LEBANON TWP. – Hunterdon County’s newest park – 244 acres connecting the Point Mountain Reservation and Teetertown/Crystal Springs Preserve – has been preserved by a public-private partnership spearheaded by New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Hunterdon County.
Hunterdon County purchased the Pelio property for $2 million with the help of NJ Conservation and eight other entities, including the New Jersey Green Acres Program, Lebanon Township, Hunterdon Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Victoria Foundation, 1772 Foundation, Leavens Foundation and the New Jersey Water Supply Authority.
The new park links existing preserved lands to create a greenway of nearly 2,600 acres in northern Hunterdon.
“The addition of this property to the county park system is crucial to connecting the county’s Teetertown and Point Mountain parks, a long sought-after linkage in the northern part of the county,” said Hunterdon Freeholder Director Matt Holt in a press release. “Connections between already preserved parcels enhance the park experience for residents and visitors and add to the value of the park system, which is a critical part of investment in our tourism industry.”
The property, which features rolling farm fields, forests and wetlands along Mount Lebanon, Sharrer and Turkey Top roads, has been eyed for preservation for 15 years. It will be open to the public for passive recreation like hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and nature observation.
“From a local perspective, this acquisition significantly adds to the rural vistas, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities in Lebanon Township, while also maintaining its agricultural character,” said Lebanon Township Mayor Mike Schmidt. “From a statewide perspective, the preserved lands are the source of some of the most pristine drinking water to be found anywhere.”
The property is within a sub-watershed ranked the highest quality by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, indicating that its preservation will have a positive impact on water quality. The property is crossed by streams flowing into the Spruce Run Reservoir, a water supply source for central New Jersey. It also protects the watershed of the Musconetcong River, one of only three federally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in New Jersey.
The land is home to several endangered species, including wood turtles and great blue herons.
“We are thrilled to help secure the preservation of the Pelio property, and we thank all our partners,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Preservation of these lands reaffirms the importance of public-private partnerships in achieving land preservation goals.”
Hunterdon County provided the bulk of the funding through grants to Lebanon Township and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. Green Acres was also a significant funding partner, providing grants to Lebanon Township and Hunterdon Land Trust. The Nature Conservancy, Victoria Foundation, 1772 Foundation and Leavens Foundation also chipped in, and the New Jersey Water Supply Authority helped with closing costs.
"For many years, Hunterdon Land Trust has held a deep interest in seeing this important property preserved," said Patricia Ruby, executive director of Hunterdon Land Trust. "Now, thanks to the persistence and dedication of the many partners working together, we have added significant parkland to a greenway protecting clean water, air, and wildlife for all to enjoy. It is always exciting when a long-awaited preservation project come to fruition."