From Left: Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, Jack Koeppel of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, and Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom at Baldpate Mountain.Full size photo

From Left: Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, Jack Koeppel of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, and Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom at Baldpate Mountain.

CONTACT: Julie Willmot
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TRENTON, N.J.-Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes was joined yesterday by Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom and Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space to break ground for improvements to the facilities at Baldpate Mountain. The group also recognized the efforts of Ted Stiles, a renowned environmentalist, land preservationist and president of FOHVOS, who died recently and who was instrumental in preserving the mountain.

"Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain is a testament to the work and commitment of Ted Stiles to save this property and ultimately share it with the community," Hughes said yesterday at the site. Hughes pointed out that on clear days from the top of the ridge-the highest point in Mercer County-one can see as far away as Philadelphia and can eye the meandering Delaware River.

"These improvements slated for the visitor center are the starting point for great things to come on this mountain," Hughes said. The first phase of the project will refurbish the Main House and Old Lodge with accessibility ramps, a visitor center, new utilities, and more. Hughes added that the multipurpose meeting room could be outfitted for scout meetings, school groups and other organizations.

"I was amazed at the size of this property, but more so its potential,'' said Jack Koeppel of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. "We live in a highly populated state but up here on the mountain, you get a real sense of nature.''

Added Sandom, "It is important to recognize that this truly was a team effort. Many hours went into making this happen. When you are up here, you really can feel that it is a remarkable place. I want to thank all of you for keeping Ted's dream alive.''

The contract is with Scozzari Builders of Trenton in the amount of $1,689,327 and work is slated for completion by fall 2007. The project has funding from Green Acres with a 25 percent grant and a 75 percent low interest loan. Other phases to be bid later this spring include parking and site improvements, also funded by Green Acres. The mountain was preserved in 1998 for $11.4 million. The Township provided $1 million; FOHVOS $500,000; and the state, $1.5 million. Mercer County provided the remaining funds with a Green Acres grant of  $975,000, a loan of $2,925,000 and funds from the County Open Space Tax.