BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Land Preservation Award has been given to Bridgewater's Brendan Burns, David Stempien and Bob Vaucher for their work in preserving the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail, according to a release from the D&R Greenway.

This special award is given in recognition of D&R Greenway's 30th Anniversary. The award will be presented at a garden party May 11.

The historic trail, which goes from Virginia to Rhode Island, passes through Washington Valley Road, Adamsville Road, Steele Gap Road and Foothill Road. Some of that property is in the Wemple property, which Burns, Stempien and Vaucher worked for years to preserve, and led to the award.

Sign Up for E-News

For years, residents part of a group called "Stop 18 Homes" had 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 Wemple, who willed the property to his nieces and nephews after his death, 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.

Lang had promised that if the residents could raise $1.9 million, he would turn the land over to the township for open space, instead of being developed. 

The Bridgewater Township Council voted unanimously in August to allow for the purchase of about 31 acres of land – known as 440 Foothill Road, Twin Oaks Road, and 501 Steele Gap Road – from Bridgewater Estates, LLC, for the price of $1,925,000.

The purchase was primarily facilitated by $1,150,000 from the township’s Open Space Trust Fund. A total of $250,000 was funded by Somerset County, along with $250,000 from the Cross Roads of the American Revolution and $175,000 by the D&R Greenway Land Trust. 

There was also a charitable donation of about 1.319 acres, and the township taking title, subject to roll back taxes in the approximate amount of $100,000.