The State We’re In 1/17: Lucy Meyer: Conservation Trailblazer

By Michele S. Byers

Tripod Rock, an enormous boulder balanced precariously atop three tiny rocks, has been called “Morris County’s Stonehenge.”

Geologists say the amazing rock formation was created when glaciers plowed through the area over 18,000 years ago, although local lore offers the alternative theory that it was built by prehistoric Native Americans as a spiritual place.

The origin of Tripod Rock may forever hold a hint of mystery. But what’s beyond doubt is that 1,500 acres are now permanently preserved as public open space due to the extraordinary efforts of Lucy Meyer and her husband, Karl.

Lucy Meyer, who passed away in December at the age of 89, was the tenacious leader of the Committee to Save Pyramid Mountain, a grassroots group dedicated to preserving the land around Tripod Rock and other natural landmarks. An engineer by training, she was also a local historian and an Environmental Commission member in Kinnelon.

The Committee to Save Pyramid Mountain was formed in the 1980s as the completion of Interstate 287 fueled a building boom in Morris County. Lucy and Karl Meyer realized that Pyramid Mountain’s steep slopes, and the rocky, marshy terrain around it, wouldn’t fully protect it from development.

Indeed, by the mid-1980s, portions of the privately-owned lands surrounding Tripod Rock were proposed for single-family homes.

Thanks to Lucy Meyer’s tireless efforts to rally support, saving Pyramid Mountain became a popular cause.

President Ronald Reagan recognized the committee’s efforts in July 1988 by presenting Lucy Meyer with a “Take Pride in America Award,” in a ceremony on the White House lawn.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation was among the early groups to help with saving Pyramid Mountain, purchasing 11 acres on the mountain in 1988 and donating them to the Morris County Park Commission.

A series of land purchases by state, county and local governments soon followed, resulting in the creation of the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historical Area.

Today, it encompasses more than 1,500 acres straddling Kinnelon, Montville and Boonton. The natural area includes “Lucy’s Overlook.”

Once the preservation of Pyramid Mountain was assured, Lucy continued to advocate for the preservation of other properties in the Highlands region. She had a knack for winning people over, as she did in 1992 on a hike up nearby Rock Pear Mountain to identify the site’s flora and fauna.

“She is something else, Lucy Meyer,” wrote an admiring James Ahearn, senior editor of the Bergen Record. “In her 60’s, vigorous in a sweatshirt and cap, she led us up Rock Pear Mountain at a good pace, her husband, Karl, at her side.”

Lucy was born in Perth Amboy and raised mostly in Queens. Due to her abilities in math and science, she was allowed into a “boys only” math class, where she excelled. She attended Queens College, majoring in math and physics.

Lucy was soon recruited by Sperry Gyroscope and eventually became the company’s first female engineer. While working for Sperry, she met pilot and engineer Karl Meyer, her future husband. Lucy and Karl Meyer married and moved to Kinnelon, where they raised their four children: David, Julie, Nanette and Jeanette. Lucy Meyer became an active volunteer.

“She was quite an amazing woman,” recalled Dave Moore, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s executive director at the time Pyramid Mountain was being preserved. “She was quiet and unassuming, but she got the job done. She put her oar in the water anytime she thought the boat needed a push.”

He added that Lucy Meyer had plenty of help from others, especially her husband: “She and Karl worked as a team.”

Both were avid hikers who enjoyed introducing others to the places they wanted to save.

Nanette Meyer, their daughter, said hiking was a common family activity when she was growing up.

“Our culture as a family was being outside and hiking and camping,” she recalled. “Our childhood was filled with experiences.”

Her mother’s love of both the outdoors and history, Nanette added, influenced her desire to preserve local landmarks.

Nanette noted that her mother’s first preservation success was saving a huge butternut tree – believed to be the state’s largest – that was slated to be cut down during the construction of a local mall. The tree’s image became part of the Kinnelon town seal.

So it was only natural that Lucy would step up when Pyramid Mountain was threatened with development.

“She really did it because she wanted a place where her kids and grandkids – and anyone else – could experience the natural beauty of New Jersey,” said Nanette Meyer.

The indomitable Lucy Meyer is gone, but her legacy will live on in the beauty of the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area, preserved for future generations to enjoy.

To learn more about Lucy Meyer, see her obituary at https://www.richardsfuneralhome.com/obituaries.html.

And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in Morristown.