OLD BRIDGE – Close to 200 years ago, the Cottrell Farm site was a thriving apple orchard.
Township officials are in the process of restoring the site to that thriving state. However, instead of an apple orchard, passive recreation is planned for the site.
“It will be a place to hang out in the central hub right in the center of town,” Mayor Owen Henry said. “The opportunities are endless.”
The restoration of the Cottrell Farm site has been a longtime coming. Cottrell Farm, a 21.5-acre historical apple orchard farm across the street from the Old Bridge Municipal Complex on Route 516, was acquired from Herbert Cottrell Jr. using funding from Middlesex County, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres and Old Bridge Township Open Space Trust Funds.
In 2010, Cottrell Farm was acquired by Middlesex County in accordance with the Open Space Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Act and the Middlesex County Open Space Plan. Additionally, the site is subject to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Green Acres Program restrictions.
The Cottrell Farm, owned by the Cottrell family, had been in the township for more than 200 years. John Hauser had been preserving and maintaining the buildings for 30 years up until the county acquired the land in 2010.
The Township of Old Bridge entered into a Conservation Management Agreement with Middlesex County on April 6, 2017, where the township has accepted responsibility for security, liability, management and enforcement of the Green Acres Restrictions and enforcement of Middlesex County Park rules and regulations not inconsistent with the deed restrictions.
The county acquisition and conservation management agreement was the result of the foresight of former Mayor James Phillips and his administration, who wanted to see the area preserved and did not want to see the area developed into high-density multi-family units and commercial space.
In 2020, township officials broke ground on Phase 1 of the restoration process. On Aug. 10, officials allowed the public to take a tour of the site celebrating the completion of the first phase, which included interior and exterior [improvements] to the Cottrell Farmhouse building, exterior [improvements] to the stone garage, CMU shop garage and the red barn.
As part of the phased plan, township officials worked with French and Parrello Associates, an engineering firm based in Wall Township, and EI Associates, of Cedar Knolls, on design and preservation of the farm.
The five buildings on the farm will be maintained and preserved. The Cottrell Farm House, which is 3,469 square feet, is proposed as a meeting hall, lecture hall, warming kitchen and administrative offices. The barn, which is 1,375 square feet, is proposed as a large event space with option for a mezzanine. The stone garage, which is 947 square feet, is proposed as event space. The CMU shop garage, which is 1,890 square feet, is proposed for medium-sized events, community/meeting rooms, and overflow space for large events in conjunction with large events in the barn. The pool cottage, which is 720 square feet, will be used as a storage building.
The farmhouse dates back to around 1850 during the Greek Revival period, officials said.
The farm property is envisioned to have a great lawn area parallel to Route 516, an amphitheater for small bands and Shakespeare in the Park, a pavilion, and a small playground and splash pad for children. Walking and trail paths are proposed throughout the park with an area for a memorial with brick pavers and historic signage along the paths, according to French and Parrello Associates.
The main parking lot along Cottrell Road is envisioned to serve the farmers market, community/butterfly garden area and event parking. Two to three other small parking lots are also proposed in the park.
Township officials put renderings of the amphitheater and splash pads on the site for the public to see.
The estimated preliminary cost of preserving the Cottrell Farm is $6.25 million. The township has received funds from Department Environmental Protection Green Acres and the state historic preservation office, according to township officials.
Henry said they hope to award the bids for Phase 2 by the end of September, which will include the construction of the splash pad and side bathrooms.
Phase 3 will include the amphitheater. The mayor said they hope to complete the full restoration process within the next two years.