HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Preserving the unique natural environment of the Sourland Mountain, located in Hillsborough and Montgomery townships, has been a priority for Somerset County since the early 1970s. The county recently added a 23.68-acre parcel of wooded land to the Sourland Mountain Preserve by purchasing the former residence of Richard and Doris Eaton and their family.
The property, which is located on Long Hill Road near the Montgomery Township boundary, was acquired through the Somerset County Open Space Preservation Program for $510,000 and will be incorporated into the county’s open space inventory. With the addition of the Eaton property, the preserve currently exceeds 6,330 acres within Somerset County’s 14,775-acre park system.
Richard and Doris Eaton were drawn to the serenity and abundance of flora and fauna in the area and purchased the property in 1958. They established the family home where they raised six children.
“When our parents purchased the property in 1958, they never envisioned its enduring beauty. Their goal was to find a quiet place for a big family to live their dreams,” said Burt Eaton. “Over the years, we’ve worked the land and turned it into a beautiful property, while preserving the natural habitat. The family is thrilled that everyone will be able to enjoy the inspiring beauty that captured our parents’ hearts. On behalf of our family, we know they would be overwhelmed that this dream will be shared and preserved as part of the Sourland Mountains Preserve.”
"This purchase is another example of Somerset County's efforts to safeguard our natural treasures and our commitment to preserving open spaces, scenic vistas, native flora and fauna for generations to come," said Freeholder Melonie Marano, Open Space Advisory Committee liaison.
The long-term plan for the property is to retain the existing canopy of Oak, Maple and Tulip Poplar. Leaving the property in its natural state and allowing public access for passive recreational uses such as hiking and bird watching will enhance the existing environmental quality of the area. The remains of the residence will be removed, and the area restored.
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 that 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.