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62 acres preserved in Sourland Mountains

NJ Conservation Foundation assists Montgomery Township


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Tamara Garaffa
MONTGOMERY TWP. - On June 19, Montgomery Township purchased 62 acres of forested land fronting on Spring Hill Road in the Sourlands.

The property was targeted for preservation due to its sensitive environmental characteristics and proximity to other preserved lands. It is currently undeveloped except for some old trails. Two tributary streams, wetlands, steeply sloping hills, and mature upland beech, oak and tulip poplar forests cover the land. Memories are all that remain of its former life as a camp for at least two different groups since the 1930s.

"This 62-acre tract is a pivotal preservation for the Township," said Mayor Mark Conforti. "We are connecting several other open space parcels to create a larger preserved tract. This adds more value for wildlife management and passive recreation. Closing on this piece also prevents development that could strain the water supply in this section of town."

New Jersey Conservation Foundation assisted in brokering the deal between the landowner and the Township. The purchase price for the property, which was substantiated by appraisals, is approximately $1.05 million, half of which was provided through grants by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres program, and the other half funded by the Township's Open Space Tax. New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been a preservation partner with the Township for more than 20 years.

"We are thrilled to preserve another large tract of land in town," said Deputy Mayor Christine Madrid. "This is a unique and amazingly beautiful part of the Sourlands which could have been lost. It has forested slopes, streams, springs, and provides access to other adjacent open space."

"We're delighted to partner with Montgomery Township to preserve land in the Sourland Mountains," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "Montgomery Township is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy nature, and we are happy to see the natural resources protected on these 62 acres."

The deed indicates that this property changed hands in 1953, being sold by Angelo and Sofia Arecco to Trenton Christian Camp Association and again from the camp to Thompson/Solotorovsky (the current sellers) in 1973.

Research by the Van Harlingen Historical Society (VHHS) indicates that this property was central to a community of Italian-Americans who settled on Spring Hill Road in the late 1920s. Some of these families still live in Montgomery today. Many immigrants worked building tunnels and other infrastructure in New York City, then bought farms here to raise their families.

According to recorded oral histories by Walter Baker of VHHS, the Arecco family built one of the first swimming pools in town, utilizing the fresh spring waters here, and built outbuildings for summer boarders to escape the city heat. The histories tell of how visitors enjoyed traditions from "The Old Country" including playing bocce ball, group singalongs, and making home-made wine at this defacto camp. Later, a Trenton affiliate of the Christian Camp Association ran 'Camp Delaware' here for twenty years. The Township welcomes information from any area resident having further knowledge of this property's history.

According to Montgomery Open Space Coordinator Lauren Wasilauski, some possible passive uses of the property which the Township is considering include hiking trail development, as well as woodland management and deer hunting. "We are so pleased to be able to add this beautiful property to our open space inventory," she stated.

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