Newly Preserved Land Extends South of Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve
December 28, 2020, Princeton ~ 50 acres of rolling farm fields and woodlands along Jacobs Creek permanently protected with conservation and public access easement. As 2020 comes to an end, D&R Greenway Land Trust announces good news with permanent preservation of the 50-acre Sycamore Creek Farm, owned by Tony and Patti Cifelli, in Hopewell, New Jersey. A forest of majestic trees, a stone wall and Christmas fern adjoins acres of farm fields, all now preserved forever.
Tony and Patti Cifelli raised their two children on this land, instilling care for the land through hard work on the farm. Patti and her daughter, Sara, kept horses on the farm, training and riding in competitions throughout the region. Son Pete fondly remembers the sledding hill as an important mainstay in his childhood, often shared with neighbors on snowy days. With Tony and Patti’s recent move to North Carolina, Pete will carry on the tradition of caring for this land by purchasing the farm from his parents. On the property is a home, circa 1830, and barns renovated by Tony, thanks to his historic property management expertise. A conservation easement will ensure the land will remain a green family legacy.
Linda Mead, CEO & President of D&R Greenway, first visited the property in the summer and was awed by the vast open quality of the fields and beauty of the shady stream valley. A tributary waterway, Jacobs Creek, flows to the Delaware River, recognized as the 2020 American River of the Year by American Rivers. “Protecting water quality is the core of D&R Greenway’s founding mission,” she says. “The Delaware River watershed provides drinking water for 15 million people. An added benefit, this land will provide trail linkages, and protect wildlife habitat and the area’s agricultural heritage.”
Jacobs Creek creates a natural, rich forested valley, flowing from the nearby 146-acre Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve that was protected by D&R Greenway and is co-owned and managed with Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS). Future hikers will have the opportunity to walk among stands of willow and alongside mature sycamore, sumac, red maple, red cedar, black walnut, mature oak and stately beech. Sturdy clusters of Christmas fern dot the woodland. Trails, yet to be built, will enable a linkage to the Jacobs Creek trail to the south. Lisa Wolff, Executive Director of FoHVOS, says, “This property abuts our Jacobs Creek Trail. We are very excited to work with D&R Greenway to extend access to such beautiful features to the public.”
The Cifelli property contains habitat that is critical for salamanders and frogs. Experts expect rare wood turtle and dragonfly species, because of this land’s high forest quality. Birds that may be observed here include New Jersey Endangered and Threatened species, such as barred owl, worm-eating warbler, wood thrush, veery, hooded warbler, Kentucky warbler, Canada warbler and Cooper’s hawk.
Preservation funding was provided by public partners including the New Jersey Green Acres program grants to D&R Greenway and FoHVOS, Mercer County, and Hopewell Township. D&R Greenway contributed funds from a private donor, Gene Gladston, who made a bequest to their Revolving Land for Life Fund. This special funding honors the love that Gene had for protecting bird habitat.
Patti Cifelli shares the family history on this beloved land, “When we first walked the farm, April 1st 1984, we could see it as an incredible place to raise our children and keep horses. The stream valley was beautiful with its mature canopy. We envisioned some farm fields converted to horse pasture. The Johnson family [owners] emphasized that it was important that the property continue as a working farm. The farmhouse dates back to 1830, but the Johnsons had ‘only’ lived there for seventy years.
We named it Sycamore Creek Farm, inspired by massive trees along Jacobs Creek. It was indeed an excellent place to raise our family. My husband had experience in historic restoration. In addition to the importance of horses to Sara and me, I have an intense love of nature. We not only taught our children to put in hard days’ work upon the land, but also to understand that natural areas should be maintained with the sense of stewardship for all life that it supports. Early memories include their Thurman grandparents, tapping our big sugar maples to make syrup; teaching them to monitor the Bluebird nest box trail they had established. The farm was our major retirement investment.
We realized that preserving the farm would be far more desirable than selling to a developer. Opportunities for passive recreation for most people are dwindling in Central Jersey. Habitat for so many native plant and animal species is also shrinking. Preserving the farm guarantees that this beautiful place stays as it is, and will be soon enjoyed by more and more people. Preservation allows us to retire; keep our long-ago promise to the Johnsons; and still keep the farm in our family.”
The purchase of a conservation easement by D&R Greenway and partners enabled the land to stay in the family and continue as a farm with permanent protection. Danielle Dobisch, D&R Greenway’s Director of Land Preservation, orchestrated the preservation as her first negotiated transaction with D&R Greenway when she joined the nonprofit land trust’s staff, “Preserving land is about building relationships. Patti and Tony Cifelli really love their farm and wanted to do the best by it, to make sure the open land was there for the future. Having their son, Pete, purchase the preserved farm, just made the process so much sweeter. I’m thankful to have worked with Patti and Tony to see their dream come to fruition: their farm preserved, forever.”
With thanks to Hopewell Township and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program for their funding support!
D&R Greenway Land Trust, an accredited nonprofit, has saved over 21,000 acres of New Jersey land since its founding in 1989. By preserving land for life and creating public trails, it gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. The land trust’s preserved farms and community gardens provide local organic food for our neighbors—including those most in need. Through strategic land conservation and stewardship, D&R Greenway combats climate change, protects birds and wildlife, and ensures clean drinking water for future generations. D&R Greenway’s mission is centered in connecting land with people from all walks of life.
D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, home to its art galleries in Princeton, is currently closed to ensure health and safety due to COVID, although its outdoor trails and labyrinth are open. Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages and www.drgreenway.org to learn about the organization’s latest news and virtual programs. D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton NJ 08540. Best way to reach D&R Greenway Staff during the COVID pandemic is by info e-mail, available on their website.