- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey has a reputation for traffic and pollution, but a new local television show that premiered Wednesday highlights the “garden” part of the Garden State.

“On the Trail with Mike Schneider” features the award-winning NJTV journalist as he guides viewers through the flora, fauna and other scenery of New Jersey. He also will discuss the historical and sometimes contentious political issues related to the region.

“This series combines my two passions of journalism and hiking,” Schneider said. “I explore the great outdoors with an inquiring mind, aiming to rouse viewers’ curiosity so they will want to explore the wild places in their own backyards. It’s amazing how all this wilderness is really closer than you think.”

Environmentalists say New Jersey’s natural treasures are often overlooked because of negative stereotypes about the state.

“What people don’t understand is New Jersey, in a very small area, has more diverse scenery and environment than other states,” New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said. “They see New Jersey as the turnpike, the parkway, and other crammed roadways, but go a short distance in any direction and you will find some beautiful oasis of nature. From north to south, east to west, there are a lot of gems.”

In the pilot episode, Schneider hiked through one of the state’s most remote regions, the Delaware Water Gap. He went up Mount Tammany, the gap’s highest peak, and spent time at a ghost town with its mostly boarded-up homes, a reminder of the abandoned Tocks Island Dam Project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initially proposed building a dam in the Delaware River in the 1950s to control damaging flooding. It would have created a 37-mile-long lake between Pennsylvania and New Jersey that could have supplied power and drinking water.

As part of the development process, thousands of acres were acquired through condemnation and eminent domain, angering the hundreds of residents who were displaced and leaving the areas virtually deserted. Opposition eventually caused officials to withdraw the proposal.

Schneider also followed the Appalachian Trail into Palisades Interstate Parklands, where the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference recently completed a major land rehabilitation and educational project in Bear Mountain. He also headed south along the Hudson River to show the trails that follow the magnificent Palisades, and traveled along a Revolutionary War trail.

“I look for ‘special places’, locations with great natural beauty and with great stories to tell, too,” Schneider said. “Many, if not most, of our most beloved parks and nature preserves, have been saved only after huge battles among competing interests.”

Schneider has hosted the “Weekend Today” show on NBC, anchored the news on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and served as national political correspondent and lead anchor at Fox News.

“On the Trail” premiered Wednesday on NJTV and will air in August on WLIW in New York and in September on WNET in New York.

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