School’s new arboretum awaits Planning Board vote in Pennington

Courtesy photo
An old tree stands with twisting boughs in the new Duke Farms arboretum and meditation garden. (Courtesy photo)

Pennington Borough Planning Board members are expected to vote on a proposed botanical project next to the Toll Gate Grammar School on Feb. 12.

The board will meet at Borough Hall, which is located at 30 N. Main St.

A partnership between the borough and the Hopewell Valley Regional School District resulted in a proposed new botanical section called Howe’s Arboretum.

The area is where trees, shrubs and plants are planted or cultivated for scientific and educational purposes. Howe’s Habitat, a 3.4-acre parcel next to the school, is where the arboretum would be created.

“We are very excited about the arboretum project. It will be an integral part of our outdoor learning spaces and will allow students the opportunity to observe and interact with native species of plants, insects and animals,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Smith said.  “Our STEM facilitators are already busy planning activities for students. This project dovetails nicely with our efforts to get more students outside.”

Smith said district administrators are grateful to the Board of Education and Borough Council members for their collaboration and efforts to make the project a reality.

The future arboretum is based on a plan that was developed in April 2018 by Michael Van Clef, stewardship director of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, a non-profit organization that preserves land and protects natural resources.

According to Borough Administrator Eileen Heinzel, the arboretum is a three-year project that is estimated to cost $51,675. She said the borough has not closed on the property due to a delay with the approval process.

The borough expects to use open space funds and New Jersey Green Acres and Mercer County At Play grants to acquire the property, to remove dead and diseased trees, to remove invasive species and to improve pathways through the property.

From 2017 through 2018, Van Clef developed a preliminary design for an arboretum with the help of the members of several borough committees (environmental, open space, shade tree, and parks and recreation).

Van Clef said there have not been any major changes to the plan that was developed and calls for the planting of about 1,100 native shrubs, wildflowers and native trees.

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