NJ Conservation, partners celebrate grand opening of Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve
Nov 7, 2023
EAST AMWELL, HUNTERDON COUNTY — A new nature preserve in the Sourland Mountains of Central Jersey, offering sweeping views of the rise known as Rainbow Hill, has officially opened to the public.
On Friday, Nov. 3, New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) held the official grand opening of its newest preserve, Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve. The 1,150-acre property straddles the border of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, one of the state’s most scenic and ecologically important areas.
The preserve features woodlands, farm fields, an 8-acre lake, and several tributaries of the Neshanic River — a source of clean drinking water for the region. The site also provides opportunity for passive recreational activities including hiking, horseback riding, birding and nature observation. Three newly-blazed trails through the preserve’s varied landscapes have just been completed.
“We congratulate New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners for their foresight and tireless efforts to preserve the ecological benefits and beauty of this important landscape in the Sourland Mountains,” said Shawn M. LaTourette, New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner. “The DEP’s investment in Rainbow Hill, through its Green Acres Program and Office of Natural Resource Restoration, helps protect the region’s unique natural and recreational resources, including rivers, woodlands and trails.”
“This preserve is the culmination of a decades-long team effort to protect more than 1,000 acres that will provide countless benefits to the public and wildlife for generations to come,” said Alison Mitchell, Co-Executive Director of NJ Conservation. “We are so grateful to all of our partners and delighted to welcome everyone to enjoy this permanently preserved land in the beautiful Sourland Mountains.”
Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve took many years of effort to assemble. The preserve is made up of several contiguous properties that were acquired over the past decade. The most recent addition came in December 2020 with the purchase of 112 acres of farmland and forest in East Amwell Township, Hunterdon County. The purchase came less than two months after NJ Conservation and partners acquired 268 adjoining acres.
NJ Conservation spearheaded a partnership of public and private agencies that contributed to the preservation of these properties, including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, the state Office of Natural Resource Restoration, Hillsborough Township, East Amwell Township, Hunterdon Land Trust, Raritan Headwaters Association, The Nature Conservancy, 1772 Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
The preserve now totals 528 acres in East Amwell, Hunterdon County, and over 600 acres in neighboring Hillsborough Township, Somerset County. The land will be managed as a single preserve spanning the two counties.
“East Amwell is thrilled with the opening of the new preserve, which includes 528 acres in this township. Land preservation is critical to protecting our water, land and wildlife habitat, safeguarding our vistas and viewsheds, and maintaining our quality of life. Preservation of the 1,150-acre property will protect the ecologically important Southland Region and help keep East Amwell rural,” said Dante DiPirro, East Amwell Township Deputy Mayor. “East Amwell appreciates the dedicated work of NJ Conservation in spearheading a partnership of public and private agencies in this effort, and the commitment of all the partners. This preserve will be a legacy that will be enjoyed now and by future generations.”
“On behalf of my Commissioner Board colleagues, I am extremely proud of the Sourland Mountain land preservation deal. The Sourland Mountain range is the largest contiguous forest in Central New Jersey, with 528 acres located within Hunterdon County now protected,” said Jeff Kuhl, Hunterdon County Commissioner Deputy Director. “Continued preservation of open space and farmland is critical to preserving Hunterdon County’s high quality of life for current and future generations.”
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to represent Somerset County at the dedication of the Rainbow Hill Sourland Preserve, the latest in a long line of great New Jersey Conservation Foundation projects,” said Somerset County Commissioner Melonie Marano. “NJ Conservation has been a great partner for Somerset County in preserving more than 450 acres of open space and historic properties such as the True Farmstead, and I look forward to many more successful partnerships in the future.”
“On behalf of the board, staff, and members of the Sourland Conservancy I would like to thank New Jersey Conservation Foundation and all of the partners involved in the preservation and stewardship of this glorious property,” said Robert Aluck, Sourland Conservancy’s Stewardship Director. “We are pleased and proud to partner with NJ Conservation and Raritan Valley Community College to engage students, interns, and volunteers in efforts to plant trees, install fences, and conduct research on effective methods to restore ecosystem function to benefit humans and wildlife. It’s strong partnerships like these that make our work possible. I look forward to walking these trails with my children — and one day my grandchildren — watching the trees and flowers grow along with them. This is our legacy.”
Currently, there are three completed trails at the preserve. The 3.5-mile Red Trail loops from the North Hill lot across hayfields, through forests, and around meadows to the lake. The nearly 4-mile White Trail offers the longest scenic route over fields and along streams, with a 1-mile stretch through forests scattered with boulders characteristic of the Sourland Mountains. The Blue Trail is a 1-mile loop with vistas of the lake that follows along streams and through a variety of forested wetlands. A trail map can be found at: tinyurl.com/ydtee5h9.
NJ Conservation recognizes that Rainbow Hill at Sourland Mountain Preserve, like the rest of New Jersey, is part of the traditional homelands of the Lenape people. We pay respect to the Lenape and other Indigenous caretakers of these lands and waters, those who lived here before, and the generations to come.
About New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Recognizing that a healthy environment is critical to the well-being and survival of all living things, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is devoted to preserving land and protecting natural resources throughout New Jersey’s rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.
Since 1960, the nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide organization has preserved more than 140,000 acres of open space, farmland, and parks. The organization manages more than a dozen nature preserves, conducts public outreach and education programs, and advocates for sensible land use and climate policies that will protect the health of New Jersey’s plants, wildlife, and people for generations to come.