NJ Conservation protects 1,100 acres

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Hillsborough – At the edge of Rainbow Hill lies nature’s pot of gold.

The Sourland Mountains are the largest area of ​​undeveloped and relatively natural land between New York City and Philadelphia, and remain an undiscovered treasure for many Central Jersey residents.

But now, thanks to the work of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, there’s a new way to showcase one of the state’s most scenic and ecologically important regions.

The New Jersey Conservation Foundation recently held the official grand opening of its newest preserve, Rainbow Hill, located in the Sourland Mountain Preserve. This 1,150-acre property of his is located off Wurtsville Road and North Hill Road and straddles the Hunterdon and Somerset County line.

The preserve includes forests, fields, an eight-acre lake, and several tributaries of the Neshanic River, the region’s source of clean drinking water, which flows into the South Fork of the Raritan River at the Hillsboro-Branchburg border.

The location also offers passive recreational activities such as hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, and nature observation. Three new trails have been completed that cut through the reserve’s diverse landscape.

“We salute the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners for their foresight and tireless efforts to preserve the ecological benefits and beauty of this important landscape of the Sourland Mountains.” said Sean M. LaTourette, Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency. DEP’s investments in Rainbow Hill, through its Green Acres Program and the Office of Natural Resources Restoration, contribute to the protection of the region’s unique natural and recreational resources, including rivers, forests, and trails. ”

Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve has been a long time in the making, with several adjacent properties acquired over the past decade.

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The most recent addition was in December 2020 with the purchase of 112 acres of farmland and woodland in East Amwell. The purchase comes less than two months after NJ Conservation and partners acquired 268 acres of adjacent land.

NJ Conservation works with DEP’s Green Acres Program, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, the state Department of Natural Resources Restoration, Hillsborough Township, East Amwell Township, Hunterdon Land Trust, Raritan Headwaters Association, The Nature Conservancy, 1772 Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

The preserve totals 528 acres in East Amwell and more than 600 acres in Hillsboro. This property is maintained as a single reserve that spans two counties.

“This preserve is the culmination of a decades-long team effort to protect more than 1,000 acres of land and will provide countless benefits to the public and wildlife for generations to come.” said Alison Mitchell, co-executive director of Conservancies of New Jersey. “We are extremely grateful to all of our partners and are delighted that they will be able to enjoy this permanently preserved property in the beautiful Sourland Mountains.”

Three trails have been completed in the preserve.

The 5.5-mile Red Trail loops from the North Hill property, across hayfields, through woods, and around meadows to the lake.

At nearly 4 miles, the White Trail is the longest scenic route along fields and streams, stretching for 1 mile through forest dotted with the distinctive rocks of the Sourland Mountains.

The Blue Trail is a 1-mile loop that follows streams with views of the lake and through various forested wetlands.

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City and county officials are excited about what the preserve will bring to an ecologically sensitive region of central Jersey.

“East Amwell is excited about the opening of our new conservation area. “Preserving the 1,150-acre site will help maintain rural East Amwell, an environmentally significant Southland region.” Mayor Dante DiPiro said.

“I am very proud of the Sourland Mountains Conservation Agreement. The Sourland Mountains are the largest contiguous forest in central New Jersey,” Hunterdon County Commissioner Jeff Kuhl said. “Continued preservation of open space and agricultural land is critical to maintaining Hunterdon County’s high quality of life for current and future generations.”

“New Jersey Conservation has been a great partner for Somerset County in preserving more than 450 acres of open space and historic assets such as True Farmstead, and we look forward to many more successful partnerships in the future.”,” said Somerset County Commissioner Melonie Marano.

We partner with NJ Conservation and Raritan Valley Community College to engage students, interns, and volunteers in researching effective ways to plant trees, install fences, and restore ecosystem functions that benefit humans and wildlife. I am happy and proud to be able to do this. It is strong partnerships like this that make our work possible,” added Robert Alack, Director of Sourland Conservancy.I look forward to walking these trails with my children, and someday my grandchildren, and watching the trees and flowers grow. This is our heritage. ”

Email: mdeak@mycentraljersey.com

Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. For unlimited access to his articles about Somerset and Hunterdon counties, subscribe today or activate your digital account..

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