ABOUT US

In 1989, long-time Harding Township resident Jay Kemmerer was struck by the beauty of the 56-acre meadow on Blue Mill Road now known as Margetts Field. This iconic landscape in all its seasonal glory represented the best of Harding, and Jay was determined that his children would enjoy this same unspoiled view that he had cherished for so many years.

Gathering other like-minded residents, Jay spearheaded a group that worked alongside members of the Harding Township Committee to ensure that this hilltop meadow would endure. With their success, Margetts Field became the first property preserved by the Township for the enjoyment and benefit of all. The preservation of this marquis property was the genesis of what would become the Harding Land Trust.

The group formally incorporated in 1990. However, the decision to name this new organization the Harding Land Trust was initially overruled by the state, which felt that the word “Trust” should be reserved for banks. Undeterred, the group continued to submit the name for approval until the state relented in 1992, and the Harding Land Trust was officially christened.

This movement to preserve the treasured landscapes of Harding coincided with rising concern among residents and environmentalists that development pressures posed a threat to the streams and wetlands of New Vernon. Lawn fertilizers, road chemicals, and other toxins were damaging the fragile ecosystem of The Great Swamp and its tributaries. The newly-formed Harding Land Trust provided Harding residents with a vehicle to pursue these conservation initiatives through community dialogue and open-space preservation.

Almost immediately, the Harding Land Trust found itself in the business of stewardship. In 1950, Jane and Gustav Koven had purchased a unique 30-acre property on Dickson’s Mill Road overlooking Pine Brook. They had spent years enjoying the stream, watching their children swim and play in its waters. One day the children had seen signs posted along the water’s edge, reading “Three Acre Lots For Sale.” Upon hearing the news, the Kovens then purchased those lots, determined to preserve the pristine stream, meadow and surrounding wooded hillside. Now, just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1990, Mrs. Jane Koven ensured that those same 30 acres would be preserved in perpetuity. Her donation to the Harding Land Trust was the very first gift to the nascent organization.

Through her gift, Jane Koven realized her dream of both preserving her treasured land for the enjoyment of the community and protecting the habitat of the endemic birds and wildlife. Harding Land Trust was off to an auspicious start.

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Its early years the Harding Land Trust joined other local conservation-minded organizations and the Township Committee in raising awareness of local conservation priorities and the benefits of open space preservation.

These efforts spawned a local movement to keep Harding rural. Through the work of the Harding Land Trust and its dedicated members, the Township Committee enacted a set of environmentally-protective zoning laws to ensure a rural future. With this framework in place, the Harding Land Trust continued to pursue conservation and easement opportunities by working with other land trusts, government agencies, and private donors. None of this would have been possible without the vision and passion of HLT’s first Executive Director, Penny Hinkle, who worked tirelessly on behalf of the organization for nearly two decades.

HLT’s first 25 years have been a great success. Thanks to the inspiration of Jay Kemmerer and other visionary residents, the Harding Land Trust has done much to ensure the future of Harding, helping preserve over 500 acres of open space and environmentally-sensitive land.

The original mission of the Harding Land Trust still stands:

Work to protect the entryways into the community, protect large open spaces, the bridle trails, as well as water and other ecological resources.

By preserving open space, the Harding Land Trust is able to fulfill that mission, enhancing the character and quality of Harding’s natural resources for the benefit of the residents of Harding, today and tomorrow.

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