Mendham High School students team up to improve outdoor recreation
Fox Hill Preserve Enhanced by Three Eagle Scout Projects
By Sandy Perry
Raritan Headwaters Association
The Fox Hill Preserve in Tewksbury Township is a more welcoming place for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to a trio of Eagle Scout projects recently completed by twin brothers Henry and Stuart Fechhelm and Finn Wintz, all of Mendham.
Henry cleared, widened and marked existing trails at the Raritan Headwaters Association’s 65-acre preserve, and gathered a team of volunteers to help him create new trails. He also used a Global Positioning System (GPS) device to document the exact locations of trails to help with the creation of a new trail map.
Stuart built the Preserve’s first off-street gravel parking area, a project that involved clearing brush from the land, grading it to meet local construction code, securing donations of stone and landscape fabric, and arranging for volunteer labor and borrowed equipment.
Finn installed new post-and-rail fencing around the parking lot, and built a wooden kiosk to hold maps and other helpful information for Preserve visitors.
“Together, Henry, Stuart and Finn transformed Fox Hill into a visitor-friendly preserve,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Raritan Headwaters. “We’re very grateful to these hard-working scouts, and I know hikers, equestrians, bird-watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts are grateful as well.”
Henry and Stuart are seniors at Mendham High School, and Finn is a junior. All three are members of Boy Scout Troop 150 of Bernardsville. Henry and Stuart received their Eagle rank earlier in the year, while Finn is expected to receive his soon.
A Benefit to the Community
“Restoring the preserve is something the public can use,” commented Henry. “I’m glad I did it, because it accomplishes something good for the benefit of the community.”
“We’re happy to make it more accessible and inviting to the public,” agreed Stuart.
Finn, who helped the Fechhelm twins with their Eagle Scout projects, was inspired to further improve Fox Hill Preserve with his own project. “I checked it out and thought it would be a cool thing to do,” said Wintz.
The Fox Hill Preserve work was first suggested to Henry and Stuart by Heather Gracie-Petty - one of the adult leaders of Troop 150 and a member of the Stewardship Committee at Raritan Headwaters - after they expressed interest in working for a conservation organization.
The brothers liked the idea, so they followed up with George Schaberg, Raritan Headwaters’ land projects manager, who shared a list of projects that needed to be done.
Henry chose trail improvements, which he completed in late 2017. He and his volunteers cleaned up and widened existing trails, added a half-mile of new trail to complete a loop pathway, blazed the trails with markers and mapped the trail locations on GPS.
Stuart took on the task of building a 2,400-square-foot gravel parking lot so visitors to the preserve can park safely. He and his volunteers cleared brush, leveled the land, and placed landscape fabric over the soil to prevent weeds from growing.
Stuart was fortunate to get considerable help from local businesses. The Stavola Quarry in Bound Brook donated and delivered gravel, Hoffman Supply in Long Valley donated the landscape fabric, and a local contractor donated the use of equipment to compact the gravel.
“We were able to do the project for only $70, so I was very happy,” said Stuart, noting that the parking lot otherwise would have cost about $15,000.
Wintz used existing design plans for his kiosk, but modified them so the display case opens from the back instead of the front. He began construction in late September and finished the weekend after Thanksgiving. “I got a lot of help,” he said. “There were about 17 people from my troop working with me, including Stuart and Henry, so that was great.”
Dr. Kristi MacDonald, director of science and stewardship at RHA, said she is pleased with the Fox Hill Preserve projects and others done by local scouts.
“The scouts of Troop 150 of Bernardsville have completed several big Eagle projects at our preserves that will benefit wildlife as well as people who visit for a hike. We greatly appreciate their hard work and dedication,” she said. In addition to Finn, Henry and Stuart’s projects at Fox Hill Preserve this year, three other scouts from Troop 150 completed projects, including installation of bluebird nest boxes, trail building, and tree plantings at Raritan Headwaters’ Fairview Farm Preserve in Bedminster.
Part of the Ten Mile Trail
The Fox Hill Preserve, located on Fox Hill Road, is part of Tewksbury Township’s vision for a “Ten Mile Trail” around the village of Oldwick, linking preserved open space and farmland.
Other properties along the Ten Mile Trail include the Cold Brook Preserve, the Lance Farm Preserve, the Hell Mountain Preserve, the Hill & Dale Preserve, Sullivan and Whitman properties, and the Klipstein property recently preserved by the Tewksbury Land Trust.
Links between the preserved properties are expected to be completed in 2020.
About Raritan Headwaters
Raritan Headwaters has been working since 1959 to protect, preserve and improve water quality and other natural resources of the Raritan River headwaters region through efforts in science, education, advocacy, land preservation and stewardship. RHA’s 470-square-mile region provides clean drinking water to 300,000 residents of 38 municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon and Morris counties and beyond to some 1.5 million homes and businesses in New Jersey's densely populated urban areas.
Raritan Headwaters recently was accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, meaning it has been recognized as a strong and effective organization committed to professional excellence and maintaining the public’s trust.
To learn more about Raritan Headwaters and its programs, please visit www.raritanheadwaters.org or call 908-234-1852.