Jacqueline Middleton is a familiar face at Hunterdon Land Trust: Since 2014, she has served as our director of land acquisition, identifying parcels of land for preservation and handling negotiations with landowners. As our new interim executive director, she is working to ensure Hunterdon Land Trust stays focused on its mission. With that in mind, we wanted to share with you a few of her thoughts on our past, present and future.
What do you think is unique about HLT?
Land trusts, in general, play an important role in protecting land to ensure clean drinking water, healthy local food sources, wildlife habitat, clean air and flood protection. Hunterdon Land Trust does all of this and so much more. We steward eight public-access properties, including the historic Dvoor Farm, which is an iconic landmark in our area. The farm is on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Also, our Farmers’ Market is unique and supports our local farmers and rural economy while providing a place for the community to gather and get to know their farmers.
HLT has had quite a few successful preservation projects within the past year or so. What factors have led to this accomplishment? And what factors have you seen during your tenure here that you believe have contributed to HLT’s success in preserving and caring for land?
HLT has helped preserve more than 500 acres in the last year, and we hope to close 100 more acres in Raritan Township this summer. Those acres include farmland preservation and open space. I want to point out that 100 percent of the land we protect for open space is accessible to the public – places where someone can hike, bike, or horseback ride. Our success occurs because so many people and organizations work together: our dedicated staff, our committed Board of Trustees, our amazing volunteers, our generous donors, our preservation partners, and the willing landowners who believe in what we are doing. Hunterdon County and the surrounding area have so much to offer. I think our community values what we do and wants to see us succeed in protecting our natural resources and our cultural legacy.
What are the biggest challenges or needs facing organizations like Hunterdon Land Trust?
We have a very committed constituency but to continue being successful we need to grow our base, increase our volunteers, and let more people know about the work we are doing. When I was a little girl at church, I remember hearing a call for people to give a combination of their time, treasure, and talents. In a nutshell, that is what we will need to keep protecting the places we all love.
What’s going on at HLT that everyone should be excited about?
We have so many projects that people should be excited about that picking one is too hard! I think everyone should be excited every week to go to our Farmers’ Market to hear music and take a yoga class, to see friends, support farmers, and to buy delicious healthy food. When they come to the Farmers’ Market, they should look around at our beautiful barns and get excited about how much we have done to uphold our promise to care for these buildings and how much we still plan to do. Finally, I think everyone should take a walk and enjoy our 40-acre property – its wetlands, meadow and old-growth forest – and get excited about our ongoing stream restoration project where we are planting more than 1,000 trees and replacing the crossing that was damaged in Hurricane Ida.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time as interim director?
I hope to continue the incredible legacy of Hunterdon Land Trust as we begin our second quarter-century of protecting the places you love. I want to encourage more people to come to our Farmers’ Market every Sunday. I want more people to come to our wonderful programming, including our Oct. 2 program on using phone apps to help explore the natural world around you. (Details on page 8.) I want more people to visit our preserves. I want more people to learn about the great work that we do. And since I’m still serving as land acquisition director, I want to protect more land.
What else should people know about HLT?
Hunterdon Land Trust’s mission is “to preserve the integrity of the rural landscapes in the Hunterdon County region by protecting and enhancing natural resources, and the cultural landscape of the historic Dvoor Farm, for public enjoyment and education.” Everyone should know that HLT is committed to its mission, and we strive every day to make our spot on this earth better for all of us and for future generations.