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D&R Greenway preserves 4.3 acres next to Herrontown Woods

The Powell property next to Herrontown Woods in Princeton has been bought by the D&R Greenway with funding from Mercer County.

The D&R Greenway, with support from Mercer County, has preserved 4.3 acres of land in the Princeton Ridge conservation area next to Herrontown Woods.

With direct funding from the county and a grant, the D&R Greenway was able to purchase the second of two lots that were part of the Powell property, an L-shaped piece of land along Snowden Lane and Herrontown Road in Princeton. One lot was purchased in 2016. The second lot was just purchased by the D&R Greenway for $1.16 million. Direct funding from the county’s open space fund was $660,000 and a grant from the county to D&R was $500,000.

The properties were once used as pasture land for grazing cows. When owners John and Janet Powell were ready to move to a retirement community, the couple decided to sell the two undeveloped lots for preservation. The Powell lots are located next to Mercer County’s Herrontown Woods Preserve, 142 acres of forest that is part of the 590 acres within the Princeton Ridge Conservation Area.

John Powell’s relationship with the Princeton Ridge community goes back long before he and Janet bought their house. In the late 1970s, John Powell answered a help-wanted ad for part-time work.  He began working with Jac and Cornelia Weller to establish a farm on the south side of Snowden Lane. In the 1990s, John and Janet Powell acquired their property, and they farmed it as well. The beef cattle that grazed the land became a local landmark.

Years later, when John was the executor of the Wellers’ estate, he had his first experience converting land from private to public use. Princeton Township acquired the Wellers’ property in 2001 to create Barbara Smoyer Park, which supports active recreation. The Powell addition to Herrontown Woods creates the potential to connect Smoyer Park with open space areas, where many miles of trails wind through mature upland forest. South of Herrontown Woods is the D&R Greenway’s All Saints’ Preserve, and to the north is Princeton’s Autumn Hill Reservation. The three properties are connected by a trail system. Herrontown Woods also includes the historic Veblen House and cottage.

“Mercer County was pleased to provide funding to enable this addition to Herrontown Woods,” said County Executive Brian Hughes. “The county and its preservation partners have leveraged county, state and nonprofit funds, resulting in the preservation of the Powell property and the other protected lands along the Princeton Ridge. The preservation of the Powell property enhances and protects the county’s prior investment in this area.”

During the year in between the acquisitions, D&R Greenway worked with the Powells and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to create a restoration plan for part of a former cow pasture that consisted of filled wetlands, officials said. The land was regraded, and a meadow mix of wetlands grasses was planted. The D&R Greenway has taken on responsibility to monitor the success of the reestablishment of the wetland, and report on progress to the NJDEP annually

“We prioritized this property for conservation in order to create a natural transition to the larger wooded tract,” said D&R Greenway Vice President Jay Watson. “We are working with Mercer County and Princeton to ensure that the former Powell property is managed as meadow to scrub and shrub, to forest, as a natural edge.”

The pond and house on the Powell property.

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3 comments
  • As president of the Friends of Herrontown Woods (FOHW.org), I’d like to thank Mercer County for its funding, and DR Greenway for its administrative oversight and expertise in adding these 4.3 acres to Herrontown Woods. I’ve been told that it was FOHW’s long-expressed interest in seeing the Powell farmland preserved that helped start the process leading to this acquisition.

    All of the wonderful land preservation that has taken place along northeastern Princeton’s ridge began with the donation of 80 acres by mathematician and visionary Oswald Veblen and his wife Elizabeth, to create Herrontown Woods back in 1957. It was also Veblen’s vision and work that led to the acquisition of the 600 acre Institute Woods lands, which were later preserved through public purchase of a conservation easement.

    Grassland like the Powell acreage is vital as a complement to Princeton’s predominantly forested open space. As the entity primarily involved with maintenance and stewardship of Herrontown Woods, FOHW looks forward to helping see that the Powell land is kept in a grass and shrubland state, as the article describes.

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