Fairview Farm and RHA Headquarters

2121 Larger Cross Road, Bedminster


About Fairview Farm

Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve is home to the Raritan Headwaters Association. A former dairy farm, the 170-acre property now serves as a living laboratory. Habitat restoration projects & scientific studies are underway across the site to support native flora and fauna, including a number of threatened & endangered species.

Fairview Farm is open every day from dawn until dusk. A visit here is a unique experience. There are no picnic tables, trash cans or playgrounds. There are, however, five miles of trails through fields & woods, a small pond, butterfly garden, restored 1800’s era barn complex & RHA’s office building. Passive recreational pursuits – nature walks, bird watching, photography, painting en plen aire, nature-journaling, catch and release fishing – can all be enjoyed on the property.

The Pond at Fairview Farm

Captivated by the quiet beauty, first time visitors feel as though they have discovered a natural treasure, tucked away off the north end of Larger Cross Road. RHA works very hard to strike a balance between sharing this unique property with the public and protecting it from negative impacts that could arise from intensive human activity.

Follow these links for more information about

Fairview Farm is located at 2121 Larger Cross Road in Bedminster. For directions to the site from your location, follow this link. The preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

The RHA Office

Office

This 200 year-old farmhouse serves as RHA’s headquarters.

A half mile down the driveway from the entrance to Fairview Farm off Larger Cross Road sits an old farmhouse. The house has been home to our organization since it was donated by the Zuhlke family to the Upper Raritan Watershed Association (along with Fairview Farm) in the mid-1970’s.

The main floor consists of a parlor, a dining room (which functions as our meeting room), a kitchen with two pantry rooms (one serves as a storage room, the other as our copy room) and a small bathroom. The second story contains four small and three large bedrooms, two small bathrooms and several closets tucked into nooks and crannies. You’ll find our staff working out of the parlor, the bedrooms and even a storage closet! The dirt-floor cellar is used for storage (everything there is carefully stowed in sealed plastic bins to keep out moisture and critters).

We have been working for several years to make upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of the building, all the while taking great care to maintain its historic and charming character.

The Barn Complex

Barn Restoration

The barns are illustrative of our agricultural past. They were constructed in the early 1800’s with hand axed native oak beams and connected by hand cut pinned joints. The Upper Raritan Watershed Association acquired stewardship of these important historic buildings in 1973 when Roberta Zuhlke donated the former dairy farm to the Association.

In the late 1990’s URWA’s Board of Trustees, concerned about the visibly deteriorating roofs and siding, made a decision that stabilization of the barns was critical to their preservation. Experts determined that the structures were sound but in dire need of restoration and repair. Vintage Barns of High Falls, New York began working to restore them on December 18, 2000. As workers stripped away aluminum siding, they revealed decayed corner posts and dry-rotted siding. They finished their work on May 15, 2001 and in 2005, the project received a Historic Preservation Award by the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills.

Barn at Fairview Farm

A renovation project in 2004-2005 preserved the historic barn complex.

Today, the structure is sound, the hardware has been restored, the roofhas been replaced and all five buildings are painted in hunter green with white trim (the original colors). This project preserved a historic treasure while enhancing the Association’s mission. The buildings now hold equipment used to maintain our wildlife preserve, a nature education classroom is located in northeast corner of the main barn and the structures are the centerpiece of our annual Old Fashioned Country Fair.

Trails

You may pick up a copy of our Fairview Farm Brochure at the kiosk in front of our office to learn more about the walking and equestrian paths at Fairview Farm.

Red Trail (1.3 miles) [hiking/M]

This trail encircles two warm-season grass meadows. All of our meadows are managed on a delayed mowing schedule (between July 15th and April 1st) to allow ground-nesting birds to raise their young. There are 3 stream crossings on this trail that lead to a forested ridge of mature mixed oaks. Please use caution at the stream crossings and along the steep ridge.

White Trail (1 mile) [hiking/E]

This trail encircles the pond where you may see a variety of wildlife including herons, painted turtles, dragonflies and migrating ducks. This trail loops through a scrub-shrub area and a meadow with unique wildflowers and a trail of kestrel and bluebird nest boxes.

Children’s Nature Trail (0.2 miles) [hiking/E]

This trail was designed by an Eagle Scout for children ages 4-8 to utilize their senses in exploring the outdoors. There are backpacks stored in the barn classroom that contain trail activities such as animal tracking and tree bark rubbing, as well as binoculars and a magnifying glass for close-up discovery.

Green Trail (1.1 miles) [hiking/M]

This trail encircles two of the preserve’s warm-season grass meadows. The northern-most parcel contains kestrel and blue bird boxes. At the top of the hill two benches offer a rest to hikers and a wonderful view of the countryside. A USGS weather station is located in the meadow seen from the back of the barns.

Blue Trail (0.6 miles) [hiking/M]

This newest addition to URWA’s trail system leads through a section of mature woodland. Shagbark Hickory, White Ash and Pin Oak trees are hosts to the distinct sounds of woodland bird species such as the Eastern Towhee and Wood Thrush. As part of our Forest Stewardship Plan, open areas are being replanted with native understory species, to give them a head start against colonizing invasive shrubs. Please use caution at the stream crossings.

Yellow Trail (1.6 miles) [hiking/S]

This trail leads through a forested section that includes an area where red pines were planted during the 1940’s as an erosion control project. Under the guidelines of a Forest Stewardship Plan, some of the decaying trees have been removed, followed by the planting of native tree seedlings like ash and oak. The remaining pines are being left to decay and fall naturally, to provide a unique habitat for wildlife such as raptors and bats. Invasive plant removal projects are underway to allow natural regeneration of the forest understory.

Volunteer Opportunities

Please contact Lauren Theis at for information about volunteer projects on this property.

Stewardship Activities

Stewardship at Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve continues year-round and as part of RHA’s long-term habitat management plan.  Projects can be sorted by habitat type: scrub and shrub, warm season grass meadows, pollinator habitat, mature forest and riparian areas.

Scrub and Shrub

An area of cedar along the east side of the driveway was converted to a lower successional scrub and shrub (savannah) habit in 2011.  Funded in part by WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program), an NRCS program, this area adds to the habitat mosaic at Fairview Farm and supports a variety of understory and grassland wildlife (various insects, small mammals, song birds [savannah sparrow, eg]).  Scrub and shrub is described as a lower successional forest consisting of 30% woody vegetation and 70% herbaceous vegetation.  Blue stakes mark sample plots where RHA staff and partner scientists monitor the development of this area.

Warm Season Grass Meadow

A small plot (0.5 acres) of warm season grasses was established at the top of driveway (west side) in 2009 and serves to show the difference in seasonal growth between warm and cool season grasses.  Warm season grasses flourish in the dry summers (deep roots), and remain standing all winter – great for wintering wildlife.  Their deep roots help to nourish the soil as they decompose and provide better drainage capacities than cool season grasses, which are commonly planted for lawn and other landscape features.

The fields at Fairview Farm are characterized by a dominance of the “Big Four” warm season grasses – the same that populate the tallgrass prairies of North America: Big Bluestem [Andropogon gerardii], Indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans], Switchgrass [Panicum virgatum], and Little Bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium].  All native to our region since the last glaciation (thousands of years ago), these warm season grasses contain deep, vigorous root systems that aid in protection from erosion, and keep the plants strong during periods of drought.  These deep roots provide valuable organic material to the soil once the plant dies, adding to the health of the ecosystem even after its life cycle is complete.

Fairview Farm’s Warm Season Grass meadows are managed by a prescribed burn program, which is performed in late winter by the NJ Forest Fire Service.  Prescribed burning employs the same method of disturbance that Native Americans used to manage their landscape and makes nutrients from last year’s grass growth immediately available to this year’s new growth.  In addition, burning decreases fuel load (which fuels brush fires during dry months), increases growth of native grasses and wildflowers which chokes out invasive plants.  It also spurs growth of seeds in the soil’s native seed bank that need to be interrupted to start growing (a scratch or burn will initiate the growth process for many species).

Pollinator Habitat Areas

Half-acre pollinator habitats were established in five of Fairview Farm’s meadows in 2010, a project funded in part by WHIP.  Planted with dense pockets of native wildflowers, the pollinator habitats serve to attract and feed native pollinator species that live here or pass through on migration (bees, butterflies, other insects).  Rutgers University is studying these areas for their effectiveness in attracting and sustaining pollinator populations – we are still waiting for the results from this summer but they look promising!

Riparian Areas

Riparian areas along the Axle Brook, which transverses Fairview Farm in two branches, are monitored for erosion and continue to be areas targeted for invasive plant removal and native plantings.

Along the edge of the pond, the area adjacent to the driveway was planted in 2006 after the new bridge was constructed.  Native facultative wetland plants were planted here (shrub willow, arrowwood, sweet gum, red osier dogwood, grasses) to protect the pond from runoff and erosion, and to provide berries and habitat for native wildlife.  Around the circumference of the pond, invasive Autumn Olive has been removed and will be replaced by native grasses and shrubs.  Cattails, while native, have begun to colonize along a majority of the edges of the pond, an issue RHA Stewardship staff will be addressing in the near future to allow better access to the pond for education and passive recreation.

Mature Forest

The mature forests of Fairview Farm are annually surveyed for invasive plant species, and eradication projects are performed mainly in the spring and winter.

The area of Red Pines along the east side of the driveway is suffering from Diplodia, a blight which is killing off many of the trees.  RHA has left this area as-is as it provides a unique piece of the habitat mosaic at Fairview Farm.  This area provides excellent hunting grounds for birds of prey.

Fairview Farm has a deer management program established as part of its long-term stewardship goals.  Deer management is crucial to the establishment of native vegetation and in the fight against invasive plants.   Fairview Farm’s deer management program strictly follows NJ State Hunting regulations.

Nest Boxes

Three different types of nest boxes can be seen around the property, including:

  • Bat Maternity Rosts

    Black boxes mounted 15 feet high.  These act as maternity roosts, and were installed in 2011 with students from the Pingry School.  These boxes can hold 1000’s of roosting bats during summer breeding months

  • Screech Owl Nest Boxes

    Mounted 10 feet up on trees in dense forest.  These boxes are most commonly used during the Screech Owl mating season, mid-March to May.

  • Kestrel Nest Boxes

    Found in fields mounted 10-15 feet high, which allows the kestrels an excellent view of the fields for hunting.

  • Bluebird Nest Boxes

    Fairview Farm has 13 Bluebird Nest Boxes made out of cedar and mounted 4 feet off the ground in grass meadows.   This height allows good predation of insects for the parents and a safe height for the young to begin fledging.

Bird and Butterfly Garden

The bird and butterfly garden in the barn complex at Fairview Farm peaks in mid-August, when a plethora of colorful flowers set the backdrop for fluttering butterflies, birds and other native pollinators.  Each plant in the garden acts as a host plant, provides nectar or food to birds and butterflies of our area. The bird and butterfly garden is a  popular stop for photographers, painters and children alike, and functions year-round as a habitat for wildlife.

Composting Toilet

The Clivus Multrum composting toilet on the property is adjacent to the Nature Classroom and is available for use by visitors to the property.  Visit Clivis Multrum for more information about how it works!

Rain Garden

The Rain Garden in front of the barns at Fairview Farm was built in 2009 as a demonstration for land owners as a functional landscape element.  The design and native plants that define a rain garden act to intercept and decrease storm water flow, encouraging ground water recharge and lessening the effects of non-point source pollution and erosion from run off.

Visit the Rutgers University Rain Garden site for more information about rain gardens, or contact RHA Director of Stewardship Lauren Theis for help designing your own!