Township Committee approves partnership with FoHVOS for Walker property

A couple takes a walk on one of the trails in the reopened Mercer Meadows Park in Lawrence Township.

Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) received welcome news on Feb. 22, when the Hopewell Township Committee authorized the acquisition of a 10% interest in the Jonathan Walker property.

The Township Committee adopted an ordinance on Feb. 22 that would have the township use $25,000 from the Hopewell Township Open Space Trust Funds to contribute to the acquisition of the 17.1-acre Walker property at 163 Woosamonsa Road.

Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger, Township Committeewoman Uma Purandare and Township Committeeman David Chait voted “yes” to adopting the ordinance following the public hearing.

Township Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski did abstain from the vote.

“Hopewell Township is again reaffirming our commitment to open space with the Walker acquisition,” Peters-Manning said. “We are thrilled to partner with FoHVOS to not only preserve land, but also to increase our trail network and allow the public more opportunities to enjoy nature.”

FoHVOS has spearheaded the $250,000 acquisition of the property that will help the organization’s effort to complete a trail planned for the Jacob’s Creek Trail System.

Acquiring the Walker property allows FoHVOS to build a 6-mile hiking trail that will link the Woolsey Park trails to Woosamonsa Ridge.

“We were working to connect a trail from Woolsey Park to Woosamonsa Ridge, but we couldn’t because we did not own the Walker property. That was the last piece we were going to need before we could connect Woolsey Park to Woosamonsa Ridge,” said Lisa Wolff, executive director of FoHVOS. “It has taken over 20 years to acquire all the properties and easements necessary to complete this Jacob’s Creek Trail network.”

FoHVOS is using state grant funds from New Jersey Green Acres Program and grant funds from Mercer County in addition to the $25,000 contribution from Hopewell Township.

The nonprofit organization received $109,720 from the state Green Acres Program and $115,280 from a Mercer County Open Space grant.

“This funding was everything,” Wolff said. “We started working to acquire the Walker property three years ago.”

News of the Township Committee’s decision to contribute monies to the acquisition comes as D&R Greenway was gifted a 800-acre Hopewell farm from the family of Betty Wold Johnson.

“There have been numerous studies that have linked mental health, spiritual health, physical health to green open spaces and nature. The acquisition of open space is not just important to residents of Hopewell Valley, but Mercer County,” Wolff said. “Again a good chunk of the open space money for the Walker property came from Mercer County and we are committed to making all of our open spaces accessible to everyone in the county.”

FoHVOS receives a 90% interest in the property following the official closing of the purchased property.

About 16.2 acres of the Walker property is set to be persevered and once the purchase is closed FoHVOS will also manage the property for conservation and recreation.

Wolff said she is hoping the trail through the Walker property would be complete in 2022.

“We believe that if residents can get out on the land they will appreciate it more. When we build the trails that is when people appreciate what they have,” she added.

Wolff also stressed that people should honor any signs that state the trail stops, and to not go onto private property.