When you have exciting news to share, you want to proclaim it from the highest mountain. That is exactly was Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti did on Wednesday, April 29. There, in a sun-washed meadow atop Baldpate Mountain, overlooking the Delaware River with a view all the way to the next county, before about thirty invited guests Mr. Prunetti announced that the County had closed that morning on the purchase of 1,100 acres from Trap Rock Industries. The signing of a symbolic document by the Executive and Trap Rock President Steve Osborne was greeted with a hearty round of applause. Deservedly sharing in the ceremony was Ted Stiles, President of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. The $11.4M purchase price was met primarily by Mercer County, using a combination of Green Acres funding and the Mercer County Open Space Preservation Fund. Hopewell Township and the Friends each put up $1M in Green Acres funding. Money from the State Acquisitions Fund made up the balance. The property will become a Mercer County Park to be added to the more than 300 acres already preserved on was has been known for years as Kuser Mountain.
In his speech, Mr. Prunetti laid out the general concept for the park which will be used strictly for conservation and passive recreation. He credited retired County Planner Leo Laaksonen and the current Planner Donna Lewis with negotiating the deal, and also Trap Rock for agreeing to concessions that made it possible. He also acknowledged and thanked the Township, the Friends and all the volunteers and supporters involved in the preservation effort. He also stated that, until some basic improvements are made, access will be limited to guided "mountain treks", perhaps on a monthly basis.
Washington Crossing Audubon has eagerly awaited the purchase of this property and congratulates all the parties who made it possible. We are pleased to have been associated with the effort. This purchase preserves hundreds of acres of contiguous mature woodlands, the required breeding habitat of interior dwelling neotropical migratory songbirds. A 1990 breeding bird survey documented exceptionally high numbers of such birds on Baldpate in comparison to other central New Jersey locations. Endangered plant species have also been recorded on the mountain.
A personal note: It was with great pleasure and pride that I represented Washington Crossing Audubon at the announcement on Baldpate Mt. While most of my work on this project was done as co-chairperson of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space Kuser Mt. Committee, I wore my WCAS hat at many municipal and county meetings over the past eight and a half years. Both the intrinsic natural worth of the mountain and the support of the Boards of both organizations and so many WCAS members, as well as my husband and friends, made it a labor of love. I am abundantly rewarded, many times over, by my involvement with this project, but mostly in the knowledge that now Baldpate will be wild forever. I can't wait to share it with you.
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