Township and Friends Preserve Key Property in the Sourlands
The partnership between Montgomery Township and Montgomery Friends of Open Space has once again assembled a preservation deal that raised State and County funds to pay for 85% of the land acquisition costs.
“I would like to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to get this land preserved,” said Montgomery Mayor Ed Trzaska. “Acquiring this highly visible tract helps protect the rustic character of Grandview Road and gives us access to other protected tracts of land.”
The latest property to be preserved is on Grandview Road across from Sourland Hills Road and includes a bridge over a Rock Brook tributary that was key for the Township to provide off-road parking (in an existing clearing) for local residents to get out and enjoy hiking, bird watching and fishing in the trout-stocked Rock Brook, and serve as the trailhead for public access to another 150 acres of preserved land and pathway easements in the Sourlands.
The Township owns the property and will jointly manage it with Montgomery Friends of Open Space (Friends). A new sign will identify the property and the groups have plans to install an information kiosk with trail maps and information about the Sourlands, as well as establish trails that lead out to the surrounding open space.
“The Potter property is extremely significant as part of a larger contiguous forest within the Sourland Mountain region. It includes freshwater wetlands and a diverse forest. Land management will be carefully handled with sensitivity to the area and improving the forest canopy,” said Friends President Mary Penney.
Montgomery Friends has also been researching the historical significance of this area along Hollow Road, once a tiny community known as ‘Rock Mill’. There are historic maps indicating the locations of grist mills and saw mills along the Rock Brook, a past source of commerce.
Montgomery Twp. Open Space Committee recommended this property for preservation several years ago because the Sourlands provide important water quality and wildlife habitat including a stopping ground for migratory birds flying between Mexico and Canada. But when negotiations stalled, the Friends rescued the deal, bringing along additional grant money. Neighbors were also incredibly supportive, and came to public meetings to voice their support.
Montgomery Open Space Coordinator Lauren Wasilauski commented, “Montgomery Friends of Open Space should be credited with structuring the land deal and as the primary force in negotiating with the landowner. We could not accomplish all that we do for open space in town without them.”
The former owner intended to develop the property and had invested in State permits and construction of a beautiful stone bridge which provides access to the property.
The purchase price was $520,000, but with grant funding, the final cost to the Township is $80,000. Funding partners included Montgomery Friends of Open Space, NJDEP Green Acres, and Somerset County.
“This is one of the things which make Montgomery so special,” concluded Mayor Trzaska. “It’s always a good day to add to our open space portfolio, which now includes about 35% of the land in town.”