HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP: SB-MWA: Environmental center coming

Association received a $450,000 Challenge Grant from the Willard T.C. Johnson Foundation

By John Tredrea, Special Writer
   A treasure, located at 31 Titus Mill Road, Hopewell Township, soon will become more valuable and even more usable.
   The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SB-MWA) has received a $450,000 Challenge Grant from the Willard T.C. Johnson Foundation to help complete the fundraising for a new, innovative environmental center.
   The challenge grant matched dollar for dollar each new or additional gift or pledge received by last Friday.
   The center will be created through an extensive renovation and expansion of the SB-MWA’s existing Buttinger Nature Center. It has been designed by Farewell Architects LLC, of Princeton, to attain a LEED-Platinum certification (the highest possible rating) by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
   The SB-MWA announced a campaign to build the new center in October 2011, in order to strengthen its programs in conservation, advocacy, science and education. The group has raised more than $7 million toward the estimated $7.5 million project, which will be built on the 930-acre Watershed Reserve in Hopewell Township.
   Construction of the new center is expected to begin this summer.
   For many years, the SB-MWA has benefited from the generosity of longtime Hopewell resident, Betty Wold Johnson. It was through her wishes that the challenge grant was issued by the Willard T. C. Johnson Foundation.
   ”All of us have a responsibility to protect our natural resources for today and for generations to come,” said Ms. Johnson. “The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association has led the way for 64 years to protect water, a resource essential to life. The Johnson family is pleased to support the Watershed and its new environmental center.”
   ”We are extremely grateful to the Willard T. C. Johnson Foundation for supporting our bold vision for the future,” said Jim Waltman, Sb-MWA executive director.
   ”The threats facing our water and environment continue to mount and we need to strengthen our ability to change behaviors and create protections for our natural resources before it’s too late.”
   The new environmental center will deploy a wide range of innovative technologies to reduce energy and water consumption and provide a model for strategies that can protect and restore the environment, Mr. Waltman added.
   The new facility will contain a laboratory for conducting and teaching scientific research, classrooms, interactive exhibits, a computer learning center, conference rooms, a gift shop, kitchen space and staff offices.
   ”We are working to transform the heart of our Watershed Reserve into a bold and inspiring model for how we can all live more environmentally responsible lives,” Mr. Waltman said.
   ”The new environmental center will increase our program capacity. It will provide teaching and research facilities to heighten the rigor and sophistication of our scientific and educational curriculum, and model innovative behaviors and technologies to reduce energy and water consumption and restore environmental health,” he concluded.
   SB-MWA provides educational programming for more than 30 public and private school districts, including the Hopewell Valley Regional schools, The Pennington School, Cambridge School and Pennington Montessori.
   The main office is at the J. Seward Johnson Sr. Environmental Center (737-3735). The Education Department can be reached at 737-7592.