celebrating a sense of place

Nearly 18 acres added to Lewis Morris County Park

New Jersey Conservation Foundation leads preservation project

Nearly 18 acres were just added to Lewis Morris County Park, thanks to a land preservation project spearheaded by the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Morris County. 

On April 10, Morris County purchased the former Bartenstein property on Leddell Road, just south of Tempe Wick Road, for $1.15 million. The land will extend the Leddell Preserve section of Lewis Morris County Park. 

The land is entirely forested and slopes toward a pristine tributary stream in the headwaters of the Passaic River. It is surrounded by preserved lands, including the southern end of Lewis Morris County Park, the Morristown National Historic Park at Jockey Hollow and the Morris Area Girl Scout camp. 

“We are excited about preserving this really beautiful piece of land that will be added to Lewis Morris County Park, making our county park an even more incredible asset for our residents,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Deborah Smith, the county governing board’s liaison to the Morris County Park Commission. 

 “The county’s long-time policy of preserving valuable open space, which has been strongly supported by our residents, is one of the prime reasons we enjoy such a high quality of life in this county,’’ she added. 

The land was purchased from the estate of the late Frederick Bartenstein, who passed away in January 2018 at the age of 100. Mr. Bartenstein and his wife, Isabel, who passed away more than a decade earlier, had been avid conservationists and historians. 

Their son, Frederick Bartenstein III, contacted New Jersey Conservation after his father’s death for help with the land’s preservation. New Jersey Conservation agreed to seek funding for the purchase to ensure it was passed to Morris County. 

“My parents would be delighted; they would be very pleased,” said Frederick Bartenstein III of this week’s sale. “They were both interested in history and conservation. It became an important passion to them.” 

Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said the organization has a long history of preserving open space throughout the state and turning it over to other agencies, including county park commissions. 

“Our mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all, and we work with partners all over the state,” said Byers. “This property protects water resources in the Great Swamp Watershed, and also provides habitat for migratory songbirds and other wildlife. We’re pleased it will be in the good hands of the Morris County Park Commission.” 

First Property Preserved 10 Years Ago 

This is the second Bartenstein family property to become part of Lewis Morris County Park. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bartenstein, who moved to the area in the early 1950s, spent many years acquiring land in the Tempe Wick Road area, ultimately assembling about 100 acres. In 2009, Mr. Bartenstein sold 73 acres to the Morris County Park Commission and Mendham Township to create the original section of the Leddell Preserve. 

Funding for the newly-preserved land came from a Morris County open space trust fund grant, the Morris County Park Commission and Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority. 

“Not only will preservation of this land add to the wonderful park system enjoyed in Morris County, but it also will contribute to the ongoing protection of our high quality local water resources,” said Larry Gindoff, executive director of the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority. “This is why the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority was eager to partner in this open space acquisition.” 

“As steward of 20,100 acres, the Park Commission core mission is to protect and preserve natural resources and provide educational and recreational opportunities to enhance the quality of life for our residents and future generations,” said Morris County Park Commission Executive Director Dave Helmer. “This added acreage of open space will ensure an even better outdoor experience for everyone to enjoy.” 

Lewis Morris County Park was the first to be established by the Morris County Park Commission, with the original 350 acres acquired in 1956. The park stretches from the north side of Route 24 at its north end to the south side of Tempe Wick Road, and now encompasses over 2,200 acres. 

The Great Swamp Watershed Association assisted in the land preservation project. “Great Swamp Watershed Association is always happy to play a role in land preservation and we are especially pleased to be able to play a part in this acquisition, which protects wildlife and water quality,” said Sally Rubin, executive director.  “It’s wonderful that the children of Mr. Bartenstein want to honor their father’s legacy by preserving and protecting this property.” 

Bartenstein Preservation History 

Frederick Bartenstein III said his parents both grew up in rural Virginia and moved to New Jersey because of his father’s job with the Merck pharmaceutical company. They initially lived in Rahway, near Merck’s headquarters. 

“As soon as they could afford it, they started looking for rural properties,” said the younger Bartenstein. They found the rural land they were looking for in Mendham Township, where they raised their four sons. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bartenstein were both conservationists, protecting family properties in New Jersey and Virginia. They were also leaders in efforts to preserve the Great Swamp and the New Jersey Brigade Revolutionary War Winter Encampment Site, now part of Morristown National Historical Park. 

“Mom and Dad were in the thick of that early work to save the Great Swamp,” recalled Frederick Bartenstein III. “They worked closely with Helen Fenske,” one of the main organizers of the effort, and the first executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. 

The couple researched and co-authored "N.J. Brigade Encampment in the Winter of 1779-1780," honored as the most distinguished article to appear in New Jersey History journal in 1968. They also published a 1975 book, “New Jersey's Revolutionary War Powder Mill,” which documents the mill constructed along the Whippany River to supply gun powder to Continental Army troops. 

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation 

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).