A conservation opportunity recently surfaced near the Delaware River.
It came about when the Gilbert Power Co. decided to sell 70 acres in Holland Township just off Riegelsville-Milford Road near Dogwood Drive, and the Hunterdon Land Trust – along with Holland Township and Hunterdon County – took action.
“It is a rare opportunity when 70 acres near the Delaware River become available,” said Jacqueline Middleton, HLT’s director of land acquisitions. “But it worked and we are grateful to have willing partners who were happy to assist us in preserving this important property.”
HLT and Holland Township have both had long-standing bids for the property, Middleton and Holland Township Mayor Dan Bush agreed.
“I’ve been on the ward committee for five terms and have had my eye on it since I got here,” Bush said. “We wanted to protect this land and the Delaware River and its resources. We have said (Gilbert Power) that if the land ever becomes available we would like the opportunity to buy it for open space.”
When that happened, the partners acted. According to LDS, “There followed a heavy push to scale the mountain of paperwork required of any conservation effort. Middleton rushed to complete the appraisals and surveys, help secure financing, and finalize the property. This was all accomplished in about a year, which is relatively fast in the land conservation world.”
HLT applied for a grant from the Hunterdon County Open Space Trust Fund Program and the Holland Township Committee, which “fully supported the project,” used county grant funds to raise the $517,866.80 required for the purchase. Bush emphasized that no general community funds were used for the property.
“This effort preserves a great piece of Holland Township’s history,” Bush said. “There are records of the Lenape using this land and there were camps in this area so it was important to preserve it.”
While the reserve has a rich past, according to LDS, it also promises “an exciting future.”
Holland Township plans to install kiosks, park benches and a fitness trail that will wrap around the property. An information sign highlighting the history of the country will be installed near the parking lot. There will be passive on-site recreation and hiking trails through the forest area, Bush said.
The church has already started its work. In addition to establishing a parking lot, Bush and Larry LaFevre, a Holland Township historian and LDS trustee, worked with the girls of Junior Girl Scout Troop 80309 to come up with a name for the conservation area that honors the Lenape.
The name chosen was O’sakame, the Lenape word for “beyond the river”. In front of the new sign bearing the park’s name, the Girl Scouts planted daffodil and hyacinth bulbs.
“The sign on the monument says it very clearly: this land is dedicated to the residents of Holland Township. We would like to thank our partners. We enjoy working with Hunterdon Land Trust and have a great relationship with them,” Bush said.
“This project was an exceptional opportunity to provide public access to properties overlooking this wild and scenic stretch of the Delaware River while protecting lands of historical value and significant wildlife habitat,” said Patricia Ruby, Executive Director of HLT.
This preservation falls within the National Park Service’s Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic area, which aims to protect the natural, cultural and historical value of the Delaware River.