Turn your passion for the great outdoors into action by becoming a Preserve Steward!

Hunterdon Land Trust is introducing a new program in which volunteers work together to enhance our public properties. These Preserve Stewards will maintain walking trails and parking areas, care for plant and wildlife communities, remove invasive species, and monitor the land for any issues that might arise.

“There’s so much we’d like to do with our public-access properties, but because of our staff capacity, we’re limited on how much time we can dedicate to each individual preserve,” said Emily Dunn, HLT’s stewardship program manager. “So, our vision is that these Preserve Stewards would be empowered to go out on the land and get some of our long-term projects done.”

Volunteers would work both individually and as part of a team, and be dedicated to a specific property.

“We hope for these volunteers to feel invested in a preserve,” Dunn said. “You really get to know a place when you’re out there often enough, and you’ll see things that others might not pick up on right away.”

While the program would greatly aid HLT’s efforts to protect the places we all love, it offers rewards to volunteers as well. You’ll get hands-on experience learning about our local environment, and meet new friends who share your love for the outdoors. It’s also a great way to get physically active while doing something that benefits others.

“It’s a hard thing to put into words,” Dunn said, “but you gain a certain level of peace working outside. When you clear an area of invasive species or plant new natives, it can be incredibly satisfying. And it’s very gratifying to see people out there enjoying a place that you are taking care of.”

HLT also hopes teams will tackle larger-scale projects like building new trails, repairing a kiosk that needs a little TLC, or installing nest boxes for wildlife. In addition, some properties have bluebird boxes that HLT would like to monitor on a regular basis.

“Another thing we’re hoping volunteers could do, if they have an interest in it, is to start documenting what plants and wildlife they’re seeing at their preserve,” Dunn said. “This way we can really put together a bio-inventory of what species we have on a property and at what time of the year. Doing so would give us a much better sense of what we have out there on the land.”

HLT plans to kick off this program at the Zega-Lockatong Preserve in Delaware Township and the Quakertown Preserve in Franklin Township. Both properties are exceptionally popular with hikers. “Zega, in particular, has gotten a huge uptick in use over the last couple of years as people started spending more time outdoors as a result of the pandemic,” Dunn said.

Projects will vary depending upon the needs of each preserve.

No experience is needed – just an interest in working outside. Ideally, teams will comprise at least five volunteers per preserve.

“This is the kind of program where, for instance, if you’re not as familiar with invasive species, we’ll teach you how to recognize and manage them,” said Dunn, who will train the teams in the techniques and strategies used by HLT to care for our properties.

“The goal is to eventually build these volunteer teams for all of our public-access preserves and expand our capacity to accomplish even more,” Dunn said.

To become a Preserve Steward, please email emily@hunterdonlandtrust.org or call 908-237-4582.