Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Still Waters Run Deep

By Samantha Bean  
Ash Tree at Thompson Preserve
The second installment in the FoHVOS Force of Nature Series began under the upturned leaves of the ash trees reaching up tall at the trailhead of the Thompson Preserve.  As the silvery backs of the leaves took over their bright green flipsides, we wondered if the hike might turn into a hustle of dodging raindrops. Thankfully, for the ninety minutes that followed, the Thompson Preserve remained dry. Well...dry from up above that is.

Romy from RomYoga of Lawrenceville opened the hike with some welcoming remarks and reminded us to be alive in the moment and to be thankful or grateful, or both. Next, some simple movements with shoulders, hips, and knees. Then we did our ultimate best to loosen the toes and roll the ankles. A task much more suited to bare feet. As we loosened our ligaments as much as our tread-heavy hiking boots could possibly allow, our senses started to notice something. It’s a feeling you don’t get inside the quiet walls of a yoga studio.
Made it to the trail!
While the chatarunga dandasana was not present and we didn’t hear the pit pat of barefeet around on hardwood floors that usually accompanies your first few yoga stretches, we were able to notice other omnipresent sounds that we tend to drone out. The wind whistled through the limbs at this force of wind velocity as much as it did through the leaves. There were birds everywhere and I even caught the brief coo of a rooster way off in the distance.

We finished our less than limber stretches as our gear was rather limiting, and then Romy headed us off in the direction of the trail.

While the clouds were able to withhold the impending rain that was forecast, the ground below was just not able to hold anything more. There were puddles of mud within the first fifty paces. While our feet did their best to avoid mud sinkholes, our senses began to pick up another token. The soon-to-be-summer air was alive and swirling with honeysuckle and multiflora rose. While not well-received in the native plant community, the scent by itself was. It lingered with the hike for the next mile and a half. And we all noticed it. It was subtle, but nonetheless a harbinger of warm nights and late sunsets.

At the end of first meadow, the trail takes a turn and offers the opportunity to move into the forest. The slight slope of the trail meant that the footing was drier yet the same scents swirled around from canopy to forest floor. The shift in topography also indicated that the downhill hike might bring us to a stream very soon. But first there was a presence in the forest in the shape of a dead tree. He was begging to be named. The wide trunk, the daft opposing limbs in the exact placement on his midsection as if to say “Whatever…!” Maurice Sendak no doubt could have used this tree as a character study.

As the trail moved deeper downhill, the wind dissipated, and instead the flow of water could be heard before being seen. The mighty Stony Brook, tested to the hilt in the past few months was running heavy. The water was not chocolate milk colored but a fresh crisp color and the water was bouncing happily over Sourland rocks and moving fast in the shallows. A few more steps along the trail and an Eagle Scout project in the form of a narrow yet sturdy bridge gave safe crossing over a steep ravine that, in the past, required
Grateful for Eagle Scouts
a leap of faith and a Hail Mary to cross on ones’ own. 
A little further downstream, the water quieted. There was no cascade. No bouncing bubbles of white froth over rocks. And the color changed. At this point, the wind and the birds took over their leading role as the sounds of the Thompson Preserve. The deep water was one of many areas of the Stony Brook where shallows and pools coexist in one rapidly and constantly changing stream bed. An enthusiastic crew of volunteers from Bloomberg, stewardship staff and board member, Ruth Jourjine, completed a stream-side restoration project for this very reason....to aid in erosion and streambed changes. The project involved the removal of invasive plants and
Giant birds nest sculpture
the planting of native ferns and deer deterrent foraging fences. A giant birdnest fashioned out of twigs and vines completes the area. After seeing the restoration in place, we kept our pace and moved on. 

Heading back uphill and leaving the windless stream banks, the hike comes back out to the far side of the meadow and farm fields from which we started. The wind was still swirling like mad and the mud underfoot returned. The wildflower meadow restoration project that took place several years ago is at this point--an inch above knee level. I’ll give it three weeks before the wildflowers are over my head.

Meticulously planting our feet around bogs of mud and perfect imprints of various dog paw prints, we wandered back through the meadow and the trail towards our cars and ultimately, our daily life. But for a little over an hour, we got to immerse our senses in the sounds and smells of an outdoor yoga hike. One with elements not found within the walls of a studio.

Thankfully, and just in time, another Eagle Scout project was underway. Wood chips were now being spread over the dense muck that more resembles thick chocolate pudding than a trail. With time, and hopefully a little less rainfall, the trails on this hike will be dry and the only thing holding water will be the deep pools of the Stony Brook.

The third hike in this series falls on Sunday, July 15th at 9am at the Mount Rose Preserve in Hopewell. A 2-mile wellness hike that will include a guided meditation and forest bathing experience. Please click here to register.

Note: FoHVOS Force of Nature was inspired by a national campaign started by REI to encourage women and girls to get outside and play...putting women front and center, and hosting classes and events nationwide.




Thursday, June 28, 2018

July Force of Nature: Katherine Dresdner

Photo by Benoit Cortet
If you have taken a walk on beautiful preserved land in Hopewell Valley, odds are that FoHVOS July Force of Nature, Katherine Dresdner, has had some hand in preserving it.

From the time she was a child, Katherine’s life experiences seemed to lead and prepare her for her great achievements throughout Hopewell Valley.   

Katherine’s earliest memories include being with her grandfather in his garden and learning about trees and plants with her mother, a landscape designer, who always caught and released insects rather than killing them. These models helped shape her law career, which focused on protecting land and life. 

Katherine began litigating complex environmental cases in the 1980s. Some of her cases uncovered webs of corruption and mismanagement akin to the plots in movies like Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action. 

The Chemical Control Corp. (CCC) was one such case. In early 198060,000 55 gallon drums leaking toxic waste exploded violently during the night and burned for two days spewing toxic smoke and particulates, endangering communities in Elisabeth and Staten Island.  Katherine successfully litigated the only CCC civil case, representing residents and a Red Cross volunteer who all suffered health problems caused by exposure to the toxic smoke. She shared her legal work to help firefighters and first responders when they developed cancer from their exposures to the toxic materials. 

Katherine obtained court orders for records that revealed the involvement of organized crime, corruption, and mismanagement: the CCC was taken over from the owner at gunpoint by an organized crime family; the CCC incinerator contracted to destroy the chemical wastes from Fortune 500 companies never functioned. PCBs from PSE&G were dumped by CCC for years through a hidden pipe into the waters of the Kill Van Kull. 

The NJ DEP issued violations, then decided to take over the site. Katherine proved the state's takeover of CCC from its organized crime owners was not used for intended cleanup but instead stored hazardous wastes brought from other dump locations to CCC. Katherine employed aerial photography grid analysis that proved 30,000 more drums were staged at CCC during the state's "clean up." Katherine also met with whistleblowers about the site conditions and obtained photographs of the site showing many leaking drums two days before the explosion. A state official had recorded a video taken the same time as the photos, but the video disappeared from the state evidence locker. The loss of this key evidence uncovered by Katherine was investigated in a hearing by the NJ State Senate Judiciary Committee, but the tape was never found.   

The last case Katherine litigated before moving to Hopewell Valley in 1998 involved helping young families in Franklin, Gloucester County who were sold starter homes without being told their new homes were built on a toxic landfill. The families had wells drilled into the landfill, and their water and soil were contaminated with chemicals. The families only became aware their homes were in a landfill when one morning men in full body hazmat suits came to their neighborhood to take water and soil samples. 

Katherine got involved through a state police lieutenant familiar with her CCC case work, who asked her to represent the families. The case took 10 years but Katherine saw it through from beginning to end. Her work exposed a web of silence by the landfill landowner, the developer, town and county officials, insurance agents, realtors, and law firms, all of whom were interconnected by family or business relationships. Her work continued when she had to sue the insurance company to pay the families the judgment she obtained for them. Every family was able to move to a safe home.

At the same, FoHVOS was winning our own 10 year battle, led by FOHVOS President Ted Stiles, that culminated in the property acquisition by Mercer County in 1998 that created today’s Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain.

As Katherine settled into Hopewell Valley, we would join forces as she got involved in local land conservation efforts. Katherine worked on the St. Michaels Preservation committee with many local families who cared about the land. Working with Sophie Glovier, then Development Director at D & R Greenway, together they raised the millions of private funds needed to save St. Michaels. Katherine believes local fundraising and community involvement differentiated the St. Michaels project from other preservation efforts.  The new model inspired the entire community -- senior citizens, school children, and every age in between, raised money for a common goal. 

Katherine volunteered for a year at D&R Greenway and at the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed for 10 years. Katherine would draw from the St. Michael’s collaborative community based model in her crusade to save the land that became the Mount Rose Preserve. She was inspired by Ted Stiles' vision of preserving the Carter Road site along with contiguous farmland and open space parcels linking the Valley to the Sourland Mountains.

While serving as general counsel for the Hopewell Valley Citizens Group, Katherine donated all her legal work on this project since 2007.  HVCG formed during a contentious land use battle challenging Berwind Property Group's approved office park and proposed high density housing development slated for both sides of Carter Road in the former Western Electric/AT&T corporate campus. After winning in the NJ Supreme Court, Katherine proposed purchasing the land to settle the litigation. New Jersey Conservation Foundation partnered with HVCG as the lead land trust partner on the purchase. Katherine worked closely with NJCF executive director Michele Byers.

Katherine's vision of this project was regional in scope. She assisted in negotiating the northern loop of the 22 mile regional Lawrence Hopewell Trail with the landowners, and gained support for the land preservation project from Mercer County and all five surrounding municipalities. Overall, a dozen public entities and nonprofit organizations, as well as 130 private donors, and the Robert Wood Johnson 1962 Charitable Trust collaborated on a $7.5 million land purchase.

The Mount Rose Preserve is now a 400 acre public park and Katherine continues to work to raise donor and grant funding to cover additional land stewardship. FoHVOS Stewardship Director Mike Van Clef prepared a 10 year stewardship plan for Mount Rose. NJCF and FOHVOS are primarily responsible for stewardship, restoration, and trail work. The Mount Rose Preserve is currently owned by NJCF, FoHVOS, Hopewell Township, and Mercer County.

Partnering with NJCF added special significance to the win.  NJCF Executive Director Michele Byers was married to Ted Stiles and shared Ted’s vision for the preservation of Mount Rose. Katherine is very pleased that she was able to “complete the circle” by seeing the mission through with Michele.

At a FoHVOS event in 2015 both Katherine Dresdner and Michele Byers were presented the prestigious Jack Gleeson Environmental Award for a lifetime of achievement as an environmental activist.


An excerpt of this article appears in July's Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine.




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Secret Forest

 By Samantha Bean

Pond in the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain
One of the best kept secrets of New Jersey is its endless opportunities for exploration in a vast array of well-marked meadows, hills, deciduous and coniferous forests and rocky hillsides. The latter thanks to the immense amount of rock that makes up most of the Sourland Region. 

I am going to let you in on another amazing secret: getting back to nature while walking these trails grounds you. And when there are tiny pockets of glistening sunshine that make it down all the way to the forest floor from the dense canopy above...it’s just magic.

On a humid yet breezy Sunday afternoon I had the unique privilege of seeing these magical sun jewels dotting the trail that I hiked with several other women and our leader, Romy Toussaint, of RomYoga in Lawrenceville. A force of nature in her own right, Romy guided us on a forest meditation that began right at the head of the trail. 

Our connection to earth and the sounds that we could hear right from the beginning followed us throughout the two-hour hike in the Ted Stiles Preserve area of Baldpate Mountain in Titusville, NJ. This hike is one in a series of six hikes presented by Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and their Force of Nature Hike Series for Women and Girls.

Trees swaying in the wind
The cacophonous symphony of birds around us, and the back and forth communication of a gray tree frog was just the beginning. Gone was the rush of traffic noise or the mindless dings of smartphones or the sounds of anything battery- or electrically-powered. We connected with our deep breaths and recognized our gratitude for the ability to be enveloped in nature’s symphony. We then turned our backs to the parked cars and the high wires above our heads and the far-off sound of a lawn mower to begin our journey. As we walked, the wind was swaying the leaves back and forth and the ominous darker clouds made me wonder: when you are in the forest, do you hear the rain coming down through the leaves before you feel it on your skin?

Thanks to the five prior days of off and on showers and occasional downpours, the trail began as a rocky and sloppy first half mile. So rocky in fact that when you cautiously placed each foot in and around or sometimes directly on a rock, your feet began to reverberate with a nature-induced foot massage. The small tennis-ball sized boulders protruding out of the muck and slop were a welcome feeling to the flat pavement we are so accustomed to feeling. Then, at times there was the melodic sound of rushing water over protruding roots and down small rivets created during the last flooding downpour only days ago. Our leader cautioned us to place our steps with intent and traverse the downhill spots with slanted foot. A straight foot tends to slip more. Noted. Around us, we were surrounded by towering tulip poplar trees and Eastern Towhees chiming in with their notorious “drink-your-teeeea!!!!” call. As the trail narrowed, the canopy above seemed to open more and I saw the first glimmers of bright blue sky that I had seen in five days. It was a stunning blue.

Romy & Emma -uprooted tree
After a steep uphill climb to rejoin the Ridge Trail, we stopped for a moment to catch our breath and admire the force of nature right in front of us: a blowdown from either Sandy or some other monster supercell storm. The uprooted tree created its own form of art right there with the root system still intact looking like something Dorothy would encounter before she finds the Tin Man in the forest. Turning east, we meandered down a drier trail and over and under a few more downed trees. 


Pond where we meditated
Mostly walking downhill at this point, we found ourselves on the property of an abandoned summer house of an old estate. Sitting on the ledge of a tattered spring house we again took the time for the silence to embrace us. A two-minute meditation was interrupted only by a fish jumping after a large upside down wasp that clearly couldn’t swim. I was amazed that I heard nothing but wind, birds, frogs, and the sounds of deep breaths.

Continuing back around past the old house, we headed back to conclude our Sunday in the forest and hiked back up toward the artistic uprooted tree that clearly should have its own name. Catching a glimpse of the high tension wires through the trees, I began to realize that the trail was nearing its end. Romy ended our forest bathing experience with some stretches and parting good-byes. I encourage everyone to experience the same sounds and feelings. Truly feeling the force of nature right here in New Jersey. It’s our secret.

The third hike in this series falls on Sunday, July 15th at 9am at the Mount Rose Preserve in Hopewell. A 2-mile wellness hike that will include a guided meditation and forest bathing experience. Please click here to register.

Note: FoHVOS Force of Nature was inspired by a national campaign started by REI to encourage women and girls to get outside and play...putting women front and center, and hosting classes and events nationwide.



Monday, May 28, 2018

June Force of Nature: Gretchen Kish

photo by Benoit Cortet
Gretchen Kish was born and raised in Titusville, NJ.  She grew up in a house that backed up to the woods and her first job was as a gardener at Washington Crossing Park.  It was there that she learned that horticulture could be a college major.

Gretchen’s lifelong passion for both Hopewell Valley and improving its landscape made her an easy choice for our June Force of Nature.

Gretchen and her husband Jon founded Nectars Landscape & Design and in addition to helping our area improve its landscaping, she very generously gives back to the local community.

Her personal philosophy is in line with FoHVOS stewardship objectives. We both want to restore Hopewell Valley lands. Gretchen enjoys educating others on the importance of landscaping with native species and said that people are receptive if you come to them as a knowledgeable person.  

She shared, “People worry that larger beds require more maintenance, but that’s not true, because when the right plants are planted and allowed to mature, the bed space actually uses less maintenance and requires less resources to maintain.”

Applying these principles, Gretchen initiated an expansive design for Bear Tavern Elementary School to create a new outdoor classroom that will be implemented over several years at no taxpayer cost.

BT Outdoor Classroom rendering
As part of our Community Conservation initiative, FoHVOS is partnering on the first phase of the project by administering a very generous grant from Janssen Pharmaceuticals to include healthy habitats.

Gretchen has prepared a beautiful design and selected native plants and trees that will attract pollinators, butterflies, insects, and birds. She collaborated with FoHVOS Stewardship Director Dr. Mike Van Clef who advised on best practices to maximize the ecological benefits.

The Bear Tavern project will also rely on grant money from the BT PTO, The College of New Jersey, and the Hopewell Valley Education Foundation for the pond and classroom features.
New Pond at Bear Tavern


While Gretchen and Jon have a successful landscape and design business, they recently opened a home and garden retail location on River Road in Titusville.  Jon shared that it was all about that specific location. They had their eye on it for years.

Gretchen’s vision is to transform their amazing home and garden store into a community meeting place. They are beautifying the lot and creating shaded area to bring people in for networking, garden clubs, lectures, classes, and events.

Nectars is teaming up with the Hopewell Valley Arts Council and sharing their lovely space for events to further enrich the Hopewell Valley community.

Throughout her life, Gretchen has witnessed the significant growth of our Valley.  Past expansion has brought both positive and negative change. She believes that the right people representing our community can ensure new growth is done thoughtfully.   

Her commitment preserving the land and character of Hopewell Valley makes Gretchen Kish our FOHVOS June Force of Nature.

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




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bringing Back the American Chestnut Tree - In the Hopewell Valley

by Tom Ogren

American Chestnuts

The Hopewell Township Environmental Commission and Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) teamed up in early May to plant 170 American chestnuts at the Fiddler's Creek Preserve (opposite Baldpate Mountain.) The preserve features a fenced in 40-acre former farm field which is the site of a large scale re-forestation effort by FoHVOS and the Mercer County Park Commission. Over 7,000 trees and shrubs have been planted by volunteers at the site since 2011.    

Chestnut planting at Fiddler's Creek
Environmental Commission member Mike Aucott initiated the chestnut planting project and directed the planting at several locations throughout Hopewell Township. The planting of the chestnuts this May at Fiddlers Creek Preserve was done by volunteers and FoHVOS Stewardship Director Mike Van Clef. The photo at right shows the location of where some chestnuts were planted. Similar groupings of planting sites were scattered throughout the enclosed area. The plastic tubes tied to stakes were placed on top of the chestnuts to protect them from being eaten by squirrels.                                                            
Stately American chestnut tree
from decades past
The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a large tree in the beech family native to eastern North America.  Before the species was devastated by chestnut blight, an invasive fungal disease, it was one of the most important forest trees throughout its range and was considered the finest chestnut tree in the world. It is estimated that between 3 and 4 billion American chestnut trees were destroyed in the first half of the 20th century by blight after its initial discovery in 1904. Chestnut blight is caused by an Asian bark fungus introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees. 

Appalachian family with
American chestnut tree
The planting at Fiddler's Creek is part of a large scale cross breeding effort to plant thousands of chestnuts throughout the Northeast. This effort is spearheaded by The American Chestnut Foundation which has pioneered a backcross breeding technique in an attempt to restore the American chestnut to its original habitat. What was done at the Fiddler's Creek Preserve is the first time hybrid chestnuts have been planted in New Jersey using this technique. A second stage involves the planting of hybrid chestnut seedlings several years from now, which will cross breed with the trees planted from chestnuts.

Hopefully we can bring this prized hardwood tree back to the Hopewell Valley!

(Hikers can access Fiddler's Creek Preserve and a small parking area from Fiddler's Creek Road via a dirt driveway about a quarter mile east of the Baldpate Mountain entrance.  A small Fiddler's Creek Preserve sign marks the driveway entrance.)

Tom Ogren has been a FoHVOS Trustee since 2007 and is a former Pennington Borough Council member. In his free time, you'll find Tom planting trees and building trails in preserves throughout our Valley.

                         
                                    

Monday, March 26, 2018

Meg Gorrie: A Force of Nature

 photo by Benoit Cortet
While everyone in the area is familiar with the SBMWA Kate Gorrie Butterfly House or has driven past the prominent sign for D&R Greenway Kate’s Trail, few are aware of the wider life-changing impact both the Gorrie family and their daughter Kate have made on our community. I approached Meg Gorrie and asked her to share her important story. 

This was a difficult story to write for many reasons. First, its prominence and weight demand that I get it right. Adding to my challenge is that Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine shares my Force of Nature stories with a limit on space.

In the past, I have permitted the magazine to cut my feature to meet its space constraints but instead for this piece, I offer a new solution -- a magazine excerpt.

Below please check out three sections.
  • Meet The Gorries shares the family introduction to Hopewell Valley.
  • Kate’s Legacy is a standalone section for Hopewell Valley Neighbors.
  • The Family Today shares their continued strides and impact.


Meet The Gorries
Meg and Tom Gorrie moved to Hopewell Valley, New Jersey for its excellent schools. They arrived when Alex, their oldest son, was in 4th grade. Within a year, Meg was Hopewell Elementary PTO President.  

The twins Kate and Rob, who had been born on Christmas Day, also attended HES.  Once the twins entered middle school, Meg became heavily involved with the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

At the same time, Tom was overseeing global businesses for Johnson & Johnson. He was also the Chairman at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and served on their Board for 17 years.

Meg and Tom were the perfect balance of Yin and Yang.  Tom oversaw medical advances immersed in the whirlwind existence of air travel around the world. Meg was grounded in education and the environment.  Their history of healing, people and land, foreshadowed their eventual story.

The twins also had their own unique balance. They shared that special twin connection, were both smart, and inherited mom’s love of environment. Rob had lots of friends and enjoyed challenging his teachers. Kate was popular with peers and teachers alike.

“I couldn’t wait for teacher conferences,” Meg beamed, “They all began with what a joy Kate was!  Everybody loved her.”

All the Gorrie children attended The Hun School of Princeton. The twins were both in the environmental club. By the time started they their senior year, Meg was on the education committee at The Watershed.  

Meg recalls, “While on sabbatical from The Watershed, Jeff Hoagland traveled to nature centers all around the country and he was over the moon about these indigenous species butterfly houses. When I told Kate about it, she said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to do this!’ We were so excited. We talked about it all that Fall.”

In addition to being an excellent student, Kate played field hockey and co-managed the boy’s ice hockey team with her friend Lindsay.   

On the afternoon of December 22nd 1997, Kate and Lindsay were in a one-car accident. The cause was unclear, but Lindsay was driving and may have swerved to avoid a deer. Kate was killed instantly when the car hit a tree.

Losing a child is the most devastating experience that a parent can face.  Compounding their unimaginable grief was the challenge that Rob’s birthday was still Christmas Day and he felt that he’d lost his other half.

Christmas was Kate’s favorite day of the year and the family knew she would want them to go on, so they still celebrated the day as best they could in the wake of their tragedy.

Kate entrusted a powerful legacy and purpose to all of those she left behind.


Kate (Gorrie family photo)
Kate’s Legacy

Kate was loved by all who knew her.  To get a better sense of Kate, consider that each year Hun presents “The Katherine Wright Gorrie ’98 Memorial Award.”  

Awarded to a member of the senior class who best exemplifies the qualities of Kate Gorrie. These include a love of family and friends, respect for the environment, joy and radiance of expression and demeanor, integrity, and sincere desire to acquire and impart knowledge.

The Hun School’s response to Kate’s death was sensitive and helpful. Tom and the headmaster, Jim Byer, and others spoke at the funeral. They opened Russell Hall for the reception.  

Meg and Tom arranged a scholarship and a friendship garden in Kate’s honor. The scholarship allows a student to attend Hun who otherwise could not.

Kate’s field hockey coaches initiated The Hun Run in her memory.  Her classmates have continued working on The Run for Kate committee for the past 20 years.

The friendship garden was formed because Kate was loved by all and was everybody’s friend.  It features a pretty statue called “Growing Things,” with a young teenage girl and a vine.  An inscription reads, “In this garden may friendship grow.” There are three benches and sometimes outdoor classes are taught there.

After the accident, the newspaper stated that donations be made to the Watershed in lieu of flowers. The family hoped to use the funds to set up an internship in Kate’s name.

The response was overwhelming and the generous donations helped fund both the internship and The Kate Gorrie Butterfly House. The internship is awarded to a high school student each summer.

Meg describes the Butterfly House. “The wind would come through the screening and you’d see families with little kids come in. It’s really special to see the sense of wonder that comes over people.”

Each year the Watershed held an opening day for the Butterfly House and several years ago, they switched to an official Butterfly Festival. “It’s really extraordinary - 2,500 people show up at her butterfly house and I think ‘Kate, are you seeing this?!’”

The Gorries’ friend Jeannine “Dede” Clements worked with D&R Greenway to create an easement on their farm that includes a one-mile loop trail down to the Stony Brook, known as Kate’s Trail. You can see the sign on Elm Ridge Road.

Meg shared, “I love that so much to do with Kate brings the focus back to the environment.”

Twenty years later and Kate continues to changes lives.


The Family Today

Meg recalls with sadness that “beyond devastating” Christmas.  Subsequent years were spent traveling over Christmas. The family would fly out on the 22nd -- Hawaii, St. John, the Keys – anywhere to be away, and would return before New Years to a decorated house and celebrate their traditional family Christmas after island Christmas. They had not been in town on December 22nd since the accident.

This year the Gorries stayed home for Christmas.

“Having the grandbabies makes a huge difference. Christmas is completely chaotic now. It was really nice. Rob and Amanda wanted to do Santa Claus with their kids in Princeton. Alex was married in October and lives with Mary in London.”

They all spent dinner together. They toasted Kate, toasted the marriage, and toasted Rob’s birthday.

This year Hun will hold their 20th reunion for the Class of 1998.

While the Gorrie family had a long history of high achievement, Kate’s passing brought additional relevance and focus on healing and service to others.  

Tom Gorrie currently sits on the Duke University Board of Directors and chairs the Duke University Health System. He chaired the Global Health Institute Board of Advisors until 2016 and has served on numerous committees. Tom retired from J&J in 2008. He was an advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an adjunct professor at the Rutgers School of Business. He is on the RWJ Foundation Board.

Rob Gorrie has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and received his J.D. magna cum laude, with a Certificate in Environmental Law.  His job allows him to work with small business and homeowners to remediate environmental disasters on their property. His prior work found him in NJ, NY, PA and CA designing and implementing cleanups at polluted sites. Today, he lives in Princeton with his wife Amanda and their two children.

Meg has won numerous environmental awards and recognition, including many from her important work at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.  In addition to the internship and Butterfly House, she is Trustee Emeritus and co-chaired the “Pass It On Campaign” which is responsible for creating the new environmental center, redesigning the 930 acre trail network of the Watershed Reserve, and fortifying the Watershed Association endowment. She also served on the D&R Greenway Board of Trustees for several years.

Meg is the former President of the Stony Brook Garden Club. Her peers presented the Zone Conservation Award and wrote: 

She has worked on countless community minded projects all for the care and preservation of the natural world. She is kind, witty and wonderful. She is an inspiration to SBGC, our zone, and our state.”

Force of Nature – Meg and Kate Gorrie
Like Mother, Like Daughter