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Freeholders, New Jersey Conservation Foundation & Hillsborough Township Announce Key Addition to Sourland Mountain Preserve


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Lisa MacCollum
HILLSBOROUGH - A June 13 closing was held on the remaining 4.5 acres of a 78-acre acquisition of land being deeded to the Somerset County Open Space program by land owner John Higgins. The acquisition was completed through a partnership with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Hillsborough Township. The purchase price for the 4.5 acres was $165,000.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation secured an option agreement to purchase the 78 acres from Mr. Higgins which was transferred to Somerset County. Hillsborough Township has contributed $500,000 toward the county's preservation of the entire 78 acres, which had a total purchase price (including the 4.5 acres) of $1,342,472. The county closed on the initial 73.5 acres in September 2015.

The property will remain largely in its natural state of woodland and open fields. The remains of two structures on the property are scheduled for demolition. The county and New Jersey Conservation Foundation will work together to develop a management plan that will outline planning and management activities most appropriate for the health and public enjoyment of the land.

The property, located near the intersection of Wertsville and Montgomery roads, is contiguous to other open space lands acquired by Somerset County in recent years and will encourage the expansion of the Preserve to the Hunterdon County border, where many local, county and nonprofit preservation initiatives are currently underway. Preservation of the property and surrounding land is consistent with the goals and objectives of the county's Parks Recreation & Open Space Master Plan for the Sourland Mountain region.

"The acquisition of the Higgins property is another in a long line of successful partnerships with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Hillsborough Township," said Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh. "It is satisfying to see all groups contributing resources and funding toward the common goal of preserving the rich cultural and environmental resource that is the Sourland Mountain. We look forward to continuing this partnership as we identify other key preservation opportunities in the region."

"The acquisition of the 4.5- acre Higgins parcel, although small in size, constitutes another important piece of the puzzle that makes up the vast Sourland Mountain Preserve," said Freeholder Mark Caliguire, Open Space Advisory Committee liaison. "Starting with the county's preservation of one 22-acre parcel in 1972, the Preserve has grown into one of the largest county park areas in the state. Continued preservation of the Sourland Mountain will maintain critical wildlife habitat and the many stream corridors that feed the drinking water supply for so many county residents."

"This is beautiful land with both fields and forests," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We're very pleased to once again partner with Somerset County and Hillsborough Township to expand the Sourland Mountain Preserve."

"Hillsborough Township remains committed to land preservation," said Mayor Frank DelCore. "When accomplished through long-standing partnerships, the benefits are far-reaching. Hillsborough's successful record of continued land preservation remains a top priority as we continue to seek opportunities to further preserve additional land."

The Sourland Mountain region is an expansive green swath of intact forest and farmland spanning parts of three largely developed central New Jersey counties. It extends from the central part of Hillsborough Township southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County.

The Sourlands contain over 20,000 contiguous forested acres, which protect the water supply to the headwaters of several significant streams flowing to the D&R Canal, Millstone, Raritan and Delaware Rivers. The Sourlands support many rare plant and animal species and provide nesting and migratory stopover habitat for over 100 species of migratory birds.

Somerset County began the preservation of the Sourland Mountain in Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships in the early 1970s. With the addition of the Higgins property, the Preserve exceeds 6,000 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County's 14,400-acre park system.

Hillsborough Township has been very active with preservation efforts in the Sourlands. The township and county have worked together on several open space acquisitions in the Sourland region, creating linkages between county and local preserved lands.

The Far Hills-based New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which preserves open space and farmland throughout the state, is working to protect additional acreage in the Sourland Mountains.

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