The donation is one of the most substantial land gifts in New Jersey’s history. Story follows video.
D&R Greenway Land Trust, a leading conservation nonprofit dedicated to preserving and caring for land across central New Jersey, today announced that the family of the late Betty Wold Johnson has gifted to the organization the renowned philanthropist’s nearly 800-acre historic Hopewell farm. Betty Wold Johnson supported the land trust’s mission for more than a quarter century.
With this exceptional gift, D&R Greenway begins 2022 with more than 22,000 acres of land preserved in New Jersey.
Over her decades-long relationship with D&R Greenway, Betty Wold Johnson expressed her concern that New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country, was running out of open space. A champion of conservation, she cared deeply about the importance of preserving as much land as possible. Mrs. Johnson spent four decades assembling individual properties to create her farm with a goal of protecting and permanently preserving its views and ecology. This gift secures a greenbelt on the northern edge of the town where she was legendary for her generosity and community involvement.
“We are inspired by the family’s confidence in D&R Greenway as we announce this historic land gift from Betty’s family,” said Peter Dawson, Chair of D&R Greenway’s Board of Trustees. “In choosing our organization as the keeper of this legacy, the family is honoring Betty Wold Johnson’s commitment to preserving land.”
Betty Wold Johnson’s sons, who made this gift, are Robert Wood Johnson, the former United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and owner of the New York Jets football team, and Christopher Wold Johnson, American businessman and Jets co-owner.
“We are pleased and proud to donate this special property in honor of our mother,” Robert Wood Johnson and Christopher Wold Johnson said in a joint statement. “She loved Hillside Farm as much as she loved the Hopewell area and she would be thrilled that the land will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
The property sits high on a hill with sweeping views across the Hopewell Valley, and holds great ecological value for birds and wildlife. Larger in size than Hopewell Borough, most of the land is in Hopewell Township and ten minutes from Princeton. It contributes to the region’s inclusion in the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, so designated for its Revolutionary War- era historic significance. Contiguous with two other D&R Greenway preserves, its Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve and popular Cedar Ridge preserve, the linkage of protected land secures migratory corridors and habitat. On the opposite side of town, and visible from the gifted property, is the organization’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve that Betty Wold Johnson helped protect.
Betty was also instrumental in securing and naming D&R Greenway Land Trust’s headquarters, the Johnson Education Center in Princeton, on the former estate of her father-in-law General Robert Wood Johnson.
“When Betty Wold Johnson believed in you, she gave her all to ensure the mission of the organization succeeded,” said Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway Land Trust. “Together, we sat at her kitchen table studying maps of lands to preserve, and shared her view about the importance of land as a forever legacy. It is our greatest honor to be entrusted by the Johnson family to carry out this vision in Betty Wold Johnson’s name, in a community she loved.”
The property includes forests, meadows, and agricultural land with a tributary stream to the Stony Brook, a state-designated high priority waterway. While the property is currently closed to the public, D&R Greenway plans to take a thoughtful, strategic approach to determine how best to carry out Betty’s vision for the property before opening some of the land for public access.
“We are thrilled to know that our residents will benefit from these preserved acres and future trails where they can connect with the land,” said Courtney Peters-Manning, Mayor of Hopewell Township. “Our township’s commitment to land preservation and our partnership with D&R Greenway remains strong as we look forward to enjoying the benefits for years to come.”
“Having this historic and beautiful property preserved in such close proximity to the borough is a treasure that displays the generosity of Betty Wold Johnson and her family,” said Mayor Paul Anzano of Hopewell Borough. “With this land on the north and D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve on the south, we are ringed by a greenbelt that makes this an especially desirable place to live.”
Over her decades-long partnership with D&R Greenway, Betty Wold Johnson provided generous support to many preservation projects that have become treasured community assets
Submitted by D&R Greenway. For more information, please visit www.drgreenway.org.
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