An ecologically sensitive 25.9-acre tract in Hardwick Township is now permanently preserved and will be accessible to the public for fishing, hiking, and wildlife observation through a recent open space purchase announced by the County of Warren.
Acquired with assistance from the New Jersey Green Acres program, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Open Space Institute, and the Nature Conservancy, the property – where two homes could have been constructed – is situated along the Paulins Kill and boasts over a half-mile of river frontage.
“This is a really beautiful stretch of the Paulins Kill and a very important piece of property to preserve,” explained Corey Tierney, Director of Land Preservation for the County of Warren. “Not only does this property connect to other county parkland and offer additional fishing and recreational opportunities for the public, but from a conservation standpoint, preserving this site will also help protect a resilient watershed and the endangered bobcat, along with other species. So we’re really excited to see this preserved and extremely grateful to the state and our nonprofit partners for making it possible.”
The latest in the County’s 74-acre expansion of the White Lake Natural Resource Area over the past three years, this property brings the park’s total size to approximately 469 acres. It will be managed by the Ridge and Valley Conservancy (RVC) under a stewardship agreement with Warren County that seeks to balance environmental conservation and outdoor recreation objectives.
In addition to offering fishing access, a new hiking trail will be constructed to connect into the park’s existing trail network. The property also will see riparian and habitat restoration efforts in the near future. The existing hay field will be managed as an open meadow, through a combination of farming and grassland restoration.
“Adding this property to the county’s White Lake holdings opens up a range of new recreational opportunities, including stream fishing, hiking and birding. It will help ensure protection of the Paulins Kill and provides a critical link between the river and White Lake. Its preservation will retain the rural character of the Paulins Kill Valley, while providing an opportunity to manage the land for the benefit of people and wildlife,” said RVC Executive Director Susie Tilley.
The preservation of this property also furthers efforts by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) and Open Space Institute (OSI) to respond to climate change. OSI selected this project for a grant from its Resilient Landscape Initiative – made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation – because of the land’s high climate resilience, or the ability to provide habitat and migration routes for plants and animals during climate change. Thanks to its diverse landscape features, rock outcrops, limestone geology, hemlock and hardwood-forested slopes, this property scores highly for climate resiliency.
“The protection of this property is a huge conservation victory to benefit residents of nearby communities for generations to come,” said Peter Howell, executive director of the Open Space Institute. “We applaud the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Warren County for adding this land to the County’s White Lake Natural Resource Area.”
Due to its location along the Paulins Kill river corridor, the site is also part of a larger wildlife corridor that connects the resilient lands of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to protected lands in the New Jersey Highlands.
"This property is vitally important to wildlife in northwestern New Jersey. White Lake is part of the Great Limestone Valley, home to a multitude of rare plant and animal species," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "Creating a preserved corridor between White Lake and the Paulins Kill, encompassing a variety of habitats, will help preserve our state’s native plants and animals, as well as protect water quality and provide public access to nature. We thank all our partners for making this land preservation project a reality."
The property is located within the Nature Conservancy’s Bobcat Alley project area, a 32,000-acre corridor where they are working to protect habitat for New Jersey wildlife, including the state-endangered bobcat.
“This parcel is another important piece helping connect the mosaic of land and forest between the Appalachian and Highland mountain ranges. Every acre we protect in this area is critical for our state’s last remaining wild cat and many other species,” says Barbara Brummer, The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey State Director.
Photo by Ingrid Vandegaer, New Jersey Conservation Foundation