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Montgomery Township preserves 45 acres of scenic farmland for open space

Montgomery Township has preserved the 45-acre estate of Marie Abrahamsen, which offers scenic views of the township. Photo: Tammy Garaffa

Montgomery Township has bought 45 acres of farmland on the northeast corner of Route 518 and Spring Hill Road that are part of the scenic western gateway view of rural Montgomery.

The active farm was purchased from the estate of Marie Abrahamsen in December for $2 million. Somerset County partnered in the purchase and contributed 25 percent of the cost using money from the county’s open space fund. The latest open space acquisition by the township preserves an open view northwest from Route 518 to the southern side of the Sourland Mountains. The newest acquisition along Route 518 has been on Montgomery’s Open Space Master Plan for a long time due to its prominent viewshed and agricultural viability. Township officials anticipate using the property as open space, farmland, and as a potential location for a recreational pathway link. One of Abrahamsen’s daughters also donated a .85-acre lot on Willow Road to Montgomery Township for municipal purposes as part of the sale, officials said.

“We greatly appreciate the Abrahamsen family’s cooperation in this preservation and we’re thankful for the county’s partnership in this acquisition,” said Montgomery Township Committee Member Kent Huang. “This preservation is an important step in maintaining the scenic rural corridor viewshed at the western entrance to our town, an area that provides a beautiful view of the Sourland Mountain ridge to the north and to the Princeton ridge to the south.”

Montgomery’s earlier nearby land preservation efforts included the purchase of 35 acres of land directly opposite of the parcel on the south side of Route 518 in 2017.  The new acquisition is part of the township’s long-term master plan goal of preserving as much farmland as possible with open views along scenic roadways in the western portion of the municipality.  The property also serves as a link from Route 518 north to the 130-acre Thorn Ridge Farm, which was preserved in 1998. Officials said the combined tracts are a significant contribution to the future viability of agriculture in Montgomery.

The preservation of the farm also dovetails with similar efforts in neighboring Hopewell Township. Hopewell Township and the D&R Greenway have preserved several lots along 518 on their side of the border. The 51-acre Zizak Preserve on Route 518 in Hopewell Township was preserved by the D&R Greenway Land Trust in 2016 and is actively farmed. Land opposite the Zizak Preserve on the south side of Route 518 was preserved with state Green Acres funding when a subdivision was planned in order to reduce the visibility of the subdivision and maintain the rural, open view from Route 518 as people enter and exit Hopewell Borough, as per a design by the late Ted Stiles, a well-known land conservationist and Rutgers University professor.

Somerset County Commissioner Melonie Marano said the board of county commissioners is committed to partnering with municipalities to preserve the natural and cultural character of Somerset County for future generations. ”We were pleased to help Montgomery Township preserve this scenic vista, which will be a picturesque entrance to our beautiful county and its rich bounty of preserved open space, farmland, and historic treasures, all of which help to improve the quality of life for our residents,” she said.