Saturday, January 25, 2020

Public Hearing on Veblen Lease Monday, Jan. 27

The Friends of Herrontown Woods is encouraging supporters to come to council chambers this coming Monday, Jan. 27, 7pm, for a public hearing on Ordinance #2020-2, "authorizing a Lease with the Friends of Herrontown Woods Pertaining to a Portion of Herrontown Woods also know as the "Veblen" Property."

 The initial lease is for five years, with the expectation of a longer term lease to follow as FOHW develops and implements rehabilitation plans for the Veblen House, Cottage, and grounds.

The lease, the product of a yearlong negotiation, comes twelve years after botanist Stephen Hiltner happened upon the abandoned Veblen House while conducting a plant inventory of Herrontown Woods. In 2013, Kurt and Sally Tazelaar joined him to reopen the nature preserve's long neglected trails. They formed a nonprofit the next year, gained supporters to help fight off Mercer County's attempts to demolish the buildings in 2017, and convinced the town of Princeton to take ownership of the preserve. While waiting to gain an official arrangement with the town through the lease, volunteers have been clearing invasive species, sprucing up the grounds of the House and Cottage, and keeping the buildings secure until they can finally be put to the uses the Veblens envisioned nearly fifty years ago.

The meeting will be in council chambers at town hall, 400 Witherspoon Street, beginning at 7pm.

FOHW Begins 2020 With Front Page Article

2020 began auspiciously with a January 1st Town Topics front page article entitled FOHW Volunteers Look Forward to Veblen Property Lease.

The article quotes Mayor Liz Lempert, who described Herrontown Woods as “one of the jewels of Princeton’s park system,” which “had gone mostly untended for decades. We’re very fortunate to have the enthusiastic volunteers of the Friends of Herrontown Woods, who have already done extensive and exceptional maintenance work on the network of trails and stream crossings.”

As FOHW prepares to sign a lease with Princeton to begin rehabilitating the Veblen House and other structures left to the public trust long ago by Oswald and Elizabeth Veblen, we look forward to adding to the ways the buildings can complement the hundreds of acres of preserved land along the eastern Princeton Ridge, and making them one more component of the Veblens' wonderful legacy in Princeton.

As stated in the Town Topics article:
“We’ve come to treasure being a part of Veblen’s legacy, and we want to tell people about it and about what one person can do,” Hiltner said. “Veblen saw the connections between geometry and woodland trails, between intellect and nature.”
In an example of remarkable serendipity, the article was noticed by an advocate of "dry stone walling" who lives on an island in Ontario and does daily searches for cultural heritage sites around the world. She then contacted a friend who grew up in Princeton and now builds stone walls in Vermont. The friend contacted us, came to visit, and gave us insights into how to repair walls in Herrontown Woods, including the horse run in the photo.

Remembering Daniel A. Harris

The Friends of Herrontown Woods mourns the loss of a great environmental force in Princeton, Daniel A. Harris, who died on Dec. 26 at the age of 77. A distinguished professor and poet, Daniel became active in local causes after retirement from Rutgers, advocating on issues ranging from civil rights to open space protection.

As stated in an obituary in PlanetPrinceton, "With his wife, Jane Buttars, he founded Save Princeton Ridge, which succeeded in limiting development on the Princeton Ridge in Princeton and in contributing to the creation of the Princeton Ridge Preserve."

Daniel was featured in a Princeton Magazine article entitled Uncommon Princeton Citizens for Common Causes, which describes how he, his wife and others were able to reduce the size of developments on the Princeton Ridge to protect additional acreage. Daniel combined a gentle demeanor with an iron resolve, and worked tirelessly to achieve his goals, using his writing skills and talent to make his case.

As the first individual to send a donation to the Friends of Herrontown Woods, soon after we received official 501c3 status back in 2014, Daniel would often send emails of congratulations when we took a step forward. After we successfully fought off attempts by Mercer County to demolish the Veblen House and Cottage, Daniel cheered us on:
"Wonderful news for you and all your colleagues who won a big victory for Princeton and laborious volunteerism. Bravo! I hope you feel really satisfied by your big win."
We will miss you, Daniel. Thanks for your spirit, your devotion, and a legacy of adding hard-won acreage to the protected land along the Princeton Ridge, which will remain in perpetuity for all to enjoy.

A celebration of life service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.