New Jersey Conservation Foundation and partners — Save Hamilton Open Space, North Crosswicks Friends of Open Space, the state Green Acres Program, Mercer County, and Hamilton Township — have joined together to permanently preserve two properties totaling 32 acres in Hamilton Township.

A 19-acre parcel at the edge of the North Crosswicks village historic district, once the site for a proposed cemetery and mausoleum, was preserved as open space. The property fronts on both South Broad Street and Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road, and is surrounded on three sides by preserved farmland and open space. It will be used for passive public recreation such as hiking, bird watching, and nature observation. Agriculture to attract grassland bird and pollinator habitats will continue on a section of the property that has been farmed for hundreds of years.

As part of a package deal with the Diocese of Trenton, the purchase also includes a 13-acre property with frontage along Doctors Creek. This property, which has wetlands and steep slopes, is a bald eagle foraging area and will be kept in its natural state to protect wildlife.

In January, 2016, the Hamilton Township zoning board rejected a variance request by the Diocese of Trenton for a cemetery with 5,500 burial plots and three mausoleums. Following the zoning board’s decision, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation approached the diocese about selling the land.

“We were immediately interested in acquiring the Diocese of Trenton land because it’s an important link in both the open space and farmland preservation efforts in the area, and is bordered on three sides by preserved farmland and open space,” said Greg Romano, assistant director and head of land acquisition for NJ Conservation.

The property proposed for the cemetery is now owned by Save Hamilton Open Space, though plans call for it to be ultimately owned and managed by the North Crosswicks Friends of Open Space. The land along Doctors Creek is now owned and managed by the township.

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