This post originally appeared on Warren Reporter.
Recently preserved land in Warren County connects local hiking trails
J. Scott Morrison was a man who appreciated the outdoors, having owned a farm in Hunterdon County after growing up in the rolling hills of Virginia.
After Morrison’s death earlier this year at the age of 76, there was never a question in his three children’s minds that a wooded 36-acre parcel he owned in Harmony Township should be preserved.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the Morrison property on Oct. 12, expanding a green belt of preserved land and allowing for local hiking trail connections.
“I think my father would be proud of the choice we made,” said daughter Cindy Morrison of Sarasota, Fla. “He always appreciated beautiful land. I’m glad it’s going to be preserved.”
Using grants from Warren County and the state Green Acres program, New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the property on Scotts Mountain, between Harmony Brass Castle and Fiddler’s Elbow roads, for $177,500.
The Morrison family sold the property at a “bargain sale” price, or below market value. “It’s what we all wanted to do,” said Cindy Morrison. “It’s a good thing to do.”
The property, which has an existing unpaved lane, is now open to the general public for passive recreational activities like hiking and bird watching.
The property will be linked with a hiking trail on an adjacent New Jersey Conservation Foundation property connecting to the Merrill Creek Reservoir trail system. Nearby are nearly 500 acres of preserved state lands, known as the Warren County Trail State Park.
“The Green Acres Program is happy to have assisted the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in completing this important acquisition,” said Martha Sapp, acting administrator of the Green Acres program. “We continue to work with our partners to protect the streams and natural areas near Scott’s Mountain, the Merrill Creek Reservoir, and throughout the Highlands.”
“Partnering with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been very beneficial to the public in term of our recreational directives in the county,” said Warren County Freeholder Richard D. Gardner, liaison to the county’s Municipal and Charitable Conservancies Trust Fund Committee.
“By partnering with New Jersey Conservation Foundation on this project, the County was able to leverage its investment in open space and contribute only a fraction towards the cost of permanently preserving this property,” added Corey J. Tierney, administrator of the Warren County Department of Land Preservation. “Not only do they deserve special thanks for all of their hard work on this project, but for their continuing commitment to preserving natural lands throughout Warren County.”
Preservation of the property protects local water quality and flood control efforts. The pristine Lopatcong Creek flows through it, ultimately making its way into the Delaware River. A small pond on the upper reaches of the Lopatcong Creek helps trap sediment from the top of the mountain.
The land contains a healthy forest with a diverse array of plant and animal species and is known as home to many endangered species, including barred owl, bobcat and red-shouldered hawk.
For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).