SANDY PERRY, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
PHONE: 908-234-1225, EXT. 104
8.7 acres preserved near Sergeantsville covered bridge
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/ 01/12/16
DELAWARE TWP. - The rolling countryside surrounding the hamlet of Sergeantsville and its iconic covered bridge is one of the most picturesque spots in New Jersey, thanks in part to the Johnson family's passion for land preservation.
Rosa Johnson, Alix Bacon and Nina Dixon inspect fields
"We just try to be good citizens as best we can," said Rosa Johnson, whose late husband's family has been farming in western Hunterdon County for more than 200 years.
Over the past 15 years, the Johnson family has preserved 40 acres of open space with New Jersey Conservation Foundation, including land next to the historic Green Sergeant's Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in the state. The family also preserved another 42 acres of farmland through a state program.
The latest preservation project includes 8.7 acres along Pine Hill Road, which Rosa Johnson sold to New Jersey Conservation Foundation on Jan. 5, ensuring that it will remain open forever.
The newly-preserved land's fields were once part of a dairy farm and are currently used for growing hay. The property connects to the covered bridge via the previously preserved lands, and will become part of a local trail network.
The land is near thousands of additional acres of preserved open space and farmland protecting the Wickecheoke Creek, and is in the watershed of the Cold Run, a vital Wickecheoke Creek tributary.
Rosa Johnson said she and her husband, Lawrence, always wanted to see their land preserved to protect the beauty and rural character of the Sergeantsville area. "My husband said he didn't want to see houses growing up like mushrooms," she recalled.
Nine generations on farm
Ancestors of the Johnson family have been living in Sergeantsville since the early 19th century. In 1805, the homestead containing the site of the covered bridge and the surrounding hamlet and mills passed from John Opdyke to Charles Sergeant, who had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War. The village of Sergeantsville was named after Charles Sergeant.
The properties then passed to his son Green Sergeant, who built the covered bridge in 1872. Green's daughter, Sarah, married George Johnson, which is how the farmland and mills passed into the Johnson family. The Covered Bridge Historic District is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lawrence Johnson was part of the sixth generation of family members to grow up on the farm, and Rosa arrived there as his bride 65 years ago. Lawrence and Rosa's four children were the seventh generation, and three of the four still live on the property. Today there's an eighth and ninth generation - Lawrence and Rosa's 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren - although not all have stayed in the Sergeantsville area.
A History of Preservation
In 2002, Rosa and Larry Johnson sold 22 acres at the corner of Pine Hill Road and Route 604 to New Jersey Conservation Foundation, including a shallow pool of the Wickecheoke Creek where local residents had been ice skating for years in winter. The following year, they preserved 42 acres through the state's farmland preservation program.
In 2006, Rosa Johnson donated two acres directly adjacent to the covered bridge to NJ Conservation. "It's a strip along the water," she explained. "I love to see it during trout season when the fisherman are out." Her son, Alan Johnson, preserved seven acres of nearby woodlands at the same time.
"We're extremely grateful to the Johnsons for their commitment to preserving land along the Wickecheoke Creek and near the covered bridge," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "This is one of New Jersey's most beautiful places, and future generations will be able to enjoy these lands for years to come."
Vital drinking water source
New Jersey Conservation Foundation acquired the 8.7-acre Johnson property using funding from Hunterdon County and the state Green Acres Program. The New Jersey Water Supply Authority contributed funds to help pay for surveys, appraisals and related expenses.
The pristine Wickecheoke Creek flows into the Delaware & Raritan Canal, a source of drinking for more than 1.2 million New Jersey residents.
Over the past 30 years, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has helped preserve nearly 4,000 acres surrounding the Wickecheoke Creek and its tributaries. The Wickecheoke Creek Preserve is home to beaver, mink and great blue herons, and endangered species such as red-shouldered hawks, wood turtles and long-tailed salamanders.
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, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).
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