The leadup to a magical moment can seem mundane enough: a ladder leaned against the gazebo at the Barden at Herrontown Woods. The Barden, short for Botanical ARt garDEN, has become magical in and of itself, but this past week had a series of magical moments.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Herrontown Woods was the recipient this year of what surely is one of the most ambitious and multifaceted efforts by a girl scout troop to have a beneficial impact on a nature preserve. Girl Scout Troop 71837, with girls 10-11 years old led by Danielle Rollmann and Heather Harnley, contacted the Friends of Herrontown Woods back in August of 2020. Since then, they have contributed their time and effort to the preserve in many ways.
For starters, during a remarkable spring workday, they swept the parking lot area clean of garlic mustard--an invasive species that spreads aggressively if not pulled up before it goes to seed.
With guidance from their leaders, they then quickly became adept at using power tools, drilling holes and setting screws in repurposed wood to construct boardwalks for wet spots on our trails.
Another initiative spurred by the girl scouts' involvement was a new trail map for Herrontown Woods. The girls walked the trails with GPS tracking software, then sent the files to graphic artist Alison Carver, who worked with the girl scouts and FOHW to create a beautiful and detailed new map. Troop funds paid for the first 500 copies.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Outdoor Yoga with Gemma at Herrontown Woods -- This is a free event. Any class donations "will support Friends of Herrontown Woods' ongoing efforts to create a place of restoration and growth for the Princeton community." The class will take place next to Veblen House. Info about location and parking is on the registration page.
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
Friday, March 12, 2021
The following appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of Town Topics.Human Imagination, Resourcefulness Collaborate With Nature at Princeton Botanical Art Garden
To the Editor:
This past year, as the pandemic closed down indoor destinations, many people turned to Princeton’s nature preserves for diversion, renewal, and exercise. Coinciding with this surge in what is often called passive recreation has been an acceleration in several projects along the Princeton Ridge where people take a more active, restorative role in nature. Initiatives by the Friends of Herrontown Woods, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, and the Ridgeview Ridge Trail Blazers have all gained momentum, benefiting from an influx of volunteers.
On the eastern side of town, our relatively new nonprofit, the Friends of Herrontown Woods, founded in 2013 to make Princeton’s first nature preserve once again accessible after years of neglect, has overseen the rapid evolution of a space we now call the Princeton Botanical Art Garden. It began three years ago as a small loop trail through a former pine grove decimated by windstorms. As invasive species took hold among the fallen trees, we saw the opportunity to create a rare habitat — a sunny forest opening. Removing rampant invasive growth and planting sun-loving native wildflowers and shrubs, our first goal was to create a space where people could come to learn about native flora.
But the botanical garden took a cultural turn this year as artists and students displaced from school began building structures amidst the wildflower beds. A boy made a fort. Several high schoolers built a yurt. A chainsaw virtuoso cut planks and handrails from fallen trees to build a whimsical but sturdy bridge over a small wetland. Using massive upturned root balls as backdrops, a spiritual gardener created a meditation garden, and a daughter and mother created an exhibit of wildlife bones.
Another family dug a miniature frog pond that attracted real frogs. Rocks were gathered from a nearby construction site to line whimsical trails. Most recently, considerable resourcefulness and imagination were applied to moving a donated shed and gazebo to the site. Witnessing the joy visitors were experiencing, we knew we were on to something. One parent of young kids described the art garden as “a lifeline.”
If there were ever any doubt, the pandemic has proven the worth of Princeton’s investment in preserving open space, beginning with the visionary mathematician Oswald Veblen’s personal and professional efforts in the 1930s to acquire lands that later became Herrontown Woods and the Institute Woods.
But at the Princeton Botanical Art Garden we have discovered the pleasures and ecological benefits of going beyond preservation and passive appreciation to create an in-between space — part nature, part culture — where human imagination and resourcefulness can collaborate with nature’s unparalleled creativity and generosity. By locating ourselves within nature, learning from it and giving back, we can begin not only to heal nature, but also heal ourselves.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
Thanks to director Ben Stentz and the Princeton Recreation Department crews for plowing the Herrontown Woods parking lot!
Traditionally, the parking lot had been left unplowed, but due to increased use by the public, and some advocacy by the Friends of Herrontown Woods, the town has responded.
The road down to the parking lot is privately owned, so the lot and the drive may not get plowed at the same time.
Saturday, February 6, 2021
As of yesterday, Autumn Hill Reservation parking lot remained unplowed as well.
For now, please park at Smoyer Park or drive to the back of Stone Hill Church,