On Saturday morning, an intimate group gathered for the grand opening of a new land preserve named in honor of our longtime friend and champion Nancy Conger, who passed away in 2019.
The crisp, sunny autumn day was perfect for the approximately 25 friends, family, and supporters to tour the property, where we recently completed an ambitious stream restoration project. Afterwards the preserve was officially opened with the unveiling of a new sign and a few heartfelt words remembering Nancy. In-person attendance was limited for health and safety reasons, but the community was invited to be with us virtually via livestream.
The 198-acre Nancy Conger West Brook Preserve was established in 2017 to preserve the headwaters of the West Brook. It’s a major source of clean water for the Wanaque Reservoir, which two million New Jersey residents rely on for drinking. In August we finished a major restoration project redirecting the brook back into its original stream bed and reflooding the wetlands. Ultimately more water will flow into the reservoir during dry periods, erosion will be reduced, native plant species will flourish, and the brook will once again become a healthy habitat for the imperiled eastern brook trout. Our partners at Conserve Wildlife have done a great job describing this project and why this is important.
Nancy Conger poured her energy and resources into The Land Conservancy for 25 years, starting with donations and volunteering and eventually becoming chair of the board of trustees. She helped with the acquisition of thia property in West Milford, and she also helped raise the money to restore it.
On Saturday, many spoke compellingly of Nancy’s fierce spirit and devotion, including Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who was in attendance. He said, “Over the years Nancy was a generous benefactor to The Land Conservancy, constantly providing new ideas to help improve the preserves . . . She was a strong, courageous spirit, combining a commitment to education and public service with her work in finance, and of course, her love of family.”
He was followed by current board chair Andy Dietz and then TLCNJ’s president David Epstein, who said, “Nancy Conger’s leadership and unflinching support for The Land Conservancy over the past 25 years made her our hero. We are proud to name this remarkable preserve in her memory.”
After unveiling the new preserve sign alongside Epstein and Gottheimer, Nancy’s husband Bill Conger said a few words. “This is the fourth time I’ve been able to hike around West Brook Preserve, and the difference from my first visit—when it looked like a development project—to the natural watershed you see today is a stunning transformation. It’s a true recognition of Nancy’s passion for land conservation and the relationships she forged that brought this to light. This is tangible proof that she really made a difference.”