Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Inspiration and Frustration


Dressed in Colonial garb, Lawrence Walker, local historian, surveys the VanDyke farm from the woods. It's almost as if he has traveled back in time as rows of tall corn serve as backdrop, obscuring the signs of development threatening the rural landscape.

A descendent of slaves, Mr. Walker is a wealth of knowledge and stories about the contributions of African-Americans to the founding of our Nation. As well, he is involved in filming a documentary on the Underground Railroad which had many "stops" in New Jersey.

The Van Dyke farm was a prosperous farm well into the 1940's and continues to be farmed today producing some of the best yielding crops in the area in its fertile soil. In centuries past, it contributed as part of the "breadbasket" of the East Coast supplying food crops to all the major markets.

Family records list a number of slaves who worked on the farm before the Civil War. This is the land where they lived in quarters still preserved in the house, and where they were buried in a lost cemetery somewhere near the NJ Turnpike. Their lives will be part of the symposium at the Fresh Ponds Chapel at 8 PM on October 20.


After a dry summer, a week of rain brought inches of water to the parched land.

But blessing and bounty also brought with it a new bout of flooding to Green Acres. The trouble is that now, it seems, even a comparatively small rainfall--the amount we had on the first Saturday--is more than enough to cause flooding.

The detention basins at the Davidson Mill Road warehouses never did dry up this summer, probably becuase they are dug into the natural groundwater reserves. So, even a little rain fills them quickly. From the Turnpike bridge, it's easy to see that the detention basin designed to take the overflow fills to its brim just as quickly. Then it spills into the ditch to carry the water under the Turnpike into the Green Acres land beyond.

There the water sits in a depression behind a chain link fence, until that too fills up to send a stream coursing across the farm field into the trees of the Parkland.

As you can see from the picture on the right, the two 54" are just barely visible at the top. The gray water is filled with all kinds of debris, some of which catches in the fence. However, the fence cannot clean the waters of road pollutants, and many trash items managed to flow through either gaps or underneath.

Here, if you look closely, you can see some of the trash, including empty plastic bottles along with paper and styrofoam.

We've even found parts of tires and one whole tire further along in the flood plain. Since the areas is far from any roadway, we can only guess that the tire floated there at some point.

This same water then flows across the field and eventually finds the trees.

The sad thing is, these pictures were all taken in October, 2005. This time we didn't even have to wait for the spring thaw. We can only imagine what the area will look like if we have a wet winter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


The Van Dyke Farm
Efforts are sill underway to protect the farm from future development and to preserve the area for open space. The South Brunswick Town Council has drafted a resolution to the County indicating its desire to preserve the farm. Hopefully, many of the interested funding groups will get together to create a preservation package to save this valuable and historic part of our area.

The EVA is also sponsering a symposium at the Fresh Ponds Chapel on October 20, at 8:00 PM. Featured speakers will be James Shackleford and expert on slavery in the Central Jersey area and Ceil Leedom, Township Historian. Mr. Shackleford's presentation will include a great deal of fasincating information about slavery in many of the homes and farms in New Jersey prior to the Civil War. Since the Van Dyke farm has records of slaves dating back to the 1700's its historic involvement is a significant part of African-American heritage in our Township. We also believe that there is a slave cemetery located on the property and hope to find out more about this as a result of the symposium. Ms. Leedom has been researching significant historic areas in South Brunswick for many years. Her knowledge of our Town is always a welcome addition to any presentation.

Flooding Raises the Waters Again
A summer of drought was quickly washed away in about three inches of rain this past weekend. By Sunday, the trees on the Green Acres site at the back of the Van Dyke farm were under water again.

This is particulary disturbing since we have had no rainfall since early July, and one would think the thirsty gound would have welcomed the water instead of creating new floods. It is just an indication of the complete compromise of nature impervious surfaces, drainage pipes, inadequate detention basins, and careless engineering have caused.

Pitures will post soon. I am suspicious that with all the rain the week is bringing, the flood waters will be even higher the next time I visit.

Morris Builders
The Morris companies have proposed a housing development for the Van Dyke Farm. Such a project would be within the zoning ordinances set by the Township.

EVA hopes to inspire preservation as an alternative. The historic value of the farmhouse and the cemetery where a Revolutionary War veteran is buried is a treasure worth protecting for us all.