Morris County Highlands
Morris County Highlands
For more than 50 years, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has actively preserved land in Morris County. The Foundation was established as a result of the successful effort in the early 1960s to preserve the Great Swamp. Since then, the organization has worked on such notable Morris County preservation projects as Pyramid Mountain, Patriots’ Path and Schooley’s Mountain.
The Morris County Highlands project area encompasses the headwaters and feeder streams of two major New Jersey rivers, the Raritan and the Passaic. Preserving land in this area protects critical water resources for millions of New Jersey residents, and provides opportunities for hiking, bicycling, fishing, nature observation and other passive recreation.
In 2010, New Jersey Conservation Foundation helped preserve two major parcels in the Morris County Highlands: the 228-acre Borgenicht property in Washington Township, now known as the Maureen Ogden Preserve (formerly the Drakestown Preserve), and the 63-acre Johanson property in Rockaway Township, which is adjacent to the state-owned Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area. Additional land preservation projects adjacent to and near these parcels are planned.
The Maureen Ogden Preserve and surrounding areas are characterized by large forested wetlands systems that have been largely undisturbed by development. It consists primarily of upland forest and forested wetlands with meandering headwater streams that lead to the South Branch of the Raritan River, which serves as a source of drinking water for more than 1.5 million New Jersey residents.
The South Branch contains valuable trout production waters that flow to a major drinking water source, the Spruce Run Reservoir. The Maureen Ogden Preserve is located on the Schooley’s Mountain ridge, which is the Morris County extension of Musconetcong Mountain. The South Branch headwaters, Schooley’s Mountain and Musconetcong Mountain are all recognized as “Highlands Critical Treasures” by the Highlands Coalition.
Farther north in Morris County, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working in close partnership with The Trust for Public Land to preserve additional parcels of land. The goal is to establish a contiguous open space assemblage that will enhance wildlife corridors and passive recreational opportunities in the area ultimately linking Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area with Pyramid Mountain County Park.
These properties are part of the Beaver Brook sub-watershed of the Passaic. The properties contain mature forest and critical habitat for many wildlife species, including red-tailed hawk, wild turkey, migratory birds and bobcat.
For more information about preserving land in this project area, contact Ingrid Vandegaer, Highlands regional manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-234-1225.
By Michele S. Byers,