After close to seven years as executive director, Lisa Wolff has handed over the leadership reins of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS).
Wolff’s time helping lead FoHVOS efforts in protecting Hopewell Valley’s environment and land officially came to an end Nov. 3.
Wolff, who is also the co-founder of Outdoor Equity alliance, said she is “proud” of the impact that FoHVOS has had overall across all of the lands in Hopewell Valley during her time as executive director.
When thoughts of retiring began in 2022, Wolff asked herself if she had done what she was set out to do. Similar to when she was leaving the school board.
“Each time my goal was to leave things in better shape then I inherited them,” she said.
Many top achievements come to mind when Wolff reflects on her time as executive director. One of those achievements was changing FoHVOS focus from doing land stewardship.
“We still do land stewardship on the lands that we own, but if you think about 30 to 40 percent of our lands are public lands, which means 60 to 70 percent are not public lands,” she said. “If we really wanted to make a dent in improving the lands and mitigating climate change, we needed to do more land stewardship with lands that were not necessarily public.”
FoHVOS starting a program called “community conservation” was another top achievement that comes to her mind.
“We put outdoor learning areas in every one of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) schools and that proved to be good, because once COVID hit, HVRSD was able to open their schools before other schools in Mercer County because they had outdoor learning areas and that was something we just started,” Wolff said.
Additionally, some 300 local households are planting native plants through FoHVOS.
“… While FoHVOS is known for land preservation throughout the valley we have also helped individual schools and organizations do things to aid the lands like planting native flowers and reducing invasive species,” she explained.
FoHVOS has a long history of preserving lands in Hopewell Valley. During Wolff’s tenure as executive director they spent extra time connecting many of those lands and put together trails and healthy habitats for animals to be able to connect to.
“As I leave, we are able to connect and walk from Woolsey Park all the way to Woosamonsa Ridge, which is about a 6.5-mile direct trail,” she said, adding there are plans to connect the trail to make it all the way to Baldpate Mountain.
“I’m really pleased with the progress we have made on our land owning and trails and the ability to connect both for humans and animals to have a connected area to roam.”
Wolff joined FoHVOS in 2017 and had previously served about 10 years on the HVRSD Board of Education, six years as president – longest serving president for the board.
“… When I start doing something I throw myself into it and I do it for as long as I can make a great impact,” she said of her tenure.
A strategic plan was put together for FoHVOS in 2023 by the board and staff that will run through 2026. Wolff believes whoever is selected to succeed her will bring some fresh leadership and ideas and can build on the great things the organization has done for the past seven years.
“She brought order to FoHVOS’ office, improved member tracking, and integrated FoHVOS’ operations and budgeting processes. Under her leadership, FoHVOS moved from a ‘mom and pop’ type organization run by the board to one run by professionals,” said Dan Rubenstein, president of FoHVOS Board of Trustees, in a letter to the community on Wolff’s tenure.
“We will miss Lisa as our executive director and as the strong force behind implementing our mission.”
Wolff will continue with her work on board of the Outdoor Equity Alliance (OEA), an organization that promotes equitable access and inclusive experience with the outdoor environment and also continue to serve as chair of the Hopewell Township Open Space Committee.
Wolff said the best part of the job as executive director of FoHVOS was the meaningful connections and relationships she made with people in the community, at the schools, different organizations and municipalities.
“All of it has been tremendously rewarding because of the people and connections I was able to make. When I made the [retirement] announcement, I was overwhelmed with outpouring of support that I got,” she said.
“My relationship with our staff has been amazing. Everything I was able to get done was because we had such a phenomenal staff of talented people who were actually doing the work.”