Saturday, March 3, 2018

March Force of Nature: Carol Kleis

An often-told story in FoHVOS circles is the preservation history of Baldpate Mountain. This decade-long battle against development earned FoHVOS founding member, Ted Stiles, permanent association with the legendary win. Even today you will see “The Ted Stiles Preserve” listed atop every Baldpate Mountain sign.

The Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain sign
Ted has been gone for 10 years, but FoHVOS “Force of Nature” recipient Carol Kleis remembers those early days, especially the challenges and tales of the Ted Stiles Preserve, as one of the most significant forest preservation success stories in the entire state.

She took on a leadership role at FoHVOS in order to continue Ted’s legacy. She appreciates the significance of the broad stretches of preserved land throughout the entire region. As an avid hiker and native plant enthusiast, memories of the early days of FoHVOS often come to mind as Carol enjoys the splendid vistas and forest wildlife scenes that Hopewell Valley trails provide.  

A hike to the grassy summit of Baldpate Mountain, the highest point in Mercer County, offers a spectacular view of the Delaware River.  Carol enjoys visiting the FoHVOS offices at Strawberry Mansion high atop the mountain.

                   Native Plant Garden Chair
Always connecting with local land, Carol is not only the Trustee President to Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, but also chairs the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County Native Plant Garden working group. She is a long standing member of the Hopewell Township Open Space Advisory Committee and a former member of the Hopewell Valley Deer Management Task Force.

Her advocacy doesn’t stop there. Carol Kleis has chaired the local democratic committee and worked with community leaders to help shape the pro-environment and open space policies of the municipality.

Although she plans on continuing as a FoHVOS trustee, Carol will be retiring as President this year in order to encourage fresh leadership and ideas on the FoHVOS Executive Committee. Everyone who has worked with Carol has been enriched by her enthusiasm and passion to preserve Hopewell Valley lands.

We are happy to recognize Carol Kleis as our March FoHVOS Force of Nature.

A version of this article appears in the March issue of Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

February Force of Nature: Joann Held

There is no stopping February's FoHVOS Force of Nature, Joann Held.  In 2013, FoHVOS presented Joann with our prestigious Jack Gleason Environmental Award for a lifetime of achievement as an environmental activist. At the time she was the founder and co-chair of the Hopewell Valley Green Team, founder and board member of the Pennington Farmer’s Market and a member of the Pennington Environmental commission.

Recently, she was part of the Pennington Borough team that includes representatives from the Environmental Commission, Shade Tree, Open Space, Parks & Recreation and Borough Council that obtained a $1,500 ANJEC grant to work with FoHVOS to create a plan for a native plant arboretum in Howe's Woods.

Today, she is still doing all of that and more. If you live in Hopewell Valley, you have probably benefited from her efforts. Under her leadership, the Hopewell Valley Green Team has expanded their reach as members of the Mercer County Sustainability Coalition, organized or promoted every type of recycling imaginable, and are currently supporting methods to reduce food waste.

Her committed work has provided more options for Hopewell Valley residents to protect the environment. The choices we make in our homes, our travel, the food we eat, and what we buy and throw away all influence our carbon footprint and can help ensure a stable climate for future generations.

In addition to recycling, the Green Team has tackled everything from water conservation, auto emissions, and open space. They have helped our local municipalities receive Sustainable Jersey certification and were a key player in the The 2017 Solar Challenge.

The 2017 Solar Challenge sponsored by Sustainable Jersey, was a unique competition among seven New Jersey towns to educate the public about the benefits of solar energy. The Hopewell Valley Green Team partnering with the Hopewell Township Environmental Commission succeeded in having the greatest number of new solar installation contracts per capita and won the $10,000 prize that is to be used to support a “green” energy project.

Yet, the reason we are naming Joann Held our Force of Nature goes beyond her success promoting sustainability. 

For the last fourteen years, Joann has been the president of the League of Women Voters.  In 2017, in addition to offering forums for local Hopewell Valley elections, the LWV offered Voter Registration and information opportunities including several in Trenton, participated in the National Day for Racial Justice, and gave voter registration materials to new citizens. 

Additionally, Joann was an early researcher in environmental justice and explored air pollution in Camden through her work at the DEP.  Documented evidence of environmental discrimination included data showing that the amount of pollution increased in areas where the numbers of minorities increased.  Today, she is the Secretary for The State of New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Joann’s entire career has been dedicated to environmental protection.  After receiving a Harvard Master Degree in air pollution control, she went to work at the Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies at Rutgers.  From there she went on to spend 26 years working for the NJ-DEP where she received numerous citations and publications.

Our Valley is lucky to have Joann Held, our February Force of Nature, working tirelessly to improve our environmental outcomes that help preserve the character of Hopewell Valley.

A version of this post also appears in the February issue of Hopewell Express.

Monday, January 8, 2018

January Force of Nature: Anne Nixon-Ellery

We are happy to introduce our new FoHVOS Force of Nature column. FoHVOS Force of Nature began as a 2-mile REI-sponsored hike at our new Mount Rose preserve. Led by wellness expert Romy Toussaint and supplemented by FoHVOS land steward Beth Craighead, the hike featured an in-forest guided meditation experience. The Force of Nature hike almost immediately sold out and exposed a desire to celebrate new and exciting Hopewell Valley lands and women. Thus our new FoHVOS Force of Nature (FFON) feature was born.

FFON is a tribute to both Hopewell Valley lands and ladies. Early spring, we will announce our new FFON hike series. Today, we introduce our first monthly FoHVOS Force of Nature honoree. 
Anne with Lisa Jordan,
FoHVOS Development Dir

Anne Nixon-Ellery is a true Force of Nature. Her family and barn are featured on the cover of Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine.  In addition, FoHVOS would like to honor her efforts and dedication to the environment on our blog. 

Anne has volunteered to do literally anything FoHVOS has asked and we have asked for some pretty wacky stuff. 

In just this past year Ms. Nixon-Ellery has:

  • Designed our new FoHVOS 30-year logo shown on this page,
  • Bartended for our Meet The New Executive Director Open House,
  • Designed a BioBlitz science logo, Gala invitation, balloon tix & gala favors,
  • Donated the Glenmore barn for our annual gala and as an auction item,
  • Enlisted her husband and others for significant volunteer efforts,
  • Carved our HV Arts Council Pumpkin to win Community Partner award,
  • Designed Facebook Frame for FoHVOS “Giving Tuesday.
  • And so much more!
Here is our interview: 

Lisa: You spend a lot time and effort on FoHVOS activities. Why are you so committed? 
Anne: Our property is completely surrounded by you. We feel connected and we really love the fact that you surround us. It is wonderful that this area in Hopewell has permanently preserved land. Thank God you did that because otherwise it could have been McMansions or something. We like the green belt around Hopewell. It really is an emerald necklace. We are so fortunate that preserves envelop us and it gives the barn a really unique feel that you won’t find anywhere else.

Lisa: So would it be safe to say that you are glad the FoHVOS Thompson Preserve is next door and you are “paying it forward?” 
Anne: Yes I am paying it forward but not just for the preserve by our barn. Granted I love the feel living here, but I am appreciative of far more than that. FoHVOS is all about community and that is what connects me so deeply. FoHVOS protects Hopewell Valley's character through open space preservation and they have land in all parts of the Valley. Further, I love community-oriented aspects like guided hikes and walks, and that your staff goes to people’s private homes and recommend the best ecological use of their land. It’s great for the environment and community on so many levels. Getting people out on the land keeps the community, people, and land healthy and connected. I love being part of that. 

Yes, I try to pay it forward. I use everything available to me to help further the mission because it is important. Our barn can be a community location because there isn’t anything like that around here. My design services can help with branding to spread the word of all the great opportunities available in our community. Plus, I get exposed to so much that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Who else is going to have me bartend or carve a pumpkin? 

Lisa: What was your least favorite volunteering activity?
Anne: After the Pumpkin Carve, FoHVOS was so proud they extended the pumpkin display time by showing it in front of Brick Farm Market. It stayed a bit too long, so I carted it off. My car was filled with rotting pumpkin and fruit flies. It was pretty disgusting. 

Lisa: Too funny... We appreciate you taking one for the team! That's a perfect note on which to end.Thanx for being a committed volunteer and our FoHVOS Force of Nature.

An abridged version of this article appears in the January issue of Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Film Premiere & Panel Discussion

PA/NJ lead the nation in deer-vehicle collision.
Seeing dead deer on the side of the road is a common experience in Hopewell Valley. Yet, most of us still cringe at the scene. 

This increasingly frequent sight is an upsetting symptom of a much larger issue.  As the deer population increases, the impact is devastating to both the deer and our local economy.

Through grant funding, local nonprofits Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) and The Sourland Conservancy commissioned documentary filmmaker Jared Flesher to explore the impact of deer on the local environment.

FoHVOS Stewardship Director Michael Van Clef Ph.D appears in the film and asks the disturbing question, “Who would have thought that we literally cannot grow new trees in a forest?” He explains that excessive deer destroy the forest understory where new trees normally take root.

The short film “The Deer Stand,” premiers at the new Hopewell Theatre on October 3rd and will be followed by a panel discussion that includes the filmmaker, an ecologist, a sustainable farmer, law enforcement, hunters and others.

Filmmaker Jared Flesher will be on the panel and discuss his experience making the film. Panelists Michael Van Clef Ph.D, Brian Kubin, a management hunter, and Chris Moran, a new hunter, all appear in the film.

Jon McConaughy, co-founder of Brick Farm Groups and a panelist, will share that deer are among the biggest threats to food costs from the perspective of a local sustainable farmer.

Hopewell Township Police Chief Lance Maloney is a panelist that will share his insights regarding impact of deer accidents throughout Hopewell Valley.

2017 Hopewell Valley Central High School graduate Fiona Crawford rounds out our panel to share the important perspective of an active, budding environmentalist. 

The film and panel discussion will engage anyone that cares about maintaining Hopewell's bucolic environment. Our responsibility goes far beyond simply preserving open space. We need to ensure that we take care of our land.  It is the heart and soul needed to ensure our quality of life here in the Valley. 

Sponsor Trattoria Procaccini will provide seasonal appetizers and Sourland Mountain Spirits will serve cocktails, and 
coffee, tea and sweets will be provided. 

It should be a great evening at The Hopewell Theatre, this Tuesday, October 3rd at 7pm. Don't miss it.

For more information and to reserve tickets, visit:

Monday, August 21, 2017

What is "Barn(yard) Chic"?

Invitation to Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space gala
Lots of excitement is building around the upcoming FoHVOS 30th anniversary gala to be held on September 16th at the Historic Barn of Glenmoore Farm.  

The enthusiasm is understandable.  Unlike other local fundraisers, our VIP guests will ride a hot air balloon high above Hopewell Valley to view the 7,500+ acres of land FoHVOS has preserved by partnering with landowners, government and other nonprofit organizations.

We will eagerly recognize the many who helped preserve the Valley's character through open space and farmland preservation, and natural resource protection. There will be a Ted Stiles photo montage and we honor the achievements of conservationists, leaders, & partners, working to protect land & support stewardship in the Hopewell Valley including:

Jack Gleeson Environmental Award
Patricia Sziber
Retired FoHVOS Executive Director

FoHVOS Friends Individual Recognition
Paul Pogorzelski
Hopewell Township Administrator/Engineer

FoHVOS Friends Corporate Recognition
Bristol-Myers Squibb

Finally, our auction will feature all local experiences.  Here are just a few examples: 

  • A sustainable Double Brook Farm tour & Brick Farm Tavern dinner for four 
  • A flight piloted by Paul Pogo around Hopewell Valley for two
  • Unionville Vineyards tour and wine-tasting for ten 
  • A "Hidden Hopewell" tour led by historian David Blackwell for six 
  • A surprise to be announced by our municipality mayors
  • A lunch with wine & Executive Chef Assi La Ponte at Bonne Assiette for four
  • A private photo session and portrait 
  • and many other opportunities to experience Hopewell Valley!
So the most frequent question we have received about the evening is, "As we enjoy the locally sourced menu, live music, and other festivities, how should we be dressed?"

Our answer: Barnyard Chic

Our team wrestled with the perfect way to suggest a dress code.  "Semi-formal" may be appropriate to demonstrate ample respect for our honorees and the importance of the occasion. Yet, we need to acknowledge that we are hanging out in a barn. 

While "cocktail attire" is fine, guests probably don't want to be donning high heels on the wooden floor boards or through the gravel and grass. Yet "casual" sounded too, uh, casual.

I voiced our labeling dilemma to benevolent extraordinaire and LHT Co-Founder, Eleanor Horne, and without missing a beat she coined Barnyard Chic.

Watch for Barnyard Chic to become a thing around Hopewell Valley and remember you heard it here first!

Late Blog Addition! A reader suggested that Barnyard implies the yard where the animals are and we should call it "Barn Chic" to ensure attendees are dressed to be in an upscale barn.

Barnyard, Barn, or do you have a better idea?

In any case, I'll see you on September 16th and look forward to seeing you in all your barn(yard) chic splendor.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Forest Bathing in Hopewell Valley

A view from my walk through the Ted Stiles Preserve.

As health care debates abound in the news, preventive medicine should be a focus as it is among the best ways to improve well-being and keep health care costs down.

What are you doing to stay healthy?  We know all the standard advice: Eat healthy. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep.   And to really improve longevity, find ways to reduce stress.

A lesser-known scientifically proven method to improve health is spending time outdoors.  The Japanese refer to the practice as Shinrin-yoku or “Forest bathing.”

Hopewell Valley is particularly conducive to forest bathing since we have an amazing selection of beautifully preserved forest trails from which to choose.

Studies published by Harvard Medical School and the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) confirm each others findings that forest environment exposure: 

  • Boosts immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure and pulse rates
  • Reduces stress hormone production and relieves stress
  • Increases focus for both young and old
  • Accelerates healing from surgical procedure or sickness
  • Improves mood and overall feelings of wellbeing
  • Increases stamina
  • Improves sleep

These results are contributing to the development of a research field dedicated to forest medicine and may be used as a strategy for preventive medicine. While much has been published about your brain on nature in the past, recent media is reporting the Japanese practice of forest bathing is exploding in the United States and an emerging industry of forest therapy consultants abound.

The key to forest bathing is simply to be mindful. Immersion in the forest will help clear your mind and open your senses to connect with nature.

Many people find the experience meditative and notice their breathing while walking through the forest tuning into the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes to experience a very visceral reaction of senses to their surroundings.

Reducing stress improves mortality and lowers health care costs.  Incorporating forest therapy is an excellent stress-reduction therapy and couldn’t be easier in Hopewell Valley.

Many Valley dwellers have lived here for years and haven’t explored the bucolic opportunities right in our backyard. There is probably a forest preserve surprisingly close to your home.

Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) is a nonprofit land trust that is dedicated to preserving the Valley's character though open space and farmland preservation, and natural resource protection.

FoHVOS has partnered with landowners, government and other non-profit organizations to preserve and steward thousands of acres of natural forest in Hopewell Valley that are open to the public.

Download our free 36 page Guide to the Walking Trails in the Hopewell Valley (also found at

Find your own inspiration by exploring the best of the Valley. Visit Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows, Thompson Preserves in Hopewell, the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, or the numerous other preserves our Valley has to share.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

(Climate) Change begins at home

Native wildflowers replace a manicured detention basin.

Changes in the political landscape have spurred discussions regarding global responsibility for the environment. 

As a result, increased visibility has propelled this issue to center stage and a common bond has formed among disparate groups joining together to actively support our planet.
Dan Pace, MC Planning & FoHVOS Trustee, me, and
Hopewell Twp Mayor Kevin Kuchinski at Science March

In response to intensified environmental fears, marches, teach-Ins, and other activism spontaneously formed throughout the country which led to a heightened sense of community.  I am pictured at right in Trenton at one of the many Science Marches.

While activism raises awareness and leaves participants feeling motivated and inspired, it does little to actually address the issues at hand.

A perk of being the Executive Director of an environmental nonprofit is working and partnering with some of the best and brightest experts in the field to set up programs for outreach and education.

Most people realize that their lifestyle choices (i.e turning off lights, fuel efficient cars, and even food selection) have a big impact on reducing our carbon footprint, reducing pollution, and improving water quality.  Let's hope this new awareness leads us to seek out additional knowledge and education and consider more of our actions through an environmental lens. We all need to do our part.

Consider that this weekend offers many summer kick-off events including garden tours, guided hikes and other outdoor friendly activities. Attend them all and delight in the riches that our Valley offers but prioritize those that provide some education that you can use later to improve the environment.

For example, start with a Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space short tour that features experts who can show you how turn your garden into a sanctuary for native plants.  Check out how Mark and Samantha Bean transformed their backyard into an ecological paradise. They converted their neighborhood detention basin into a thriving meadow and have implemented a number of environmentally beneficial features into their own yard. 

Register to attend the garden tour. Enjoy yourself and make proactive choices to positively impact our environment. Change begins at home.