In December 2020, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey added 78 acres to Yards Creek Preserve in Blairstown by acquiring two new parcels of land, bringing the size of the organization’s newest nature preserve to 231 acres.
Yards Creek Preserve was established in 2019 as an ambitious conservation project that will help protect drinking water for millions of the region’s inhabitants and curb encroaching development. We have identified over 1,000 acres of particularly vulnerable and richly diverse land to preserve in the Delaware River Basin, one of the most important watersheds on the East Coast. Fifteen million people rely on the basin for clean drinking water—including the cities of Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and New York City.
Yards Creek Preserve is near the Appalachian Trail and adjacent to more than 76,000 acres of public land in the Worthington State Forest and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The newly acquired Ascolese property consists of 57 acres near Four Corners Road and Gaisler Road in Blairstown, featuring a marsh backed by a stunning view of the Kittatinny Ridge. While there are a few invasive plants that need to be remediated, this land is full of native plants and shrubs.
To the south is the Clark property, 21 forested acres that were likely headed for development. The majority of the land is high and dry, but the lower landscape features a swath of stones with water run-off from the mountain, running beneath them across the property. This feature makes the area an important part of the watershed project and helped us secure funding.
These 78 acres are significant, since one of our goals in expanding this preserve, in addition to watershed protection, is to provide natural corridors where wildlife can travel along the slopes of the Kittatinny Ridge, uninhibited by features of residential development.
Although the rivers and streams that feed the Delaware traverse one of the most densely populated parts of the mid-Atlantic region, this area also contains 700,000 acres of wetlands and pockets of wilderness such as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 400 miles of the Delaware National Wild and Scenic River, and a significant section of the Appalachian Trail. Yards Creek Preserve has taken its place in this larger effort by permanently safeguarding drinking water quality, preventing additional development on the slopes of the Kittatinny Ridge, and maintaining scenic views.
Our Yards Creek Project is supported through the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which is made possible with a lead grant from the William Penn Foundation. The Delaware River Watershed Protection Program seeks to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000 square mile drainage of the Delaware River. The Nature Conservancy, the Victoria Foundation, the N.J. Green Acres Program, and several anonymous private donors were also instrumental to this success. We are grateful to all partners in this project; it takes many hands to tackle a job this big.