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OSI Loan Helps Preserve 150 Acres of Watershed Land in Frenchtown

FLEMINGTON, NJ - March 16, 2007 - The Open Space Conservancy (OSC), the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute (OSI), provided a $54,000 loan to the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance to help acquire 150 acres of land within the borough of Frenchtown, preserving the last large undeveloped tract in this small community. 
The Frenchtown Greenbelt Preserve property was zoned for high density housing; it is estimated that over 100 residences could have been constructed on the site. The Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance recognized the importance of this property to the local community, the water protection and species habitat it provided, and the recreational opportunities it presented. 

According to Margaret Waldock, Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance executive director, “We worked to cultivate support for the preservation of this property from a variety of critical partners, the State of New Jersey Green Acres Program, Division of Parks and Forestry, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Frenchtown Borough, Hunterdon County, and the Open Space Institute. With a cost of over $4,000,000, the property could not have been preserved without these partners.” The Land Trust coordinated the project from initial communication with the owners through to the closing, and helped to secure more than $2.1 million in grant funds for the project.. 

The property contains the Kugler Farmhouse, a two-acre tract that the Land Trust has subdivided from the larger parcel and is selling subject to a conservation easement restricting further development. The Alliance seeks a buyer who will rehabilitate the historic structure, whose preservation has been a high priority for the Borough, historic community and Land Trust.

“Historic structures can be an obstacle to the acquisition of parkland; park management agencies are wary of assuming responsibility for their rehabilitation and upkeep. By providing the Land Trust bridge financing to acquire the historic Kugler Farmhouse directly, OSI not only facilitated the protection of a historic structure, but also the acquisition and permanent protection of over 150 acres of land that has been added to the state park system. We are thrilled to have had OSI’s participation in this project,” commented Ms. Waldock.

“OSI is proud to have been a part of this project,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “It’s through creative partnerships with organizations like the Hunterdon Land Trust that we can really protect threatened areas.”

The Frenchtown Preserve includes 150 acres of open farm fields and a mixture of cedar and hard wood forest. The tract contains breathtaking view of the Delaware River and fronts on State Route 29, the state’s very first designated Scenic Byway. 
The Nishisakwick Creek and its tributaries criss-cross this property, forming deep ravines. This stream system has the highest state classification, Category I, which means the water is of the highest quality. The Nishisakwick stream system supports a stocked trout fishery, attracting anglers from far and wide. The land itself provides an important buffer to public drinking water wells, ensuring a cleaner water supply for residents. 

The deep, interior forests of the property provide habitat for an abundance of bird species, such as pileated woodpecker and owls. Black bear have been seen in the area. The high elevation fields provide the perfect spot to view the resident osprey and their young, as they return to a nearby nest every season. 

The Frenchtown Greenbelt Preserve is now part of the nearby State D & R Canal State Park, managed by the state park system for passive recreation, such as hiking and cross country skiing. The Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance will work with the Park to pursue special management projects and funding including trail development, public education programs, and species habitat restoration. 

“We are pleased to have played a lead role in the preservation of this large tract of land and that such a diverse representation of partners came together to protect a property which would otherwise have been developed with high density housing, detrimentally impacting the scenic beauty and natural resources of the river corridor,” said Ms. Waldock. 

OSI's loan was the eleventh made through its New Jersey Land Protection Fund, which was launched in 2003 with $3.5 million in program related investments from the Geraldine R. Dodge and William Penn Foundations. The Fund is administered by Conservation Resources, Inc. 

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