Somerset County approves purchase of Hillsborough Golf and Country Club

This is the county's largest open space acquisition in two decades, which helps to expand the Sourland Mountain Preserve

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A collaboration among the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners, the state’s Green Acres program and Hillsborough Township will help preserve the Hillsborough Golf and Country Club property expanding the 6,000-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve.

The Somerset County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the 402-acre property at a meeting on Feb. 13 for $6.75 million from the estate of the late Bryce Thompson IV.

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Courtesy of Somerset County This drone photo of a dairy barn on the Hillsborough Golf and Country Club property was taken on Feb. 12 looking east.

Somerset County led the negotiations with the Thompson family and will contribute the largest amount to the purchase using approximately $3 million from the county’s dedicated open space tax fund. New Jersey’s Green Acres program is expected to contribute about $2.3 million, and Hillsborough Township will contribute the remaining amount from its open space fund, according to the county.

“This property has long been at the very top of our priority list for preservation, and we are grateful to the state and Hillsborough for helping us make this acquisition possible,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “This is the single largest open space acquisition Somerset County has made in twenty years.”

“The preservation of this property expands the Sourland Mountain Preserve, which is so vital to protecting plant and wild animal life, migrating birds, clean water, and outdoor recreation,” said Commissioner Melonie Marano, who serves as liaison to the Somerset County Open Space Advisory Committee.

The 402 acres stretch from the north side of the Sourland Mountain to the Amwell Valley below and are visible from miles away. The parcel south of Wertsville Road consists of 75 vacant acres on the side of the mountain with areas of mature woodland and open farm fields. The portion north of Wertsville Road consists of 327 acres, including approximately one mile of Neshanic River frontage, and had been utilized as a golf course and polo field.  Structures on the property include three storage barns, three residences, a small motel, and a clubhouse.

Courtesy of Somerset County A photo of the newly preserved land during the summer, looking south toward the Sourland Mountain.

While both the buyers and sellers have signed the sale agreement, the closing will not happen for several weeks or months, during which time the property will remain privately owned and should not be visited. Once the county takes ownership, the public will be invited to contribute to a master plan to guide the passive development, restoration, and use of the property, including potential uses for existing buildings. 

“Public service is about leaving our children a better world, and protecting natural land helps achieve that,” Hillsborough Mayor Robert Britting Jr. said. “Working directly with Somerset County to protect over 400 acres of land in Hillsborough was an honor.”

“The New Jersey Conservation Foundation is thrilled Somerset County has authorized the preservation of this strategically important property as it is adjacent to the 1,150-acre Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve, which we manage together,” said Jay Watson, the foundation’s co-executive director. “We fully support the county’s preservation of the Hillsborough Golf and Country Club property and will assist in any way we can.”

The 6,300 acre Sourland Mountain Preserve is county owned and administered by the Somerset County Park Commission, according to the county’s website. The Preserve provides passive recreational opportunities in an undisturbed natural setting. The Preserve occupies a portion of the northeast “point” of the Sourland Region, which stretches southwest across Hillsborough and Montgomery townships through southern Hunterdon and northern Mercer counties to the Delaware River.

The Sourland Mountain Preserve offers several recreational opportunities in an undisturbed natural setting, including hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, bouldering, and horseback riding.

It is extremely rich in natural resources, and an area that boasts a variety of stream corridors, geologic outcrops, and an ecological preserve that provides a core habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. The Sourlands is especially known for its nesting birds on the edges of their breeding areas including Summer Tanager, Winter Wren, and Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees.

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