Monday, August 24, 2020

D&R G & Partners Announce Opening of Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve Trails

An attractive new sign and kiosk, and a new gravel parking area, invite the public to three loop trails on Pennington Mountain. Cool woodlands and exceptional natural vistas on Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve are now easily accessible on Hopewell’s Woosamonsa Road. Significant partnership among D&R Greenway Land Trust, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and the Township of Hopewell conserved what has been described as “a forested paradise.” Its black rock, diabase foundation fosters vernal pools, which support frogs, toads and salamanders, some of which are threatened or endangered in New Jersey.

Nearly as important as the acreage itself is the wide range of cooperation that saved the Jay and Amy Regan land in 2018. The Nature Conservancy and NJ Green Acres Program, as well as Mercer County’s Open Space Fund, initially provided preservation funding for Woosamonsa Ridge, D&R Greenway’s 300th preserved property. These significant watershed lands provide regional residents with new opportunities to experience unique natural landscapes. This preservation result is one of many proving that land preservation also creates and expands community.

“Hopewell Township values our beautiful and varied landscapes and we are always thrilled when new opportunities to explore these resources are opened,” says Mayor Kristin McLaughlin.  “With the new kiosk and parking lot, Township residents, and others, have an additional outlet for recreation. The Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve is a stunning addition to the open space resources in Hopewell Township.”

The Preserve, with its new trailhead on the south side of Pennington Mountain, is remarkable for the purity of its waterways. Many creeks, including Jacobs, flow three miles southwest to the Delaware River, recently named River of the Year 2020 by American Rivers. The award recognized vast improvements in the Delaware’s water quality, due in part to preservation along its tributaries.

Woosamonsa’s longest trail loop provides about an hour and a half—each direction—of nature at its sylvan best. The shortest may be completed in less than an hour. These pathways wind through the bucolic Jacobs Creek Valley. Arrival at the high point on the ridge delivers spectacular views, until now more or less reserved for the birds.

The property is co-owned and managed by D&R Greenway Land Trust and Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), in partnership with the Township of Hopewell. Volunteers of the two non-profits, comprising the NJ Trails Association, have built new compelling paths and improved historically used trails that now await the public. Hopewell Township provided the new parking area on Woosamonsa Road, marked by a signature preserve sign. D&R Greenway created and installed the sign and accompanying kiosk, with its descriptive trail map.

Linda Mead, D&R Greenway President & CEO, is delighted to welcome hikers to this vast forested property, preserved in 2018. “If Forest ‘Bathing’ in leafy woods, singing along with rocky brooks, seeking beautiful wildflowers and birdwatching appeal to you, then the new trails on Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve are the place to go. Its pristine waterways nourish the Delaware River, the only undammed river east of the Mississippi. Saving green land, land that supports significant life, keeps tributaries and our boundary river, healthy. We like to remind visitors, Preserved Land + Water = Life.”

“The Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve opening adds momentum to our earliest vision of a contiguous ‘emerald necklace’ of preserved land around the Hopewell Valley,” says Lisa Wolff, Executive Director of FoHVOS. ”We are so pleased to be working with partners who share our ambitions,” she continues. “We recently acquired a neighboring property and are working closely with others to make Woosamonsa Ridge and its surrounding area the crown jewel of Hopewell Valley.”

This land is named for an adjacent Lenape village. FoHVOS particularly praises its “rolling topography, provid[ing] a vantage point unique in the Hopewell Valley. Its forest consist[s] of large mature oak and hickory trees. [Its understory] is home to plants that only found in high-quality forests, such as the [exceedingly rare] showy orchis.

NJ Trails Association, under the leadership of Alan Hershey, former D&R Greenway Board Chair, provides skilled, long-term volunteers who build creatively designed, winding preserve trails. Their web-site describes this newly opened more-than-146-acre site, with its almost three miles of trails, as “boasting exceptional natural features — a mature hardwood forest, steep ridges, and the upper reaches of Jacobs Creek.”