Planet Princeton

58 acres added to Sourland Mountain Preserve

Somerset County and Montgomery Township have purchased 58.25 acres of land  located at the intersection of Pleasant View Road and Route 601 as part of their open space preservation programs.

The property was purchased from owner W. Bryce Thompson IV for $1,980,704. Montgomery Township has agreed to contribute 30 percent of the purchase price towards the county’s acquisition of the property from its open space trust fund. The closing was held Feb. 9.

“The preservation of this property and other open agricultural land along the lower flanks and foothills of the Sourland Mountain is important. In addition to creating a transition between suburban development and the pristine environment of the Sourland Mountain, they allow for the creation of habitat for many grassland bird species,” said Somerset Freeholder Mark Caliguire. “The acquisition of the Thompson property is another in a long line of successful partnerships between Somerset County and its municipalities.”

The property is primarily an open farm with areas of woodland. The acquisition helps to preserve the bucolic character of the area at the base of the Sourland Mountain, which is a mix of farms and wooded preserved land. The preservation also serves to provide a buffer between the largely undeveloped land to the south in Montgomery and the residential development to the north in Hillsborough. The parcel was preserved in perpetuity as open space and is now part of the county’s Sourland Mountain Preserve, bringing the total preserve area to 6,170 acres. The property will remain largely in its existing state and current agricultural use will continue. Somerset County and Montgomery Township will work together to determine future possible passive uses on the property that are most appropriate for the health and public enjoyment of the land.

In 2012, the county purchased 256 acres from Carrier Clinic adjacent to the Thompson property. Montgomery Township is now working to acquire an additional 15 acres nearby on the opposite side of Route 601, as well as several other tracts of land throughout the community.

The Sourland Mountain region is an expansive green swath of intact forest and farmland spanning parts of three largely developed central New Jersey counties. It extends from the central part of Hillsborough Township southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County. The Sourlands contain more than 20,000 contiguous forested acres that protect the water supply to the headwaters of several significant streams flowing to the D&R Canal, Millstone, Raritan and Delaware rivers. The Sourlands support many rare plant and animal species and provide nesting and migratory stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory birds.

Somerset County began the preservation of the Sourland Mountain in Hillsborough and Montgomery townships in the early 1970s. With the addition of the Thompson property, the preserve now exceeds 6,000 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County’s 14,450-acre park system.

“We are pleased and proud that this beautiful farmland with its open vista of the Sourlands has been saved for posterity,” said Montgomery Mayor Ed Trzaska. “Montgomery’s open spaces are integral to its identity; protecting our rural character is one of our core principles.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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