|In This issue:
EXPLORE THE AT&T TRACT
The 800 acres once known as the Pole Farm is open to the public for hiking, bicycling, photography and nature study.
The latest addition to Mercer County Park NorthWest is bounded by Federal City, Blackwell, Cold Soil and Keefe Roads. It joins Rosedale Park to the north and Village Park to the south. The entrance is at the corner of Keefe and Cold Soil Roads. The tract can also be reached from a Rosedale Park parking lot on Blackwell Road.
The new park is now woods, trails and fields. Mercer County leases the fields to three local farmers; the trails and woods are available to residents for passive recreation.
Around 10,000 years ago, after the last glacier had retreated, the Indians arrived in New Jersey. When the Europeans arrived, the native population was estimated at 5,000.
The land of the future park might still have been a hardwood forest, but it might have been cleared by the Lenni Lenape for a village site, for corn crops, for fuel or for the making of utensils, canoes, or shelters.
In 1664 England captured all of the Dutch holdings in America, and by 1685 Dr. Daniel Cox was the owner of 45,000 acres in West Jersey. A Quaker Society bought the land from him to sell farms to English settlers.
Before 1697 the future parkland was in Burlington County. It then became part ofHunterdon County until the mid-1800s when Mercer County was created. The former AT&T tract is on the border of Hopewell and Lawrence Townships.
The land was farmed until the 1920's when American Telephone and Telegraph purchased the 800 acres to build a radio transmitting station.
Two of the old farm houses, the Nathan Moore house (1760) and the Salathiel Pierson house (1762), were moved to Cold Soil Road and are now privately owned residences.
Transmission towers 180-feet high were built to send overseas telephone calls over short wave radio. Because of the high voltage equipment the site was not open to the public. The present macadam road in the park was the driveway to the main building housing the transmitters and offices.
From June 1929 until the transatlantic telephone cable was laid in 1956 all the overseas telephone calls in the U.S. were sent on radio waves from Cold Soil Road. Calls from overseas were received in Netcong.
By the 1960s the demand for overseas telephone service had exceeded the radio spectrum and a satellite system eliminated the need for the station. The main switch was turned off on December 31, 1975 and in a few years the Pole Farm reverted to agricultural production.
In 1995 AT&T sold its acreage to Mercer County for $8.6 million.
The former AT&T parcel is a square-mile tract on the ridge line of the Delaware and Raritan River watersheds. The fields this summer are planted with corn, soybeans, and winter wheat; please don't walk on them. In the woodlands there are maples, oaks, red cedar, sycamore, dogwoods. There is a mature stand of beech trees in the northwest comer of the tract.
Habitat for summer wildflowers has produced a wide variety of them, including mountain mint, bee balm, deptford pinks, black-eyed susans, fleabane and ox-eye daisies, white, yellow and hop clovers, and the purple spikes of loosestrife and steeplebush.
Current wildlife residents and visitors in the park include coyotes, turkeys, turtles, white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, and arrays of butterflies. Birds of prey hunt on the tract, from red-tailed hawks to Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks; a shy American Kestrel was observed in 1995.
Two grassland bird species, bobolinks and meadowlarks, live in the park. They both nest on the ground, in open grassy fields, feeding on insects in the summer and on weed seeds in the fall. The bobolink is a threatened species in New Jersey and the meadowlark is on the Audubon Watch List because of declining habitat.
The Washington Crossing Audubon Society is conducting a Natural Resource Inventory of Northwest Mercer Park. If you are interested in participating in the survey or in providing your own observations, please call (609) 730-8200 and leave a message on the Conservation Voice Mail Box.
The Mercer Park Northwest Committee is holding a series of public forums to help plan the park. Comments may be sent to the committee at the Mercer County Park Commission, 640 South Broad St., Trenton NJ 08650
"Worth more than money for its cheerful song." 1949Fieldbook of Natural History
The Lawrence Greenway News is published by:
Lawrence Township Greenway Committee
|Please sent your comments to the Friends of Lawrence Greenway at LawrGrnwy@aol.com. Your input is welcome!|
Back to the Lawrence Greenway homepage...