Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 33
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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Weather Forecast

Land Along Stony Brook Preserved, Watershed Is Key Site for Conservation

Dilshanie Perera

Conservation has long been a keyword in Princeton, whether in relation to wetlands, trails, or open spaces. Alleviating flood damage, conserving wetlands, and preserving both trails and open spaces are all consistent with the Princeton Township Master Plan.

Most recently, the last bit of the six-mile trail network running alongside the Stony Brook has been preserved by the D&R Greenway Land Trust, Princeton Township, Friends of Princeton Open Spaces, Mercer County, and a local private foundation.

The path, which is accessible to wheelchairs and a proposed bridge over Stony Brook connecting the trails on opposite banks, will run from the Princeton Friends School, through Greenway Meadows, to an area near the Woodfield Preserve. Everything is expected to be in place by the fall of 2009.

Township Engineer Robert Kiser expressed his approval of the project, saying, “It is exciting to see that this missing link in the trail system will be complete in the near future. It enhances the goals included in master plan and makes Princeton a more walkable and bike friendly place.”

The land was purchased from residents Alastair and Lynn Clemow, whose property abuts Stony Brook.

The Stony Brook waterway is part of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed, which spans 265 square miles in central New Jersey. According to the Township’s Flood Mitigation Plan of 2006, almost the entire Township drains into the Millstone River Watershed, whose tributaries include Stony Brook, Harry’s Brook, and others.

Such aqueous bodies increase the incidence of flooding, but also create wetlands regions, which are protected spaces. The Township master plan states that there are 1,698 acres in the Township comprised of freshwater wetlands.

Wetlands are important for a number of reasons, including absorbing rainwater, which is crucial for flood control, filtering pollutants, thereby improving water quality, and supporting endangered or threatened plant and animal habitats.

Legislation has assisted in preserving and conserving such spaces. The Township restricts the building or enlarging of structures in flood plains through its Floodway and Flood Hazard Areas ordinance. The state also protects freshwater wetlands and the transition areas, or “buffers” immediately surrounding them.

Such legislation and the presence of flood zones and wetlands impacts the way homeowners experience their land.

Flood Awareness

Leksa Nall, who grew up on a property through which Harry’s Brook runs, said that the proximity of the stream has heightened her awareness of flooding. “When it rains hard the brook rises rapidly and sometimes even overflows over our driveway bridge,” she noted, adding, “We have some wetlands on our property and there are restrictions on non-permeable surface area.” The rainwater contributing to runoff into the brook would probably increase flooding if it could not be absorbed into the ground through a permeable surface.

Evidence of erosion can be seen along the brook’s banks, Ms. Nall remarked, saying that over a period of years a few trees that once stood along the bank have now fallen into the water as the soil has completely washed away.

On a lighter note, Ms. Nall spoke of the animals that venture into her yard and the brook as a result of the wetland environment, citing “rabbits, groundhogs, deer, foxes, ducks, fish, and the occasional water snake” as fairly common. Snapping turtles are a bit more rare, she noted, though once “there was one about two feet in diameter that made it all the way into our backyard.”

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