The Tewksbury Land Trust (TLT) was co-founded by Klipstein and his uncle, the late Ted Koven, who rallied other conservation-minded Tewksbury residents during the height of the sprawl debate in New Jersey. Klipstein grew up in these hills, bailing hay on his family’s farm, and his knowledge of them seems intimate, as he talks about “glacial dumps,” the characteristic red clay of Bedminster, and rumors of nearby bobcat dens.
“Ted and I were the original members,” said Klipstein. “There was a lot of development pressure here, when I78 came through. He (Ted) thought, ‘well we should try to get folks to donate their property with the connections (we have) through local folks, locally-focused land preservation,’ but he needed a partner in crime.” He said, ‘Ken, we’re going to do this.’”
Over the past 25 years, TLT has saved 250-acres and helped preserve another 500-acres of open space in the Township, partnering with organizations such as the Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA), and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF), as well as the township and county.
“The opportunities to enjoy the pastoral beauty and natural environment of the Ten-Mile Trail would not be possible without funding to acquire and manage critical open space tracts of land throughout Tewksbury Township,” said Laurence Ross, President of TLT. “Most gratifying, though, are the increasing number of Tewksbury residents, who are lending their financial and volunteer support to this effort. Because they care, there is that much more beauty in Tewksbury to share.”
As more open space was preserved, the vision of a “greenbelt” circling the village of Oldwick began to emerge, eventually evolving into TLT’s 10-Mile Trail Mission. The ambitious and complex project will loop together 10 contiguous miles of equestrian and hiking trails linking the Lance Preserve on Fox Hill, with the Township’s Hell Mountain Preserve, NJ Conservation Foundation’s Hill & Dale Preserve, and Hunterdon County’s Cold Brook Preserve in Oldwick. Klipstein likes to paraphrase an idea iterated by Michelle Byers, Executive Director at NJCF, that “you could start out with coffee at the Oldwick General Store, walking 10 miles through some of New Jersey’s most beautiful countryside, and end up with a drink back in Oldwick, at the Tewksbury Inn.”
The 10-Mile Trail will traverse some of the Township’s most stunning and panoramic landscapes, winding through rural countryside, and rugged hills and farmland teeming with wild life. Our headlong tour brought us from the bubbling spring that feeds Cold Brook, through the eerie remnants of a defunct sub-division, and over to the budding Lance Preserve, which was bursting with purple thistle flowers and teardrop shaped milkweed pods.
Crucial technical assistance for the project comes from Beth Davisson, a Tewksbury resident and Project manager at NJCF, who has signed on as TLT’s fee for service acquisition person. Davisson has been with NJCF for 20 years and has the experience, relationships, and expertise to “connect the dots” that will make the 10-Mile Trail possible.
“She makes it happen,” said Klipstein. “And we have all the resources of NJCF which is significant to get these deals closed. So that was a game changer for us too, in the evolution of what we were doing, to have somebody actually go out and sit down and be very knowledgeable about the programs and the timing, etc. …we have had such a great relationship with NJCF. I could talk more about it…I get so excited about this stuff.”
As we trekked past fields of rye and timothy, our approach was heralded by vigilant nesting birds, who were happy to see us disappear into the woods. Most of the preserves that will be linked on the 10-Mile Trail, already have a system of trails and linking them together in a cohesive network is part of the challenge. Klipstein pointed out the flags and trail markers that blazed a route around mature black walnut, oak, and budding ash trees.
“We’re trying to stay on the flattest part possible, but we hired this consultant (trail designer for the national park service) and they’re not afraid of slopes,” he quipped.
As word of the 10-Mile Trail spreads, more hikers are discovering Tewksbury’s parks and preserved farms, but since its inception by Ted Koven, almost 25 years ago, TLT has always been a forward-thinking organization, exploring how actions taken in the present will impact the quality of life in the township in the future.
“There’s going to be a lot more use and it might be a generation or two out,” said Klipstein. “The most important thing to me, is that the next generations get to go out and be in nature like this.”
To learn more about the Tewksbury Land Trust visit Tewksburylandtrust.org.
On a 10-Mile Mission:
Hitting the Trail with
Ken Klipstein of the
Tewksbury Land Trust
By Lee C. Wolfe / Photos by Sandy Ross
Going stride for stride with Ken Klipstein, Trustee of the Tewksbury Land Trust, was more of a hike than I had planned on, as I struggled to keep pace with the TLT’s tall and rangy “Trail Chief” to the top of Dinnerpot Hill. Dinnerpot is where the rolling plains of the Piedmont climb upward to meet the mountainous Highlands. It allegedly got its name by lumbermen who once cut timber here, and took their meal breaks in an area where their wives had come by and dropped off their “dinner pots.”