Somerset County and Hillsborough Township officials commemorated the addition of 343 acres to the Sourland Mountain Preserve on Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The purchase of the tract is one the township may be contributing $500,000 toward.
A release from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders said the county, in partnership with the township and the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation, will permanently preserve the land as open space. The foundation has secured an option agreement to purchase the property from Bryce Thompson and has requested significant assistance from the county and township to preserve it.
The Somerset County Freeholders on Sept. 25 approved paying $5,229,000, about $15,000 an acre, to acquire the 348.60 parcel which is made up by 11 lots.
The Township Committee approved last week an ordinance on first reading to use $500,000 from Hillsborough’s Open Space Trust Fund to help the county in the purchase.
“Land preservation has already been a top priority in Hillsborough,” said Hillsborough Mayor Carl Suraci in the release. “Partnering with Somerset County and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is an opportunity that further realizes that priority, while perpetuating continued economic benefits through reduced development.”
A final vote on the township's $500,000 contribution is scheduled for Nov. 27.
The land, which is made up of several tracts in Hillsborough near the intersection of Wertsville and Montgomery roads, is contiguous to other open space acquired by Somerset County in recent years. With the addition of the Thompson property, the Preserve will exceed 5,400 acres, making it the largest park in Somerset County’s 13,000-acre park system, according to the release.
The release said the property will remain largely in its natural state, with the county and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation working together to develop a management plan that will outline appropriate uses for the preservation and public enjoyment of the land.
“The acquisition of this property will add significant acreage to the county’s growing Sourland Mountain Preserve and contributes to the key elements of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan by protecting a significant environmental resource,” said Freeholder Mark Caliguire, liaison to the county’s Open Space Advisory Committee, in the release.
The Sourland Mountain region contains a large area of forest and farmland spanning parts of three central New Jersey counties, the release said. It extends from the central part of Hillsborough southwest to the Delaware River in West Amwell, Hunterdon County, and Hopewell Township, Mercer County. It contains more than 20,000 acres, which protect the water supply to the headwaters of several streams flowing to the D&R Canal, Millstone, Raritan and Delaware rivers.
The Far Hills-based New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which preserves open space and farmland throughout the state, is working to protect additional acreage in the Sourland Mountains, the release said.
“We’re very pleased to partner with Somerset County and Hillsborough Township to preserve this beautiful Sourlands Mountain property,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, in the release. “We’ve worked with Bryce Thompson on several land preservation projects in the past, and we’re grateful for his willingness to sell lands for conservation.”