The Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) and Pennington Borough announced a partnership this week to develop a 3.4-acre parcel adjacent to the Toll Gate Grammar School on East Curlis Avenue. The area, to be known as “Howe’s Habitat,” will be a new community space as part of the Borough’s park system.
Originally, the property was owned by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and had become overgrown and underutilized. In 2017, the Borough received a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions to rehabilitate the property and turn it into an arboretum.
The Borough hired consultant Mike Van Clef, of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), and with the help members of the Borough’s environmental, open space, shade tree, and parks and recreation committees, developed a preliminary design for an arboretum.
The Borough will use a combination of Open Space Funds, NJ Green Acres, and Mercer County At Play grants to acquire the property, remove dead and diseased trees, remove invasive species and improve pathways through the property to transform the space into Howe’s Arboretum and will include an educational native plant arboretum plan with two deer exclosures. The plan also includes planting of native shrubs, wildflowers and native trees – with a total of 1,100 native plants will be installed at the arboretum.
The Borough will coordinate with Toll Gate Grammar School principal, Jane-Ellen Lennon and the District STEM facilitators to ensure the arboretum design complements the school’s planned outdoor classroom. Pennington resident and CHS student, Aren Southall, is also building a bird blind on the border of the arboretum for his Eagle Scout project.
“We are excited that this joint effort with the School District will create an educational space, for not only students, but everyone in Pennington,” said Council member, Kit Chandler.
“This is the best case scenario for our school district and our community.” said HVRSD Board of Education president, Alyce Murray. “The space was underutilized by the District and will be transformed into an educational space that will be used by our community and the students at Toll Gate.”
“We are so appreciative of the collaboration between Pennington Borough, District administration and the Board of Education,” she continued. “My hope is that our willingness to work through a plan to transform this space for the mutual benefit of all residents will serve as an example to address the future challenges of our community.”
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