To The Editor: At Real Grovers Mill, Everyone Wins

Tom Cruise may try to save the world and Grovers Mill Pond in Steven Spielberg’s $200 million version of "War of the Worlds," but he will be about 20 years too late. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) saved the 37-acre pond near Princeton Junction, the fabled site of the H.G. Wells’ classic, in December 1985 as the first piece of the Millstone River Greenbelt.

In 1987, NJCF helped the community celebrate the 49th anniversary of the Martian invasion by transferring Grovers Mill Pond to West Windsor Township for use as part of a greenway. The township used a state Green Acres Program grant to help facilitate the purchase. The grant paid for half of the pond’s estimated value – $92,500 at the time. NJCF donated by credit the township’s half of the purchase price, or $46,250, so that West Windsor did not have to put up any money of its own to acquire the property.

NJCF also provided a $35,000 grant from our land fund to the township to help it restore the pond. NJCF acquired the land adjacent to the township’s Van Nest Park in 1985 from Lawrence Dey of Princeton Junction and his daughter, Linda Dey McDonald of Atlanta. Today, the land is part of the Millstone River Greenway.

The Grovers Mill Pond tract was part of a 77-acre parcel purchased by Dey’s father in 1929. The remaining acreage has been gradually sold off. The deed defining the pond’s borders dates back to 1833. The mill powered by water from the pond ceased operation some 40 years ago.

Formed by the damming of Big Bear Brook, which feeds into the Millstone, Grovers Mill Pond is located in the center of the village made famous by the 1938 radio broadcast of the Mercury Theater of the Air, which convinced many listeners that the New Jersey countryside was actually being overrun by monsters from outer space.

The transfer of the Grovers Mill Pond to West Windsor was marked by a Halloween Eve, 1987, celebration at the pond, which included an appearance by Howard Koch, the scriptwriter who turned out the adaptation of the Wells classic in six days. (Koch’s other screenwriting credits include Casablanca.) He was joined in the reminiscing by local residents who experienced its effects first hand as well as a few costumed Martians.

Since 1960, NJCF has protected tens of thousands of acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks.

Michele Byer

Executive Director,

NJ Conservation Foundation

Correction

In the June 15 issue, a photo of the awards ceremony for the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness pictured Deborah Gennello, Mary Ellen Marino, and Jeanne Gorman. Marian Jordan, who had won an award, was not shown.

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