Newswise — The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is managed by Rutgers University, celebrated Earth Day with new folk art designed and fabricated by local blacksmiths.

Representing three habitats found in the reserve – forest, marsh and bay – the three-panel display is a new permanent installation at the Grassle Marsh Interpretive Trail kiosk. Visitors to the trail will now enjoy an up-close look at local flora and fauna species found throughout the reserve, rendered in detailed metalwork.

Southern Ocean County blacksmith Stephen Nuttall led the design and fabrication of the nature-inspired folk art. Nuttall, a 2017 and 2018 Folk Arts grant recipient from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, began his apprenticeship in 2015 under Master Blacksmith Toby Kroll. He also worked with the Tuckerton Seaport to design and install the current Blacksmith shop. Nuttall’s folk art created for the Jacques Cousteau Reserve is just one example of his desire to forge deeper relationships with his community by recreating historic items necessary for the Baymen’s life on the Jersey Shore.

Nuttall’s mentor, Toby Kroll, is a third-generation blacksmith. Kroll began his artisan blacksmith work after meeting his wife, Kate Kroll, 19 years ago. Today, Toby Kroll is the Batsto Blacksmith.  After retiring from 30 years in the classroom, Kate Kroll has enjoyed developing her smithing skills by working together with her husband at their home forge, interpreting at Batsto’s forge, traveling to workshops, teaching blacksmith lessons and demonstrating at fairs.

Assembly and installation of the new folk-art pieces was made possible through the efforts of the Ocean County Department of Corrections Work Crew Unit. Officer Frank Gordon and his work crew have adopted the Grassle Marsh Trail as one of their dedicated locations for maintenance and stewardship. Through their ongoing efforts the trail remains safe and enjoyable for Reserve visitors.

The Grassle Marsh trail – named after the late Rutgers Professor J. Frederick Grassle, founding director of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the university – is a half-mile nature trail located at the Cousteau Reserve’s Coastal Education Center on Great Bay Blvd. in Tuckerton. The trail was built and is maintained through grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Recreational Trails Grant program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kaitlin Gannon, education coordinator at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve, is available to comment at [email protected] and 609-812-0649, ext. 206.


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