Eagle Scout project improves Hill & Dale Preserve

Jul 30, 2019

TEWKSBURY TWP. – The Hill & Dale Preserve in Hunterdon County lives up to its name, stretching from the bottom of the Rockaway Creek valley up the steep slope of Hell Mountain. But one thing has been lacking: a comfortable place to sit and admire the preserve’s panoramic view of the Hunterdon County countryside.

Until now! Thanks to the efforts of 18-year-old Matt Nowell, a Tewksbury resident who just graduated from Voorhees High School, the preserve is a more welcoming place.

For his Eagle Scout project, Matt completely transformed the apex of the Hill & Dale Preserve. Once overgrown with invasive plants, it is now a beautiful resting spot with four hand-crafted wooden benches and an interpretive sign.

“I wanted to do something outside in nature, so this was the perfect project for me,” explained Matt, a member of Troop 199 in Oldwick, who will attend Bucknell University in the fall. “Hill & Dale is my favorite place in town, especially now that it has the benches.”

Matt’s achievement was celebrated in June with a twilight hike led by New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff member Marie Newell, who first suggested the project to Matt.

“Matt has done an incredible job – from fundraising to buy materials for the project, to clearing the land of invasives, to building and installing the benches and designing the sign,” she said. “I think hikers at the preserve will really appreciate these improvements.”

Matt recalled that when he began the project, the highest point of the preserve was inaccessible. “It was a mess up there,” he said. “I cut down 46 invasive black locust trees by hand with a bow saw.”

To build the four wooden-slat benches, Matt modified a design used by another scout in his troop. The hardest part, he said, was making sure the benches were level when mounted on the sloping terrain. “Each leg had to be a different length,” he noted.

The interpretive sign next to the benches shows a painting of the scenic Hill & Dale vista by artist and illustrator Wendy Rasmussen. The image is superimposed with labels identifying landmarks like Roundtop Mountain, the village of Oldwick, Cushetunk Mountain, Round Valley Reservoir, and the distant Watchung Mountains and Sourland Mountains.

Matt said he received considerable construction assistance from his fellow Boy Scouts, friends and family members. “My project would not have been possible without the help of my troop, friends and family,” he said. Donors, he added, contributed over $2,100 for materials.

Established in 2011, the Hill & Dale Preserve covers 295 acres straddling Hill & Dale Road in Tewksbury Township. The preserve is used for passive recreation like hiking, horseback riding and nature observation, as well as farming.

To see Matt Nowell’s Eagle Scout project, park in the Hell Mountain Preserve parking area off Parsonage Lot Road, cross the road and follow the Hill & Dale Preserve Red Trail to the top of the hill. For a trail map, go to

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director