75 acres preserved along Rockaway Creek in Tewksbury

In a win for the environment and clean water, a 75-acre wooded property along the Rockaway Creek that had been considered for both office and residential development since the 1980s has been permanently preserved.

On Feb. 15, the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the property on the southwest corner of the intersection of Route 523 and Interstate 78 for $750,000.

New Jersey Conservation immediately transferred the land to Hunterdon County, to be kept in its natural state to protect water resources, safeguard wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for passive recreation like hiking and bird watching. It is now part of the Hunterdon County Park System and is known as the Rockaway Creek Preserve.

Funding for the acquisition was provided by the New Jersey Highlands Council, with the New Jersey Green Acres Program and New Jersey Water Supply Authority contributing toward surveys, title work and closing costs.

“We’re thrilled to permanently protect this property along the Rockaway Creek,” said Jay Watson, co-executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “New Jersey Conservation Foundation has preserved land along the Rockaway Creek upstream of this property for the Hill & Dale Preserve, as well as farmland downstream. We’re grateful to our partners for making this acquisition possible.”

The newly-preserved property is bounded on the south and west by the Rockaway Creek, designated a “Category 1” stream because it supports trout, which require clean, cool water. It also includes a pond with a small stream flowing into the Rockaway Creek.

“The New Jersey Highlands Council is very pleased to be a part of the preservation of this property,” said Lisa J. Plevin, Executive Director. “New Jersey Conservation Foundation did a tremendous job of working with the property owner and other partners to help ensure permanent protection of the abundant natural resources on this site, and future access for the public. We were very glad to bring federal Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) funds to this project.”

The Highlands Council leveraged HCA funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to secure a conservation easement on the property from New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The easement will help ensure permanent protection of the important natural resources on the site.

“Hunterdon County is proud of the work New Jersey Conservation Foundation has done to preserve this important property along the Rockaway Creek in Tewksbury Township,” said Zach Rich, deputy director of the Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners and the board’s liaison for planning and land use. “Being 75 forested acres and fronting on almost a half-mile of the Rockaway Creek, a C1 stream, seeing this land preserved thanks to the sourcing of grant dollars and funding by NJCF is a win for both environmental protection and Hunterdon County residents. Hunterdon County is grateful to include the new Rockaway Creek Preserve into the County Park System.”

Because the property will remain in its natural state, a need no longer exists for a sewage treatment plant that would have discharged into the Rockaway Creek farther downstream.

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