TEWKSBURY TOWNSHIP, NJ (Hunterdon County) – A vision for a 10-mile trail wrapping around Oldwick village and connecting 1,200 acres of preserved open space and farmland just came a step closer to reality.
The nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners purchased 68 acres of preserved farmland and forest along the south side of Hill and Dale Road for $988,500.
The land has been added to the Hill and Dale Preserve, expanding it to over 360 acres. It also provides a key link in Tewksbury’s Ten Mile Trail, a nonprofit and government initiative spearheaded by the Tewksbury Land Trust and New Jersey Conservation Foundation to connect a hiking and equestrian trail through the rural countryside.
“This is a beautiful piece of property, and it will stay farmland forever as part of the Hill and Dale Preserve,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “It also adds another critical link to the Ten Mile Trail, which will be an incredible resource for the community. We’re very grateful to everyone who made this possible.”
New Jersey Conservation Foundation plans to lease the agricultural fields to a local farmer and will maintain trails along field edges and in wooded areas, as is done in existing sections of the Hill & Dale Preserve. The new property helps connect the Hill & Dale Preserve with Hunterdon County’s Cold Brook Preserve to the east.
The 68 acres were purchased from Eric and Geraldine Turnquist, who sold the property for below market value in what is known as a “bargain sale.”
Funding for the acquisition came from the River Branch Foundation, two Hunterdon County grants – one to New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the other to the Tewksbury Land Trust – proceeds from the sale of a donated house, and a private fundraising campaign by New Jersey Conservation.
“Seeing these huge swaths of countryside preserved to protect our water resources, provide habitat for wildlife and still allowing the land to be farmed into the future really keeps this area beautiful and productive,” said Tewksbury resident Jennifer Johnson Duke of the River Branch Foundation. The River Branch Foundation has also donated in the past to help purchase other parcels for the Hill & Dale Preserve.
“This type of creative project is exactly what the County’s Open Space Acquisition Assistance Grant is designed to help accomplish, and it’s exciting to see the continued success of both New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Tewksbury Land Trust on building this ambitious 10-mile trail loop,” said Hunterdon County Commissioner Matt Holt. “The Turnquist property is a great addition in an ideal location.”
“The Turnquist property has been on Tewksbury Land Trust’s horizon for many years as a critical link in the Ten Mile Trail,” commented Tewksbury Land Trust president Larry Ross. “Thanks to Beth Davisson’s diligence and persuasiveness, the county was engaged, and it was then possible for us and others like Jennifer Duke’s River Branch Foundation to do our parts. We are very grateful to New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Beth for taking the lead on this important purchase.”
“It has been a pleasure working with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on the preservation of our land,” said Eric and Gerry Turnquist. “We have enjoyed the land for many years and are now happy to share that enjoyment with the greater community for years to come by adding a link to the Ten Mile Trail.”
Eleanor Campbell, a former New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff member and longtime supporter, donated a house on three acres in Chester Township last year. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the house went toward the purchase of the Turnquist property. “I’m just happy that the donation helped,” Campbell said.
The vision for the greenbelt around Oldwick emerged in the 1980s with New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s preservation of the Cold Brook Preserve just north of the village. The preserve was later turned over to Hunterdon County.
Since then, additional lands to be linked by the Ten Mile Trail include the Hill & Dale Preserve, Tewksbury Land Trust’s Lance Farm Preserve, Raritan Headwaters Association’s Fox Hill Preserve, the township’s Hell Mountain Preserve, and the Sullivan, Whitman and Klipstein properties.
The Ten Mile Trail include 835 acres of preserved open space, and another 325 acres of preserved farmland in the viewshed.
The partners are now working to secure the few remaining links needed to complete the 10-Mile Trail. The township’s Whittemore preserve, located south of Oldwick, could eventually be linked.
The Hill and Dale Preserve was created in 2011 from 115 acres of the landmark Hill and Dale Farm, and enlarged through subsequent land purchases. The preserve begins in the Rockaway Creek valley and climbs the steep Hell Mountain hillside. It is open to the public for passive recreation, including hiking, horseback riding, birding and nature observation.
The Hill and Dale Preserve marries historic agrarian uses with the public’s passive enjoyment of trails and nature walking in a way that does not interfere with the farming of the land. Trails on the Turnquist property will be carefully planned in cooperation with the farmer, so the fertile soils continue in production and visitors enjoy the sweeping views.
The preserve includes two tributaries of the Rockaway Creek, a pristine trout production stream that flows into the Raritan River, a major water supply source for central New Jersey residents.
The newly-acquired land is approximately 60 percent farmed, with a small pond and some woodlands along the frontage as well as in the southeastern corner of the property. The back wooded area has an existing trail network.
The Turnquist property supports habitat for bobcats, which are endangered in New Jersey. In addition, the property contains habitat for a number of bird species of concern, including wood thrushes, veeries and brown thrashers; and nesting areas for grassland birds such as bobolinks.