NJ CONSERVATION FOUNDATION – Sonia Millner could have sold the land where she grew up in Delaware Township for a housing development.
But she and her daughter, Barbara Gellner, made up their minds that they’d rather see their 130-acre property – a combination of fields and forest and the pristine Wickecheoke Creek – permanently preserved as open space.
“It was something we had always discussed,” Mrs. Millner said. “Rather than having a bunch of houses coming up, we did not want to see it developed.”
On Aug. 14, New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the land at the corner of Whiskey Lane and Boars Head Road with the help of several funding partners, including the state Green Acres Program, Hunterdon County, Delaware Township, Franklin Township and the New Jersey Water Supply Authority.
The property will be open to the public for passive recreation, including hiking, dog walking and nature observation.
“New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been working for over 30 years to preserve land along the Wickecheoke Creek, a beautiful part of New Jersey, and an important drinking water supply source,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director.
Growing up on the farm
Mrs. Millner’s parents bought the property in the 1920s after visiting relatives nearby and liking the surrounding farming community. She and her brother and two sisters were raised there and helped out with farm chores.
“Times were tough,” she recalled of the family’s early years on the farm and the Great Depression era. “We were poor but never knew it, because everyone was in the same boat.” The siblings worked in the fields and garden, and also helped out with the family’s cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, geese and goats.
“We all went to a one-room school, which was a mile away in Locktown,” she added. “My mother would take us with the horse and wagon until we were able to walk there ourselves.”
“We used to swim in the creek and fish in the creek. We’d get catfish, eels and sunnies,” she recalled. “The creek was very free flowing.”
Although Mrs. Millner didn’t live on the property for most of her adult life, she said she and her daughter still consider it home.
Forests protect water quality
The Millner property includes three large farm fields, mixed hardwood forest and forested wetlands. Dense forests and forested wetlands, such as those found on the site, help protect water quality in the Wickecheoke Creek, which flows into the Delaware & Raritan Canal.
Native plants like May apples, ferns, trout lilies, irises and Jack in the pulpits grow on the property, and there are few non-native invasive species. Wild turkeys, coyotes and bears have been spotted in the woods and fields.
“Green Acres is pleased to be able to provide acquisition funding to Franklin and Delaware townships,” said Martha Sullivan Sapp, Director of Green Acres. “We commend all the partners for protecting the significant forests, fields, wetlands, and stream corridor of the Wickecheoke Creek for public recreation and open space purposes.”
The newly-preserved property is located just down Boars Head Road from the 76-acre Fishkin property, preserved by NJ Conservation Foundation in 2005.
“Hunterdon County is pleased to continue to support the efforts of New Jersey Conservation Foundation in preserving land along the Wickecheoke Creek and is thankful to the Millner family for their contribution to conservation,” said Freeholder Director J. Matthew Holt.
“This project is preservation at its best; preserving land, a stream, and a story, achieved through the cooperation of willing landowners, hard-working nonprofits, and political will,” said Bob Hornby, Delaware Township Open Space Coordinator.
Franklin Township Mayor Craig Repmann thanked Millner and Gellner “for their generous spirit in preserving a natural area that will provide a stimulating escape for generations of Hunterdon residents. We are pleased to have helped make it possible.”