The Ken Lockwood Gorge, with its forested hills rising steeply from the boulder-strewn South Branch of the Raritan River, is one of New Jersey’s most beautiful places.
Fly fishermen cast for trout in its pristine waters. Nature lovers watch great blue herons, mink, kingfishers, and other wildlife. Walkers, joggers, and bicyclists are drawn to the Columbia Trail, a multi-use trail crossing the Gorge, and River Road, an unpaved lane hugging the riverbank.
But the Ken Lockwood Gorge is more than just a pretty place; the South Branch is a major drinking water supply source for more than 1.5 million New Jersey residents.
The Gorge’s water supply and recreation amenities just received additional protection, thanks to the permanent preservation of 50 acres of wooded hillside sloping down to the river.
On May 1st, New Jersey Conservation purchased a portion of the former Four Seasons Outdoor Center property, adjacent to the state-owned Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area and the Columbia Trail. The newly-preserved land is located between Hoffman’s Crossing Road and the river.
“The Ken Lockwood Gorge is truly one of New Jersey’s gems, and we’re thrilled to add additional lands to buffer the gorge and increase public access and enjoyment,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
The purchase was made possible by a partnership including New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the state Green Acres Program, Hunterdon County, Raritan Headwaters Association, Hunterdon Land Trust, the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, and the Leavens Foundation.
“This is a win for the community and the state,” said Rich Boornazian, Assistant Commissioner of Natural Resources for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “The acquisition of these contiguous woodlands serves to enhance the Ken Lockwood Gorge, protecting forest species, water quality, and providing additional public access to nature. Green Acres is pleased to work with partners such as the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on important acquisitions such as this,” he continued.
“We are proud to be one of seven partners working together to expand the Ken Lockwood Gorge, a purchase that serves each organization’s interest in preserving our quality of life,” said Hunterdon County Freeholder Director John King. “For my part, these 50 acres enhance what I believe is one of the unique, outdoor recreational attractions of Hunterdon.”
“Gateway to the Gorge is a landmark preservation project,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, Executive Director of the Raritan Headwaters Association. “Sources of clean water in the Raritan River region are under constant threat of pollution. Preserving natural areas that protect the South Branch, a healthy headwaters stream, will help ensure that the water we depend on is safe for humans and wildlife alike.”
Jackie Middleton, land acquisition director of the Hunterdon Land Trust, commented: “The Hunterdon Land Trust is proud to have played a role in this project, which will help ensure clean drinking water and provide greater opportunities for the public to enjoy this truly beautiful area in northern Hunterdon County.”
The Columbia Trail, a 16-mile rail trail from High Bridge in Hunterdon County through Washington Township in Morris County, passes through the Ken Lockwood Gorge. The trail is popular with walkers, cyclists and equestrians.
“The Ken Lockwood Gorge is one of the scenic wonders of New Jersey,” said William B. Leavens III of the Long Valley-based Leavens Foundation. “The Leavens Foundation is proud to have been a partner with New Jersey Conservation Foundation in acquiring this property to address the accessibility of the site.”
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space—from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org, or phone 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).
Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) is on a mission to protect clean water in the north and south branch region of the Raritan River. For more than 55 years, our goal has been to protect the water you and your family rely on every day. One of the greatest threats to our water is contamination from stormwater runoff and flooding. Individual property owners can help alleviate these problems.
Even owners of small pieces of property can help prevent flooding through the use of a rain garden. What is a rain garden? It is a low-lying vegetated depression (typically 3 to 6 inches deep) with absorbent soils that temporarily collect stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces and allow the runoff to slowly percolate into the soil.
Large or small, rain gardens should be planted with native plants. As a general rule, any plant described as Japanese, Oriental, English, etc. is obviously not native to North America and should be avoided. In our area, native plant material range from the black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) to arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentate) and garden perennials such as bee balm (Mondarda didyma), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and blackeyed Susan (Rudbeckia).
Property owners can also help decrease flooding and pollution through the size and care of their lawns. Rather than striving for a large carpet of green through the use of pesticides and herbicides, consider reducing the size of your lawn by 10% or more and allow your landscape to include more natives. You can take a few simple steps to make your lawn healthier and better able to absorb rainwater when it falls.
Use an organic, phosphorous-free fertilizer early each spring
The best flood protection for a stream, however, is to be surrounded with a good buffer area of woods, shrubs, wetlands, and grasses to intercept contaminated runoff before it reaches the water. The less “groomed” this buffer area is, the more it can perform its normal functions. If you are fortunate enough to have a stream or pond on your property, don’t mow within three feet of the edge and allow the vegetation to grow to a height of about three feet. Vegetation allowed to grow along the banks of streams and ponds prevents erosion and the related silting in and flooding during heavy rain events. Steep-banked streams require the hearty protection of shrubs and trees that provide shade, erosion control, temperature regulation, and food sources for aquatic wildlife.
If you are interested in beginning a flood control project like those described here, our website has a wealth of information about each of these options as well as native plant lists, tips for growing organic lawns, and more water protection ideas. Visit www.raritanheadwaters.org and like us on www.facebook.com/raritanheadwaters for more conservation ideas. Join us!
Raritan Headwaters Association has opened an office in downtown Flemington to house its South Branch Water Quality Program, including environmental education, volunteer services, and the headquarters of the organization’s highly regarded community well testing program.
The new office, where area residents and community volunteers will pick up and drop off well test kits, is located at 124 Main Street, Flemington, on Lower Level 3 of the historic Deats Building. The organization’s previous Hunterdon County location was at Dvoor Farm, on Mine Street, and its main office is located at Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, in Bedminster.
Richard Stothoff, whose family has owned the Deats Building more than 50 years, has agreed to provide the space to Raritan Headwaters at nominal rent. Mr. Stothoff, a long-time supporter of Raritan Headwaters, is president of Samuel Stothoff Company, Inc., a prominent well drilling and services firm based in Flemington. The Deats Building, a sturdy brick structure adjacent to the Flemington Public Library, was constructed in 1881 and has housed a variety of business and professional firms over the years.
Raritan Headwaters Association was formed in 2011 by the merger of two groups, the Upper Raritan and South Branch watershed associations, both founded in 1959 to engage residents in safeguarding water sources and natural ecosystems. Mr. Stothoff served on the board of South Branch Watershed Association in the 1960s and 1970s. A friend of South Branch founder Hermia Lechner, Mr. Stothoff as a youth attended nature camp programs Ms. Lechner conducted at Echo Hill, near Flemington.
“Protecting the health and safety of our water sources is one of the most important things we can do, as individuals and as a community,” Mr. Stothoff said. “It’s great that we’re able to help Raritan Headwaters maintain a major presence at the heart of Hunterdon County. This office will be easily accessible for staff, volunteers and members of the community who want to learn more about our water systems.”
More than 80 percent of the region’s residents rely on private wells for drinking water, according to Cindy Ehrenclou, Executive Director of Raritan Headwaters Association. Unlike municipal water systems, private wells are not subject to regular testing requirements; it therefore is critically important for homeowners to test their wells on a regular basis. In partnership with local municipalities, Raritan Headwaters makes it possible for residents to test their well water for coliform bacteria, nitrates, arsenic, lead, pesticides and other contaminants. The organization provides low-cost well testing to residents of Readington, Raritan, Tewksbury, Delaware, Bethlehem and Kingwood townships, among many others.
“We’re currently helping hundreds of families test their well water quality every year, and we’re eager to expand this service to anyone who depends on private wells for their drinking water. A Main Street location in downtown Flemington will make it even easier and more convenient for people to find us and get to know about our programs,” Ms. Ehrenclou said.
The largest watershed organization in New Jersey, Raritan Headwaters Association protects, preserves and improves water quality and other natural resources of the Raritan River headwaters region in Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset counties. The 470-square-mile region provides drinking water to more than 1.5 million residents of 39 municipalities in three counties and beyond, into the state’s urban areas.
For more information, contact Cindy Ehrenclou of Raritan Headwaters, at 908-234-1852, ext. 311.
Jennifer Johnson Duke loves the scenic landscapes of her hometown: the peaceful green valleys, the rolling hills and steep forested ridges, and the historic farms nestled among them. When she learned of New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s plan to preserve most of the landmark Hill & Dale Farm, she and her husband, Joseph, were inspired to help. “Tewksbury Township is one of the most beautiful places in the state, and we would love see it stay that way,” she said.
The Dukes made a generous donation to help with the purchase of a 50-acre agricultural field on the south side of Hill & Dale Road. The field will be added to New Jersey Conservation’s Hill & Dale Preserve, expanding it to 192 acres. New Jersey Conservation completed the purchase on September 19th.
Established in 2011, the Hill & Dale Preserve begins in the Rockaway Creek valley and climbs the steep Hell Mountain hillside. The preserve is becoming a recreational asset to the community, while the farming of hay and corn continues on the fields. Hikers, horseback riders, dog walkers, bird watchers and other nature lovers are welcome on trails along Hill & Dale’s fields and hedgerows, and in the surrounding woods. The upper fields offer a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside, and fisherman can cast for trout in the pristine Rockaway Creek at the preserve’s lower end.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Dukes for making this new addition to the preserve possible,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation. “This is beautiful land and we’re thrilled to preserve it.” She added that the addition of the 50-acre parcel expands a green swath of preserved open space and farmland extending from Hill & Dale Preserve eastward to Hunterdon County’s Cold Brook Preserve in Oldwick village – which New Jersey Conservation helped preserve, beginning in 1979.
For nearly a century, Hill & Dale Farm has operated as a dairy and horse farm that grows its own hay, corn and grains. Its graceful Dutch-style barns are an iconic sight along Rockaway Road. New Jersey Conservation Foundation began working in 2004 with the owners, the Rothpletz family. “We greatly appreciate the Rothpletz family’s commitment to preserving this land,” said Byers. “We have been working with them on this project for many years and they are terrific conservation partners."
“We are very pleased to see this property added to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Hill and Dale Preserve,” said Michael Rothpletz. “Through the efforts of their dedicated and highly effective staff, we are realizing our vision and long term plan for the preservation of this special property.” New Jersey Conservation is hoping to add additional lands to the Hill & Dale Preserve in the future.
Hill & Dale’s fields drain to a tributary of the Rockaway Creek, the headwaters of the North Branch of the Raritan River. Permanently preserving these lands protects water quality in the Raritan watershed.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org, or phone 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).
Central New Jersey residents who love nature have a new opportunity to enjoy healthy outdoor experiences while contributing to the beauty and safety of local trails and nature preserves.
Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) has launched a new Adopt-a-Trail program, designed to engage volunteers in ongoing efforts to improve the condition of hiking and bridle trails in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. Trails open for adoption include segments along the Upper Raritan River in the Helen Woodman Preserve in Far Hills, at Fox Hill Preserve in Oldwick, and at Fairview Farm Preserve in Bedminster. At all locations, trails curve through scenic meadows and forests, where more than 150 species of trees, shrubs, and other plants provide habitat for birds and wildlife.
The program is ideal for school and scout groups, corporate groups, religious organizations, and other groups and individuals interested in community service and spending time in a beautiful outdoor setting.
Volunteer teams are asked to make a one-year commitment to the program, including at least four visits to their adopted trails during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Volunteers will help trim overgrown brush, remove woody debris and litter, refresh painted trail blazes, and help identify erosion and other potential problems along the trail. Each volunteer group will be acknowledged with signage posted along the adopted portion of the trail.
Trail assignments will be matched to volunteers’ age and ability, and RHA will provide tools and training.
For information or to sign up, contact Lauren Theis, Adopt-a-Trail Coordinator, at email@example.com, or 908-234-1852, ext. 314.
Increased flooding, streambank erosion and water pollution are some of the impacts of Superstorm Sandy last year and Hurricane Irene the year before. The increased likelihood of extreme weather events in the future is putting New Jersey’s stream corridors at significantly greater risk. Those were some of the findings of recent research conducted by Raritan Headwaters Association, to be presented at this year’s State of our Watershed Conference, on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Echo Hill section of the South Branch Nature Preserve, in Flemington.
Each summer for nearly 20 years, a team of RHA staff members and volunteers fans out across the region to visit streams and rivers in Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset Counties. Team members measure stream flow, assess nearby land uses, and collect samples of benthic macroinvertebrates—small critters whose presence indicate a stream’s health—at each site. The samples are analyzed by a certified laboratory and the results are used in conjunction with the other data collected to determine the health of each of the fifty-plus stream segments that RHA monitors. When stream monitoring results indicate a problem with water quality, RHA investigates local land uses and conducts further testing to better understand the problem, then works with landowners and local officials to address the problem.
The meeting is free and open to the public. In addition to learning what RHA discovered about local water quality, participants will hear from Rutgers University’s Associate Professor, Daniel J. Van Abs, Ph.D. After serving in multiple leadership roles as the Senior Director for Planning & Science with the New Jersey Highlands Council, the Director of Watershed Protection Programs for the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, Assistant Administrator of the NJDEP Office of Environmental Planning, and Technical Director of the Passaic River Coalition, Dr. Van Abs is engrained in New Jersey’s environmental community. “As an authority in watershed management issues, we are excited to feature Dan as the highlight of our event with a special presentation on the ’Impacts of climate change in the Raritan River Watershed’,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, Executive Director of RHA.
For more information about the RHA stream monitoring program or the State of the Watershed Conference, contact RHA’s Water Quality Program Manager Angela Gorczyca by phone at 908-234-1852, ext. 315, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunterdon County Rutgers Master Gardener Helpline provides a service every home gardener can take advantage of throughout the growing season. Garden questions are as inevitable as weeds, and the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Hunterdon are trained by Rutgers University staff, as well as local horticulturalists, to answer questions and assist county residents in a variety of ways.
A number of resources are available for people interested in managing and preserving our woodlands, in Tewksbury. Stop by the Municipal Offices to request these items (or see the Web links, if available):