Manchester and Berkeley Townships, Ocean County
One of the Trust’s premiere preserves, and certainly its
largest, Crossley highlights important aspects of open space preservation:
endangered species protection, historic and cultural sites, environmental
education and outdoor recreation. Crossley is named for the forgotten
clay-mining town dating to the late 1800’s. Clay dug from
Crossley was used to produce brick, terra cotta and pottery. Surface
pits that were dug to extract the clay now form dozens of ponds
used for breeding by Pine Barrens treefrogs. The old “donkey”
railroad hauled the clay from the pits to load onto waiting train
cars along the former Pennsylvania Railroad. The “donkey”
railroad now serves as a portion of the 1.5-mile Thomas F. Hampton
interpretive trail at Crossley. The hiking trail, named in memory
of Thomas F. Hampton, past Executive Director of the NJ Natural
Lands Trust, travels through all habitat types of the Crossley
Preserve: pitch pine uplands and lowlands, shrub oak and laurels,
even areas scorched by past wildfires. Along the trail are abandoned
cranberry bogs now grown into solid stands of Atlantic white cedar.
Visitors view signs along the way about Pine Barrens ecology,
wildfire and controlled or prescribed fire methods, research on
endangered pine and corn snakes, endangered plants including the
federally threatened Knieskern’s beaked rush and the delicate
state endangered Pickering’s morning glory. The trail also
points out the features and artifacts of the ruins of Crossley.
Public Access and Uses:
Best access to Crossley’s Thomas F. Hampton interpretive
trail is from Crossley Road. Crossley Road (dirt) intersects Pinewald-Keswick
Road (Route 530) approximately 1.5 miles east of Miller AirPark.
Crossley also has extensive frontage on Route 530 but limited
roadside parking. NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife manages the
adjoining Whiting Wildlife Management Area. The Trust allows registration
for deer hunting at this preserve.