls, Belleplain is one of the best spots in southern New Jersey for stargazing. The regular meeting spot of the South Jersey Astronomy Club, Belleplain's views, unobstructed by buildings or towers, offer extraordinary perspectives for watching meteor showers and other heavenly bodies.