Princeton, N.J.— D&R Greenway Land Trust announces the preservation of the 54-acre Kulley-Higgins-Parisi farm in Franklin Township, Somerset County. Located between Old Georgetown Road and Route 518, the farm was acquired as open space by Franklin Township. D&R Greenway facilitated the acquisition, working hand-in-hand with the owners and the Township to craft legal and financial arrangements to achieve everyone’s goals.
Preserving the site was a high priority because this historic farm connects protected expanses east of the D&R Canal. “Linking preserved properties into large-scale landscapes adds ecological and social value by creating wildlife habitat corridors, protecting water quality and enabling trails to be built,” says D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead.
With rows of crops extending to forests shimmering on the horizon, the Kulley-Higgins-Parisi farm seems a world unto itself. In the quiet, one can almost hear the sound of growing things. What can’t be seen are the invisible threads that tie this newly preserved farm to people, to history and to the surrounding landscape.
Immediately south of the farm are 149 acres acquired by Somerset County in 2015 from Trap Rock Quarry. North by northwest are two more open space properties, thanks to D&R Greenway: the 5.5-acre Weingart preserve and the County’s 70-acre Speiden tract, fronting on the Canal. This latest link involved hours of work by D&R Greenway’s Jay Watson and Emily Blackman.
“The new property will provide a critical connection between the Weingart tract and the County-owned lands,” says Theodore “Ted” Chase, Deputy Mayor of Franklin Township. “Eventually there will be trails from Canal Road across Old Georgetown Road and out to Route 518.”
The “Kulley-Higgins-Parisi” moniker reflects the complicated nature of the transaction—one that D&R Greenway is particularly well-suited to facilitate. “D&R Greenway has developed expertise in bringing the right people to the table who can advise on complex legal, financial and planning considerations,” says Mead. “Also, because of our long history of collaborating with local partners, we have rich personal relationships with many of the individuals involved.”
One such individual was Andrew Kulley, whose late brother Matthew owned part of the property with his wife Linda (née Higgins). Linda, her brother Butch Higgins, and sister Dianne Parisi jointly owned another part. Andrew’s and Matthew’s sister is Marion Harvey, whose husband Ash Harvey is a former D&R Greenway Trustee.
Andrew Kulley, President of Friends of West Windsor Open Space, introduced his family members to D&R Greenway. “D&R Greenway has been instrumental in helping FOWWOS,” he says. “They know the preservation business, the different steps that have to be taken, how to divide and consolidate lots, and how to find consultants and experts. I knew they were trying to connect land in the vicinity, so it was natural for me to reach out and see if they could act as facilitators.”
D&R Greenway knew that Franklin Township wanted to preserve land in the area, and had a personal connection through long-time supporter and Deputy Mayor Ted Chase, a neighbor of Linda Kulley. Chase had purchased his own property from the Weingarts, and his efforts had led to D&R Greenway’s preserving the Weingart tract in 2010.
For Linda Kulley, preserving the farm property is both the fulfillment of her and Matthew’s vision, and a way to continue her family’s historic ties to the community. “Higginses settled Kingston and built Rockingham,” Linda Kulley points out. Her parents purchased the Route 518 property in the 1970s. There they grew grain for her mother’s Kingston stables, Hasty Acres, which since 1959 has been home to a therapeutic riding program and other educational offerings. Both Linda Kulley and Dianne Parisi became accomplished equestrians. Linda and Matthew bought the adjacent parcel, where they built their house (by hand), and where Linda bred horses. Linda now enjoys retirement in her home on the “small mountain” that she, her husband and her siblings worked to preserve.
“What’s been preserved is not just the land but all the connections that it represents,” says Kulley, recounting how a recent quiet evening at home turned into a vibrant gathering when her neighbors all came over to see her new tractor. “That’s what it’s all about, friends and neighbors,” she continues. “It’s important to preserve what this is—a community.”