The Washington Township Land Trust worked with 5 state and local partners to protect almost 300 acres of environmentally sensitive land on top of Schooley’s Mountain. The Crystal Springs property off of Califon Road contains highly developable agricultural fields, beautiful forests, ponds, and the headwaters to the Spruce Run – an important water source for many northern New Jersey residents. This purchase was a critical addition to a network of protected lands straddling the Hunterdon/Morris County border that totals over 1,000 acres.
The $2.27 million property was protected through an ambitious partnership with the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, the County of Hunterdon, Lebanon Township, Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance and New Jersey DEP’s Green Acres Program. “This is a great example of partners working together to save land with critical resources in the most cost-effective and efficient manner,” said Lebanon Township Mayor Eileen Swan.
Washington Township Land Trust manages the 53 acres of the property located in Washington Township in partnership with the Hunterdon County Park System, who manages the remaining 250 acres and is part of the Hunterdon County Park System. Both areas are managed for passive recreation and natural resource protection. Activities are limited to protect the property’s important water resources. The Crystal Springs property contains the headwaters of the Spruce Run Reservoir, which provides drinking water to residents of 48 municipalities in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties.
The Land Trust and Hunterdon County officials are currently using part of the property to develop a native warm-season grassland habitat, one of New Jersey’s fastest disappearing habitats. “I congratulate the other parties involved for working together to protect Spruce Run’s water resources and nurture a grassland wildlife habitat”, said DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell in a press release at the time of the closing.
The Crystal Springs property creates a continuous link between existing parklands in Hunterdon County and preserved farms in Washington Township, creating a cross-county greenway of protected lands. “This project represents the kind of “big-picture” open space planning that is vital to protecting our areas natural resources”, said Keith Hayes, President of the Washington Township Land Trust at it’s inception. “Important natural resources and scenic vistas don’t stop at county or municipal boundaries and neither should our efforts to protect them.” Lebanon Township Mayor Eileen Swan agreed, “It’s important to see communities working across their municipal borders to save land of statewide importance.
The Land Trust is grateful to our 5 partners; without their help and leadership we would not have been able to protect this very special property. The Land Trust also thanks Tim Morris of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for providing staffing assistance through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust.
The Washington Township Land Trust entrance to the park is located via a private road with deeded access off of Califon Road. Parking is located in the park, which is open from dawn until dusk.
Property owned in Partnership
Crystal Springs Park Block 50, lot 26 – Washington Township.
Owned by: Hunterdon County & Washington Township Land Trust & others
Location: Washington Township Land Trust entrance – Califon Road & #51-55 private driveway
Acres: 58 in Washington Township, 233 in Hunterdon County
Hunterdon Land Trust Crystal Springs web site:
Access: Parking – Inside the park. Entrance at the end of private lane marked 51-55 off Califon Rd, NO parking on the private lane, or at the end of the cul-de-sac on Surrey Lane. Hunterdon County Park Entrance: Continue south on Califon Rd until it becomes Pleasant Grove Rd., look for Hunterdon County Park parking on the left. The trail head entrance is across the street. OPEN: Dawn until Dusk HUNTING: With Permission Only. Contact: Huntwtlt@gmail.com.