BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A group of dedicated residents have almost raised enough money to purchase the Wemple property, off Steele Gap Road, in an effort to preserve the historic piece of land.
According to Inder Banga, of Bridgewater Residents United, Bridgewater resident Bob Vaucher has been working with residents, the town and others to save the Wemple property from being sold to build homes.
For years, residents part of a group called "Stop 18 Homes" have been fighting to prevent the development of the property, but, in 2012, the Bridgewater planning board approved an application for single family homes on it.
The property was formerly owned by the late John Wemple, who willed the property to his nieces and nephews after his death in 2002, and maintained to his neighbors that he never wanted to see the land developed. Wemple made that stipulation part of his will, but it was overturned by the Superior Court of New Jersey in 2005.
The family then sold the property to Lang, who brought the application to the planning board regarding the building of homes.
After working with several organizations, Somerset County, Bridgewater Township and the land owner, Banga said, they have secured $1.85 million to preserve the piece of land as open space. But, he said, they are $100,000 short of their $1.95 million goal.
"We are trying to get donations to make up the difference," he said. "As of (June 2), we're just about half way there."
Banga said they have to be able to show the funds by June 6.
At this point, Banga said, they are asking anyone who is interested to make a contribution to the cause.
"Any amount helps, as shavings make a pile," he said. "These donations are tax deductible, and, if for some reason this deal falls through, the donations are fully revocable."
Contributors at this time, Banga said, have been Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, Crossroads of American Revolution, D&R Greenway and Lang himself.
Lang has said the property can be permanently preserved instead of being built on if the appropriate amount of funds are raised by June 6.
The property is 36 acres on Foothill and Steele Gap roads, and sits along routes taken by George Washington's Continental Army throughout the American Revolution.