Our Environment

Raritan Headwaters Opens Downtown Flemington Office

Adopt-a-Trail Program Enlisting Volunteers

Watershed Watchdog Group to Issue Report on Local Water Quality

Donation Adds 50 Acres to Hill & Dale Preserve

Tewksbury's Woodlands

Gardener's Helpline

Raritan Headwaters Opens Downtown Flemington Office

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.

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Donation Adds 50 Acres to Hill & Dale Preserve

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).

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Adopt-a-Trail Program Enlisting Volunteers

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 ltheis@raritanheadwaters.org, or 908-234-1852, ext. 314.

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Watershed Watchdog Group to Issue Report on Local Water Quality

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.

The Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) will host the meeting to share what it learned about the quality of water in local streams through this year’s summer monitoring season.  In recent years, the watershed has been impacted significantly by flooding after Tropical Storm Irene, tree damage and erosion post Superstorm Sandy, and more intense precipitation events. RHA staff will report how these incidents have been reflected in their stream monitoring data. RHA invites all interested members of the public to attend its State of our Watershed Conference on Saturday, November 9th.  The meeting will take place at the Main Lodge in the Echo Hill Section of the South Branch Nature Preserve in Flemington from 1:00–3:00pm.

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 agorczyca@raritanheadwaters.org.

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Gardener's Helpline

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. 

Helpline volunteers cover a myriad of home gardening issues, including providing the materials and information needed to obtain a proper soil sample for analysis by Rutgers’ labs, soil pH testing, lawn care, and plant-, tree-, and shrub identification with advice about the right plant for the right place, recommendations on deer-resistant plants, and disease diagnosis and recommendations for treatment. They can also identify pests, and give recommendations for Integrated Pest Management techniques. 

You can phone the Hotline, at 788-1339, or e-mail questions. You can also take samples and questions to Building #2, at 6 Gauntt Place, Flemington, from 9:00 AM-12:00PM, Monday-Friday, and 12:30-3:30PM, Wednesdays.

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Tewksbury's Woodlands

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): 

The Community Forestry Management Plan, which applies to the Township's public lands,Tewksbury's Master Plan, Scenic Roads Ordinance (#19-96) and Tree Clearing Ordinance (#07-2002) 

Building Greener Communities: Planning for Woodland Conservation, a manual available from the North Jersey Resource and Development Council Web site (click on "Woodland Conservation Manual") 

Maps of trails and woodland features of the Township's Pascale Farm, or Whittemore Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Other information on the Web, includes: 
The NJDEP Landscape Project
GIS-based maps showing natural resources in our area 
Text of the new "Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act" is available on the NJ Legislature's Web site; a quick search by date--8/10/04--will bring up links to the text.

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