Acreage Added to Sourland Mountain Preserve
A Feb. 9 closing was held on 58.25 acres of land being deeded to the Somerset County Open Space Preservation Program.
Located at the intersection of Pleasant View Road and Route 601 in Montgomery Township, the property was purchased from owner W. Bryce Thompson IV for $1,980,704. Montgomery Township has agreed to contribute 30 percent of the purchase price towards the county’s acquisition of the property from its Open Space Trust Fund.
“This is another win for the environment in Montgomery,” said Freeholder Mark Caliguire, county open space liaison. “The preservation of this property and other open agricultural land along the lower flanks and foothills of the Sourland Mountain are important. In addition to creating a transition between suburban development and the pristine environment of the Sourland Mountain, they allow for the creation of habitat for many grassland bird species.
“The acquisition of the Thompson property is another in a long line of successful partnerships between Somerset County and its municipalities,” Freeholder Caliguire said. “Preservation is most effective when groups work together to contribute resources and funding toward the common goal of preserving the rich cultural and environmental resource of the Sourland Mountain region.”
"We are pleased and proud that this beautiful farmland with its open vista of the Sourlands has been saved for posterity,” said Montgomery Mayor Ed Trzaska, township open space liaison. “It is truly exciting to close this deal in partnership with Somerset County. Montgomery’s open spaces are integral to its identity; protecting our rural character is one of our core principles. Many thanks to our Freeholders – especially Freeholder Mark Caliguire for leading the process for the county team."
In 2012, the county purchased 256 acres from Carrier Clinic (175 acres in Montgomery and the remainder in Hillsborough), which is adjacent to the Thompson property. Montgomery Township is now working to acquire an additional 15 acres nearby on the opposite side of Route 601, as well as several other tracts of land throughout the community.
The property is primarily an open farm with areas of woodland. The acquisition helps to preserve the bucolic character of the area at the base of the Sourland Mountain, which is a mix of farms and wooded preserved land. The preservation also serves to provide a buffer between the largely undeveloped land to the south in Montgomery and the residential development to the north in Hillsborough. The parcel was preserved in perpetuity as open space and is now part of the county’s Sourland Mountain Preserve, bringing the total preserve area to 6,170 acres.
The property will remain largely in its existing state and the current agricultural use will continue. Somerset County and Montgomery Township will work together to determine future possible passive uses on the property that are most appropriate for the health and public enjoyment of the land.
The Sourland Mountain region is an expansive green swath of intact forest and farmland spanning parts of three largely developed central New Jersey counties. It extends from the central part of Hillsborough Township southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County.
The Sourlands contain over 20,000 contiguous forested acres that protect the water supply to the headwaters of several significant streams flowing to the D&R Canal, Millstone, Raritan and Delaware rivers. The Sourlands support many rare plant and animal species and provide nesting and migratory stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory birds.
Somerset County began the preservation of the Sourland Mountain in Hillsborough and Montgomery townships in the early 1970s. With the addition of the Thompson property, the preserve now exceeds 6,000 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County’s 14,450-acre park system.
Celebrating the closing on the Thompson property are, left to right, Somerset County Freeholder and Open Space Liaison Mark Caliguire, county Principal Planner for Land Acquisition Tom Boccino, Montgomery Township Open Space Coordinator Lauren Wasilauski and Montgomery Mayor Ed Trzaska.
A summertime view of the Thompson property at Pleasant View Road and Route 601 in Montgomery Township. (Photo by Ed Trzaska)