The Gift of a Beautiful View Helps One Couple with Retirement Goals
For many years, John and Janet Powell enjoyed looking out their kitchen window onto open fields bordered by trees. They savored the beauty of “the red buds of the maple trees, lit like fire in the sun,” John recalls.
Now, their view has been preserved forever, and it can be enjoyed by everyone. D&R Greenway Land Trust, working with Mercer County through its Open Space Program, has facilitated the preservation of the Powells’ property, two lots along Snowden Lane and Poor Farm Road in Princeton.
The site adds 4.3 acres to Mercer County’s Herrontown Woods Preserve: 142 acres of forest that is part of 590 protected acres within the Princeton Ridge Conservation Area. The Princeton Ridge East Conservation Area Partnership (a collaborative land conservation group that includes D&R Greenway, Mercer County, Princeton, Friends of Princeton Open Space, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association) works to protect this unique landscape through cooperative stewardship of its biodiversity, and provides public enjoyment of the open space. The partners developed a Stewardship Plan that establishes consistent management principles for the properties independent of ownership.
“As the Powells retired from their farm to their future at Stonebridge, they found that the sale of their land for permanent preservation could meet both their personal and community goals. Their choice for preservation created a legacy that many will enjoy – forever.” Linda J. Mead
From the Powells’ perspective, preservation was the right thing to do “for the neighbors.” Their strong sense of obligation to the community led them to decide that when they moved from the neighborhood, they would leave the neighborhood even better then when they lived there.
John Powell’s relationship with the Princeton Ridge community goes back long before he and Janet bought their house. In the late 1970s John answered a Town Topics help-wanted ad for part-time work—and “the rest is history” John says. He began working with Jac and Cornelia Weller to establish a farm on the south side of Snowden Lane. In the 1990s, John and Janet acquired their property, and they farmed that as well. The beef cattle that grazed the land became a local landmark.
Years later, when John was the executor of the Wellers’ estate, he had the experience of “converting land from private to public use,” as Princeton acquired the Wellers’ property in 2001 to create Barbara Smoyer Park, which supports active recreation. “We grew crops there, and now we grow children—a nice crop too!” chuckles John.
When the Powells decided the time was right to start thinking about retiring to an independent living community, they decided it was also right to preserve the open space surrounding their house. “It’s beautiful, and our neighbors appreciate it too. We wanted it to stay that way.” Through their attorney, Rhinold Ponder, and the Friends of Herrontown Woods, the Powells made a connection to D&R Greenway. “We knew we were working with people we could trust who would stick with the process through the long haul,” says John. A key goal that D&R Greenway assisted with was dividing off the open space lots from the house lot.
The Powell addition to Herrontown Woods creates the potential to connect Smoyer Park with expansive open space areas, where many miles of trails wind through mature upland forest. South of Herrontown Woods is D&R Greenway’s All Saints’ Preserve; to the north is Princeton’s Autumn Hill Reservation. The three properties are connected by a trail system. Herrontown Woods also includes the historic Veblen House.
For the near term the site will be maintained as open fields. D&R Greenway will steward the Powell properties until the County transfers all of Herrontown Woods, including the Powell additions, to Princeton.
The preservation of their property accomplished the Powells’ goals to leave their beautiful view for the benefit of others. As a bonus, the funds will help with costs of moving to their new community. “It’s other people who made this work,” says John. “The citizens in their foresight wanted the property preserved. And the neighbors are quite happy.”