There is nothing more energizing and rewarding in the open space preservation business than acquiring control of a beautiful piece of property with high ecological value.

Harding has an abundance of those opportunities and they can pop up at anytime to attract attention and resources. As a result, it is understandable that the far less glamorous but equally important follow up stewardship of acquired lands can easily be overlooked.

If we are not careful any of a number of threats, some subtle, some obvious, can divert the use or appearance of a preserved property in the wrong direction. Invasive plant species, over or under maintenance, encroachments, unsafe trees, inappropriate uses, can undermine the beautiful and environmental value of a property.

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And here is where the institutionalized discipline of the Land Trust’s stewardship program comes in. In the Fall every year, every property that the Land Trust has any responsibility for is walked and audited by trustees and staff – no exceptions. Current conditions are compared to the property baseline and to prior audits. If the property is jointly held by the Township and the Land Trust, the Land Trust has taken leadership in drafting Management Plans that define what is to be done, by whom, so responsibilities don’t slip between the cracks. Encroachments are referred back to the encroacher for correction or if necessary, legal action is started. Physical problems are dealt with immediately if appropriate and planned for future action consistent with the management goals for the property if necessary.

Twenty years and 300 preserved acres later for the Land Trust its “so far so good.” Never forget, however, that land is always evolving, some appropriate, some not, so if you notice something that looks amiss, be a steward, let us know. No badges, no name in lights, just the satisfaction that we are staying true to the values that keep Harding as one of the best places in the world to live.