Maple Lane Farm on Township Line Road in Hillsborough was poised for development. With its 57 acres located just east of Route 206 in the desirable community of Hillsborough, the property could have become yet another suburban subdivision.
The family who had owned the land for many years wanted to see the property remain a farm. They sought a solution that would meet their financial needs while providing for the permanent protection of the land. The landowners were friends of D&R Greenway Trustee Rosemary Blair. When she found out the family wanted to preserve their farm, Mrs. Blair called D&R Greenway to see if an answer could be found.
The majority of the property is agricultural land with hedgerows and forested buffer along Pikes Run. The NJDEP Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) has documented bobolink nesting on the field and meadowlarks have been observed. In the forested areas the ENSP had documented great blue heron. The bobolink is classified as a threatened species and the meadowlark and great blue heron are classified as a species of concern in New Jersey. Declining populations are due, in part, to lack of adequate breeding habitat. Having the ability to preserve New Jersey’s farming heritage while at the same time, protecting imperiled wildlife made preserving Maple Lane Farm an urgent priority.
The property provides for aquifer recharge and stream corridor and wetlands protection, as well as habitat for woodland species. In addition, the property contributes to an assemblage of 600 acres of preserved farmland.
Working closely with the family, D&R Greenway developed a three-part strategy to finance the preservation of the land while, at the same time, serving the best interests of the public.
Step one was for D&R Greenway to apply, on behalf of the family, to the Somerset County Farmland Preservation Program. Somerset County purchased an agricultural easement on the property for $1,096,699 with grants from three sources: the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee; a federal grant from the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) – administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – that was contributed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation; and county preservation funds. As preserved farmland, Maple Lane Farm will continue to provide a hay crop, and continue to contribute to the local agricultural economy.
Step two was for D&R Greenway to purchase the now deed-restricted Maple Lane Farm and farm the land in a manner that will also enhance and sustain grassland bird habitat. A $199,500 Raritan Piedmont Wildlife Habitat Partnership (RPWHP) grant from Conservation Resources, Inc. allowed for the acquisition. “Preservation of this critical habitat will help ensure that grassland birds will remain a part of the natural heritage of the Central Piedmont area of New Jersey.”
Step three: D&R Greenway manages Maple Lane Farm as a model for the agricultural and conservation communities. The property will serve as a demonstration site showing how farmland and wildlife management can complement each other.
Madelyn Bergen Belliveau, the family member who worked with D&R Greenway to save Maple Lane Farm attests, “The family of John Van Dyke and Blanche Mertz Berger are proud that Maple Lane Farm will remain undeveloped.”