Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association expands

Watershed increases by 70 acres

By Ruth Luse, Packet Publications
   July 15, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association — in partnership with Mercer County and Hopewell Township — purchased almost 70 acres of forest, wetlands and meadow from Thompson Realty Company and Princeton Research Lands, boosting the organization’s Watershed Reserve to 930 acres.
   This new land acquisition brings together two previously unconnected portions of the reserve and completes a “conservation corridor” between Hopewell Borough and Pennington.
   ”Preserving this critical parcel has been a high priority of the Watershed Association for nearly a decade,” according to Jim Waltman, association executive director.
   The action “protects an important tributary to the Stony Brook, preserves high priority wildlife habitats and makes available to the public a magnificent expanse of open space,” Mr. Waltman said in a news release.
   Both East Windsor and Hightstown are part of the watershed. They are on the southern end of the Millstone River, which is 38 miles long. Millstone River flows through part of East Windsor.
   The purchase was made possible with funds the association secured from the New Jersey Green Acres Program and the Garden State Preservation Trust.
   Mercer County and Hopewell Township — the association’s partners in the purchase — provided necessary matching funds through their respective open space programs. Additional funds to help cover the technical costs of the purchase were provided by Conservation Resources Inc. and donations from individuals.
   Prior to the Thompson purchase, the reserve consisted of two separate units.
   • The more southerly one — including the administrative headquarters, the Buttinger Nature Center and the organic farm off Wargo Road in Hopewell Township — was donated to the association by Dr. Muriel and Joseph Buttinger over a period of years from the mid-60s through the mid-80s.
   • The northern portion consists of lands purchased by the association in late 1990s and early 2000s and Mercer County-owned land that is managed by the association as part of its reserve.
   To the south of the reserve are private lands over which conservation and trail easements have been granted — the state-owned Baldwin Lake Wildlife Management Area and Kunkel Park, which is owned and managed by Pennington Borough.
   In addition to its “strategic importance in uniting the reserve and completing the conservation corridor, the preservation of the Thompson property also affords protection to a 1,000-foot section of the Honey Brook and its associated wetlands. The Honey Brook is a significant tributary to the Stony Brook,” Mr. Waltman said.
   The association plans to locate a hiking trail through the newly purchased land and eventually complete a regional pedestrian trail that would connect Hopewell Borough and Pennington through the conservation corridor.
   ”A portion of the property also may be used for a segment of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail should more preferable routes fail to materialize,” a spokesman said.
   Plans for a 20-mile biking and hiking trail (now known as the Lawrence Hopewell Trail) were unveiled in November 2002. The trail would “meander through corporate campuses, school campuses and along streets in Lawrence and Hopewell townships,” a report said.
   In June 2005, the LHT Task Force opened the first leg of the planned 20-mile loop path in Hopewell Township at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Hopewell campus on the Pennington-Rocky Hill Road.
   By that time, several portions of the trail had opened in Lawrence, but this was the first leg of the trail for Hopewell Township — along Pennington-Rocky Hill and Titus Mill roads from Wargo to Old Mill roads.
   The LHT “is intended to connect the two townships. Plans call for it to cross the Educational Testing Service, Bristol-Myers Squibb campuses in Lawrence and Hopewell townships, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association property and Mercer County Park Northwest,” a report said.
   In Lawrence, a portion of the trail already had been constructed on the ETS campus off Rosedale Road. Another segment “begins on The Lawrenceville School campus. It crosses Main Street to Gordon Avenue where it continues up to James Street. It crosses Phillips Avenue and continues to Craven Lane, across Bergen Street and into Village Park.”
   Six years have passed since then, and with those years have come more additions to the trail.
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, a member-supported nonprofit organization, protects the 265-square-mile region of central New Jersey drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River — an area spanning 26 towns and five counties. Founded in 1949, the association is central New Jersey’s first environmental group protecting clean water and the environment through conservation, advocacy, science and education.