Hunterdon Land Trust Marks 25 Years Preserving Local Land
FARMLAND PRESERVED: As Hunterdon Land Trust celebrates 25 years of preserving farmland and open space, it offers events such as a tour of the barns at Dvoor Farm, its headquarters in Flemington, on September 12 at 10:30 a.m. The farm tells the story of the region’s farm culture and architecture from the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries through its buildings and barns, like this horse barn built in the 1930s.
By Wendy Greenberg
Hunterdon Land Trust (HLT) is celebrating 25 years of protecting open space, but Patricia Ruby is looking forward as well.
“We are constantly working on new land preservation projects,” said Ruby, who has served as HLT executive director since 2012. “But one of the big stories is that this year we closed more projects than ever before.”
The goal, she said, was to have 10,000 acres preserved by 2020, “and we have blown through that milestone, and now we are at 10,350 acres,” she said. “We closed recently on 70 acres, and this year there have been nine closings compared to the typical two to five.” (Two additional closings were expected shortly.)
To celebrate both past and current achievements, a virtual Celebration and Fundraiser on September 19 at 5 p.m. will mark HLT’s 25-year anniversary, and also look ahead. In addition to workshops, the organization will honor Board Secretary Larry LaFevre, along with Ralph Celebre and Susan Haase, owners of Basil Bandwagon Natural Market.
The nationally accredited nonprofit HLT will host several events this fall, including a free tour of the historic barns at Dvoor Farm in Flemington, which serves as its headquarters, on Sunday, September 12 at 10:30 a.m. On the tour, Christopher Pickell of Pickell Architecture in Flemington will discuss the history of the property’s barns and wagon house, which date from around 1800 to the 1930s. For the first time, participants can see how the buildings were constructed and what makes them unique. Space is limited, and registration is required. To sign up, email Director of Outreach Dave Harding at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HLT’s plans for Dvoor Farm call for a “sensitive rehabilitation” of the barns, so they can be used for children’s camps, corporate retreats, life celebrations, and educational programming. Infrastructure improvements to provide public restrooms are on the agenda, as well as improved traffic flow and parking, and natural resource restorations to benefit pollinator meadows and wetlands, streams, and stormwater management.
HLT has raised more than $2 million toward the Dvoor Farm project, which Ruby called “vital to linking the past, present, and future for all we serve,” to ensure that the farm remains a “place for families and friends to gather to remember the past and forge new memories; and allow more people to enjoy an array of educational and recreational opportunities that honors Hunterdon County’s agricultural, cultural, and natural heritage; all while boosting the local economy.”
HLT operates a “producers’ only” Farmers Market at Dvoor Farm on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market, which started in 2007, has about 25 local farmers and vendors.
The protected open space in Hunterdon County is tied to the history of the land trust. Twenty-five years ago, Hunterdon County, home to family farms, open fields, and woodlands, was vulnerable to increasing sprawl. A few local residents, who wanted to prevent the sprawl and what comes with it, formed a volunteer group in 1996 originally known as the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance, which evolved into the land trust. Delaware Township resident Roger Harris spearheaded the group and connected with other environmental groups, and residents from Kingwood, Readington and East Amwell. Bylaws were drafted and Harris became the land trust’s first president.
Currently HLT has 21 preservation projects in the works in several townships including Readington, Kingwood, Bethlehem, Franklin, Raritan, Lambertville, and Holland. It recently helped facilitate the preservation of 28.7 acres of open space at the Fitzgerald tract and 106 acres of farmland and open space at the Saums property, both in Readington; the 135-acre Silva Farm in Holland Township; and 104 acres of open space at the Maritan property in Kingwood.
Fulfilling its mission to preserve rural landscapes in the Hunterdon County region, HLT also has included the preservation of the Dondero farm in West Amwell. The farm, dating back to the 1750s, was successfully preserved, working with D&R Greenway Land Trust and the New Jersey Green Acres Program, according to HLT.
HLT partners with municipal, county, and state governments and other nonprofit organizations, working with landowners who wish to permanently protect the ecological, agricultural, scenic, historic, or recreational qualities of their land, according to the organization. It also works to help landowners identify the best options to meet their conservation goals and financial needs, assisting them through the preservation process.
Protecting space is especially timely. New Jersey is supposed to be completely built out by 2050, said Ruby, “so we feel a clock ticking, and will continue to work as best we can. We have a strategic plan to help identify the priority projects.”
The future holds some challenges such as limited dollars for stewardship, balancing spending on protecting land use, and on land acquisition. “How do you devote your resources? It’s a challenge,” she said.
This fall, however, said Ruby, “we are pausing to reflect and celebrate our past achievements and thank the many supporters who worked during this past quarter-century to protect what’s truly special about Hunterdon County. But by no means are we resting on our laurels. Though we have accomplished a great deal, there’s so much more work that remains to be done.”
For more information on Hunterdon Land Trust and the anniversary events, visit hunterdonlandtrust.org.