Pennington Borough has reached an agreement with the Hopewell Valley Regional School District to acquire 3.4 wooded acres located directly behind Tollgate Grammar School. The area known as Howe’s Habitat was owned by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and had become overgrown and underutilized. In 2017, Pennington Borough received an ANJEC grant to assess the viability of rehabilitating the property and turning it into an arboretum. The Borough hired Mike Van Clef of FoHVOS and he, with help from members of the Borough’s environmental, open space, shade tree, and parks and recreation committees, developed a preliminary design for an arboretum. Once the acquisition is finalized, the parcel will be added to the Borough’s park system and developed into a public 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. The plan includes two deer exclosures, the planting of native shrubs, wildflowers and native trees. The Borough will coordinate with Toll Gate Grammar School Principal Jane-Ellen Lennon and the district STEM facilitators so 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. 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.”