October 27, 2021

Open Space Parcel to Be Preserved

By Anne Levin

At its meeting Monday night, Princeton Council voted to introduce an ordinance enabling the acquisition of the largest remaining tract of undeveloped land in Princeton. The 153-acre parcel, which has frontage on Province Line and Cherry Valley roads, will be preserved instead of turned into a housing development.

The municipality recently announced its agreement with Bryce Thompson and Lanwin Development Corporation to buy the parcel for $8.775 million. Private donations, grants, and nonprofit partners from the New Jersey Green Acres program and Mercer County’s Open Space program, as well as monies from the municipal open space tax trust fund, are paying for the purchase.

The acquisition saves some 4,000 trees that form part of an old-growth forest of oak, beech, and hickory trees that would have been destroyed. “Instead, those trees will continue to sequester an estimated 340 megatons of carbon annually, to help prevent flooding on Cherry Valley Road, and to provide habitat for songbirds and many other species,” wrote Wendy Mager, president of the Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), in a message.

FOPOS, The Watershed Institute, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and the Ridgeview Conservancy were involved in a collaboration with the municipality, led by Councilmembers Eve Niedergang and Mia Sacks, and Municipal Administrator Bernie Hvozdovic. The acquisition is part of  “Princeton’s Emerald Necklace,” an initiative that aims to connect open spaces throughout the town and provide greater access to a more diverse group of community members.

The Lanwin tract has long been listed in Princeton’s Master Plan as a property that should be acquired because of its environmental significance. The development company also owns a separate, 90-acre parcel on the other side of town bordering Herrontown Road, Herrontown Lane, and Mount Lucas Road. The application is still under review by the Regional Planning Board.

In a joint statement on the 153-acre site, Sacks and Niedergang said, “The acquisition represents a model public-private partnership to support the goals of Princeton’s Climate Action Plan. We are deeply grateful to the county, and to our community partners, for stepping up so quickly to ensure the future sustainability of our town. We are excited to preserve an important ecological resource in a way that is consistent with the smart growth principles guiding our development decisions.”

Hvozdovic thanked the Thompson family “for making the conscious choice to work with the town and our open space partners to ensure that this unique parcel is protected.” He also expressed appreciation to Wade Martin and to D & R Greenway, “who were instrumental in bringing the parties together.”

Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute, said preserving the property is key to the protection of fragile wetlands and streams, conserving habitats for wildlife, and saving mature forests. “These forests are so important because they soak up water and help prevent flooding,” he said. “This is a beautiful site, and preserving it is the right thing to do.”

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said, “The county is pleased to participate in the purchase of this environmentally-sensitive property along the Princeton Ridge, ensuring its permanent preservation, a primary goal of the county’s open space trust fund.”

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at the Council meeting on Monday, November 8 at 7 p.m.