Photo: Mike Schmidt

A 10-acre property with nearly a half-mile of trout stream has been permanently preserved through a partnership between Lebanon Township and the Bedminster-based nonprofit Raritan Headwaters.

The partnership just purchased the former Dempsey family property at 97 Red Mill Road for $134,200. The land will be owned and managed by Lebanon Township for passive recreation, including fishing, hiking and nature observation.

“We’re happy to preserve this land as a public park, and grateful to partner with Raritan Headwaters,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Schmidt. “The property has about half a mile of frontage along the Spruce Run. It’s a trout-stocked stream, so it provides significant recreational benefits.”

“This wonderful piece of property is only a few miles upstream from the Spruce Run reservoir, an important drinking water resource for millions of New Jersey residents,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Raritan Headwaters. “Preserving this land and a half-mile of the Spruce Run helps protect clean water, so we were excited for the opportunity to work with Lebanon Township to buy it.”

“The parcel across the stream is already protected through farmland preservation, and both sides of the Spruce Run are forested,” added Ehrenclou. “This creates the perfect buffer and shade that the river needs to flow clear and cool.”

Funding for the purchase came from a state Green Acres grant to Raritan Headwaters, and Hunterdon County grants to both Raritan Headwaters and Lebanon Township. The New Jersey Water Supply Authority contributed funds for surveys, appraisals and related costs.

The property is site of a former grist mill dating back to 1770, for which Red Mill Road is named. Because of the deteriorating condition of the mill, said Schmidt, it had to be demolished before the sale.

However, he said, the former mill race – which diverted water from the stream to power the mill – still exists and will be converted to a trail. Parts of the mill’s stone foundation are also still there, along with old mill stones. “Our intention is to keep the history there, to tell people the story of the mill,” Schmidt said.

With the purchase of the Dempsey property, several sections of the Spruce Run are now protected.

The source of the Spruce Run is in the Crystal Springs Preserve, a Hunterdon County park in the northern corner of Lebanon Township. The purchase of that preserve was funded by a consortium of Hunterdon County, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Water Supply Authority, Hunterdon Land Trust, Washington Township Land Trust and Lebanon Township.

Significant portions of the Spruce Run located upstream and downstream from the Red Mill property are also preserved, including a large section that passes through the Miquin Woods Preserve, a former Boy Scout camp in Lebanon Township that is now owned by Hunterdon County.