PO Box 287, Skillman, NJ 08558 info@montgomeryfriends.org

Sensitive Lands Along the Rock Brook Preserved

Montgomery Friends of Open Space is pleased to announce the preservation of a scenic stream corridor along the Rock Brook in partnership with a local property owner and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program(NJDEP). In early October, Montgomery Friends forged an agreement with local landowner and architect, Marc Brahaney to preserve, as permanent open space just over two acres of open land along the Rock Brook at Servis and Hollow Roads in Skillman. The land is a protective buffer to the Rock Brook for recharging the water supply and filtering pollutants from storm water runoff.

Image by Khürt Williams

The land lies within a sensitive stream corridor of the Rock Brook, prone to flooding and heavy stormwater flow. Statewide, only two percent of streams, rivers, and lakes across 23 sub-watersheds support all designated uses, except for fish consumption. Buffers along stream corridors are critically important to enhance water quality and limit further development. Montgomery Friends saw the preservation of this land as a priority and applied to NJDEP Green Acres to seek financial support for preserving the land. Permanent land preservation was achieved with Green Acres Funds and a charitable donation of the appraised value from Mr. Brahaney. Land preservation along this corridor is vitally important due to its proximity to the Rock Brook and other large parcels of preserved lands to the north. The land is comprised of mature trees, native plants, and steep slopes. The Friends is working with several property owners along Hollow Road to secure permanent preservation along the Rock Brook Corridor. The land in the western section of Montgomery Township is unique in geology, history, and a sliver of the magnificent Sourlands Mountains, the largest remaining contiguous forest in New Jersey.

Images by Khürt Williams

Since its establishment in 2002, Montgomery Friends of Open Space (Montgomery Friends) has preserved approximately 500 acres of open space and farmland using non-profit and matching funds through State Green Acres and Farmland Funding available to non-profit organizations. Montgomery Friends forms partnerships with local property owners, local, county, state agencies, other non-profit organizations, and foundations to preserve sensitive, unique, open lands throughout Montgomery Township. Using Montgomery Township’s Conservation Master Plan as a framework, Montgomery Friends helps to preserve land and create networks of pathways, trails, and greenbelts of connected preserved open lands for permanent protection through conservation easements, fee simple purchase, and bargain sale.

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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.”