Public Meeting to Address Future of Quarry Site
PLANNING A TRANSFORMATION: The Moores Station Quarry off Route 29 in Hopewell Township is ceasing operations and will eventually be turned into a park. The public can comment on how a master plan should be developed at an open meeting early next month.
By Anne Levin
In spring of 2023, Moores Station Quarry off Route 29 in Hopewell Township will cease operations after more than a century. The site, which is more than 200 feet deep and 2,000 feet across, has been designated for transformation into a park.
Just how that park should be created is the subject of a public meeting being held via Zoom on Wednesday, December 2 at 7 p.m. Additional meetings will be held in February, May, and October, 2021.
“This will probably be the most exciting project we’ve ever undertaken,” said Aaron Watson, executive director of the Mercer County Park Commission. “We want to figure out how to do it right, which is why we’re having a master plan. We want to hear public input.”
Back in the 1800s, materials from the quarry were moved by barge on the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and then later, via railroad. Today, trucks transport materials from the Titusville site. A 25-year agreement with Trap Rock Industries, which has been operating the quarry, will expire in 2023. At that point, the Park Commission will take possession and begin the multi-year process of turning the open-pit quarry into a park. Creating a master plan is the first step. A multi-disciplinary team of landscape architects, geologists, engineers, ecologists, wildlife biologists, architects, sustainability experts, and real estate market analysts have been put together to assist in the process.
The site has some relatively level areas. There are also steep rock walls, haul roads, and two small ponds. The quarry is next to the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, wants the site to be turned into open space rather than a place for active recreation.
“The Sierra Club and others have fought countless battles to protect Baldpate Mountain,” he said in a press release. “We stopped projects like ball and soccer fields, as well as a new entrance that would have been like a highway going up the mountain. That is why it is critical that this quarry park has to be compatible with the goals of the park. It needs to be for passive recreation, with trees, meadows, and wetlands. They should not use this park as an excuse for these active recreation amenities or facilities. This quarry should have been shut down a long time ago. Now that it is finally being turned into a park, it cannot be privatized. Too many people have fought too hard for too long to save this area to lose it now to profiteers.”
Watson said that the quarry has created an unnatural landscape, but there is an opportunity to reclaim a portion of it for open space. The question is how much. “The beauty of it is that there is such great potential,” he said. “Unfortunately, you’re always going to get advocacy groups claiming that only certain activities need to occur there. But this is not a natural area. We have every intention of taking advantage of what is there, making sure the habitat is appropriate for birds and wildlife. It is early in the process, though.”
Mercer County Superintendent of Parks Anthony Cucchi, who will be leading the team of consultants, commented, “There is very little that’s natural about the site. There is no soil or vegetation. The consultants are guiding us through an analysis to see what could be restored, and how to bring some of it back to wildlife habitat.”
The plan has been to make the site into a public space since Mercer County, the New Jersey Green Acres Program, and Hopewell Township jointly purchased more than 1,000 acres of land, including the quarry property, to create a county park at Baldpate Mountain. The land sale allowed the quarry operator to continue mining on a portion of the land for 25 years after the transfer. That right expires in the spring of 2023, at which time the Mercer County Park Commission will take possession.
Turning the site into a park is a multi-year process, but portions might be ready for use by county residents soon after the transfer takes place. “That’s why we’re doing the master plan,” said Watson. “So people can enjoy some of it soon after we take ownership. We don’t want to wait until the last minute. We want to get this going and work closely with Trap Rock.”
Tittel of the Sierra Club said that an arboretum could be put into the quarry pit, and restoring wetlands and riparian corridors could also be part of the plan. “It is important for the people to come out to the meeting and demand that the area is fully restored,” he said. “If done properly, this park will be a critical part of restoring and preserving the wild spaces of Baldpate Mountain.”
For a link to the virtual meeting, visit mercercountyparks.org.