D&R Greenway Land Trust owns and manages more than 50 properties in central New Jersey. As a regional land trust, we work to connect people with nature and provide appropriate public access for walking, hiking, bird-watching, environmental study and exploration. The Preserves are open dawn to dusk and easily accessible, walkable and clearly posted with signage explaining rules and regulations. D&R Greenway encourages responsible passive recreation on our preserves from dawn to dusk. If you have any questions, please call 609.924.4646.
At 116 acres, Cedar Ridge is one of the most important preserves among the 50 properties that Greenway owns. It is a real beauty. It has wildflower-filled meadows, flowering trees and shrubs in hedgerows, a corridor along the Stony Brook, small pools that fill in spring where salamanders and frogs lay eggs, groves of Red Cedars that house owls, a remnant patch of ancient forest with one of the best and biggest White oak trees around, and an extensive maze of early 19th century stone walls. It is also a property with a trail network that allows you to enjoy all of these features.
In late summer the meadows at Cedar Ridge are filed with a mosaic of wildflowers, shrubs, ferns and grasses. The most prominent shrub is Bayberry, which was used in earlier times as a source of medicine. Its berries famously are used to make an aromatic wax for candles, but they are also an important winter food source for Yellow-rumped Warblers, who return the favor by spreading the seeds. Its leaves are also host to the larvae of several moth species. Goldenrod makes a showy display in early fall, accompanied as always by swarms of butterflies and bees. Milkweed flowers host Monarch butterflies—first by providing food for the larvae, then nectar for the adult insect. The presence of Sensitive fern in patches throughout the meadows reveals the pattern of wet ground. Red tailed hawks are often seen patrolling these meadows in search of voles and moles and an occasional American kestrel can be seen hovering over the fields. The Bluebird boxes are filled every year with nesting Bluebirds.
In 2009 eight vernal ponds were built along the hedgerows of the meadows. These ponds fill with water in winter and early spring and then become hosts for the eggs of salamanders and frogs. Visiting Great blue herons have discovered these ponds and are sometimes seen stalking their edges.
The cedar groves host owls and the deciduous forest provides food and shelter for scores of neo-tropical songbirds like Baltimore oriole, titmice, Carolina wrens, woodpeckers and sapsuckers and many different species of warblers.
The Sourland Mountains, projecting 20 miles northeastward from the Delaware River at Lambertville, are the largest intact forest area in Central New Jersey, comprising 90 square miles with over 20,000 forested acres. Its highly acidic soils and limited availability of groundwater have made both farming and development difficult, preserving much of its original ecosystem. The Sourlands are a habitat mosaic encompassing streams and wetlands, early successional and mature forests, boulder fields and agricultural lands. Its woodlands shelter a very rich and diverse native plant community similar to that of the Appalachian Mountains, not equaled in the valleys below.
The Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve is an amalgamation of several separately preserved properties that together make up over 700 acres of contiguously preserved land. It is almost entirely covered with a mature deciduous forest, several headwater streams that form the Stony Brook course the woodlands and much of it is covered with diabase boulders—produced from volcanoes and over millennia broken, pushed to the surface and rounded by the elements. A network of paths has been created through much of this preserve, allowing visitors access to its beauty and serenity.
In several areas there are groves where one species or another dominates the landscape. Groves of American beech trees are found in several locations, Shagbark hickories can be found in others and one section has a startling number of Chestnut oaks—a species that is not rare but is not found with great frequency in central New Jersey. Amazingly tall, straight Tulip trees punctuate the canopy throughout the woods. A visitor to the Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve in spring and summer can expect to see a great variety of birds. An ornithologist who conducts an inventory here found 84 species of birds in 2010, including spectacular Pileated woodpeckers, Scarlet tanagers, Hooded warbler and Rose-breasted grosbeak. In spring the lovely song of the Wood thrush persists throughout the woods.
A striking number of maple leafed viburnum can be found here. This flowering shrub is a favorite food for White tailed deer so its presence at this preserve indicates that D&R Greenway is successful in its effort to control the size of the deer population. One can also find great stands of May apples, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and ferns—especially New York fern and Christmas fern.
The land around the old barn that has been converted into D&R Greenway’s office (the Johnson Education Center) has been developed to demonstrate how utilitarian space can still reflect the qualities of the natural world. The Cone Grove is an area of former lawn that has been fenced to protect it from deer browse and where a number of shrubs, understory trees and ferns have been planted. It demonstrates how a residential yard can be converted into a woodland garden. Meredith’s garden, which surrounds a paved patio very like that of a residence, was created entirely from scratch and is comprised of many native wildflowers and shrubs. Across the street from the Johnson Education Center is a 14 acre woodland that is presently undergoing extensive restoration. This property has an excellent array of canopy trees but was totally overrun at the understory, shrub and herbaceous layers by alien invasive plants. The understory has been cleared of these noxious plants and areas where some sunlight penetrates the canopy have been selected for restoration by planting native understory trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
A trail which begins at the Johnson Education Center, traverses the woodland and connects with a trail on the adjoining woodland that is part of an elementary school’s outdoor education property is currently under construction.
The 340-acre St. Michaels property, which was preserved in January 2010, is an expanse of farm fields and forests on the edge of Hopewell Borough. From many parts of this preserve the visitor has long views, lending the preserve a wonderful expansiveness which promotes a sense of well being in anyone who walks its many farm roads and paths. From 1896 until 1973 this was the home of St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School which was operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton. After the orphanage was closed the building where they lived and went to school was torn down and most of the land was leased to a local farmer. Although there were plans to eventually develop this land nothing was ever done and in 2010 D&R Greenway and several partners succeeded in purchasing it. It is now preserved as open space forever. The largest amount of the $11M purchase price for this property came from the State farmland preservation program, assuring that much of the land shall be continued to be used as farmland. A lease has been signed for a local farmer to graze cattle, sheep and chickens on the open fields that are to the south of the Bedens Brook and for the present much of the open land to the north of the Bedens Brook will be used for hayfields. Recreational use is permitted around the perimeter of those fields on what are seen as farm roads—strips that farm vehicles use. The 44-acre woods to the east of Aunt Molly Road will have a path before the end of 2011 but it must be very carefully aligned to make sure that valuable and rare plants that are located here are not harmed by the location of the trail. An old barn on the property awaits stabilization but several derelict farm buildings have been removed.
There are four types of plant communities on this preserve: agricultural fields, shrub/scrub, hedgerows and forest. The farm fields have previously been managed for crops—principally hay, corn and soybean. While those crops will not be continued (nor will the heavy doses of herbicide and insecticide that accompanied them) the final pattern of use is not fully determined.
The shrub/scrub community is principally along the corridor of the Bedens Brook and at present is mostly comprised of alien invasive plants. Never-the-less, the structure of this community is conducive to providing cover for many species of birds so the removal of those invasive plants will have to be gradual and accompanied by the replacement of native species.
The hedgerows are also presently comprised mostly of alien invasive plant species—Japanese honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle, Multiflora rose, Autumn olive and Ailanthus being the main culprits. D&R Greenway’s plan is to remove the invasives and replace them with fruit-bearing native trees and shrubs. The goal is to make it possible for people and wildlife to snack while they walk through the preserve.
There are several patches of forest, mainly at the southernmost end of the property and along the eastern side, and a forest of about 35 acres to the east of Aunt Molly Road. This larger forest is an extremely high quality forest, including a shale barren that is reminiscent of a Midwestern savannah with several widely spaced White oaks.
An ornithologist has been inventorying the birds on this preserve and has identified almost a hundred species, including eleven species of warbler, the lovely Indigo bunting, Rose-breasted grosbeak and Scarlet tanager. Hawks cruise the fields looking for voles and mice, Kestrels live in the vicinity of the barn, a Great blue and a Little green heron have been seen along the creek and sparrows and finches frequent the fields.
The Plum Brook is a tributary to the Wickecheoke Creek, a waterway that has been identified by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection as being of the highest quality. The three properties that D&R Greenway has preserved along the Plum Brook, and that comprise this preserve, include mature upland forest, groves of cedar trees, both upland and wet meadows recovering from past agricultural use and stands of shrub/scrub. Having this wide mix of habitats assures that the preserve is a suitable home for a wide mix of both animal and plant species. Included in the great diversity of plant and animal species are a number of plants and animals that are on the State list of threatened and endangered species. A network of 19th century stone walls crisscross the preserve, silently telling today’s visitor where the boundaries of old pastures and fields were located. An interesting note is that the largest pussy willow tree that anyone can remember seeing is located here.
On an upland portion of the forest here there is a grove of cedars that shelter many notable species of herbaceous plants and is home to Long-eared and Barred owls.