WEST WINDSOR— The Mercer County Park Commission will hold a third meeting on the development of Dam Site 21 on Tuesday, Nov. 12, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor. The Park Commission has solicited input from the public on the improvement process by holding forums, focus group meetings and community advisory committee meetings, and through an online survey.

Park Master Plan consultants Simone Collins Landscape Architecture and Princeton Hydro presented initial ideas at the May public meeting, including possible improvements and eliciting a wide range of public opinion. The conceptual design helped identify ideas that are supported and other concepts that were less popular. 

Our consultant team and the project’s Steering Committee have carefully considered the many comments from County residents. The draft plan reflects many of those comments and suggestions and will create a unique facility that will greatly enhance the environment, while providing for safe public access and enjoyment of this great resource,” said Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson.

The Draft Master Plan will represent the Park Commission’s vision for long-term improvements to the site. After the meeting, the plan will be available on the Park Commission’s website (http://mercercountyparks.org/#!/activities/dam-site-21) for 60 days for public review and comment. The Master Plan will be presented to the Park Commission for review and approval in early 2020.

Once adopted, the Master Plan will serve as a long-term vision for improvements to the property and be implemented over multiple phases depending on funding availability and other factors. Following adoption of the Master Plan, it is expected that an additional 18 to 24 months will be required to complete construction documents and to obtain permits to construct a first phase of improvements. The earliest date for construction of any major park improvements is projected to be 2022-2023.

The Master Plan analysis identified the site’s important natural areas as well as existing conditions that are degraded and negatively affect the site. The project seeks to highlight and enhance the site’s natural amenities through the restorations of natural areas. The degraded aspects include:

  • Eutrophic pond water, which contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous and is low in oxygen.
  • Storm water run-off from surrounding storm drainage systems negatively affects water quality.
  • Many invasive plant species overcrowding and outcompeting native plant species.
  • Areas of heavy deer browse hurting unique site habitats and destroying understory bird habitat.
  • Agricultural field run-off and crop monocultures affecting water quality, plant species diversity and animal habitats.

The 279 acres of Dam Site 21 includes 49 acres of ponds. On the 230 acres of land area, proposed improvements include:

  • 34 acres of reforestation will include several thousand new trees and 64 acres of new meadows.
  • 19 acres of vernal pools that will be fenced to prevent human intrusion and deer browse to protect this important habitat.
  • Approximately 7.9 miles of various trails, including a 1.9-mile segment of the Capital to Coast Trail.
  • Kayak access area with parking and restrooms, waterfront boardwalks as integral components of the trail system, and a tree canopy walk that will give birders and nature-enthusiasts a unique perspective of the vernal pools.

Based on public comments received after presentation of the May concept plan, Draft Plan revisions include:

  • Primary park access will be from Old Trenton Road in West Windsor, secondary access from Line Road in Robbinsville, and minor access from Hughes Drive in Hamilton at the existing Mercer Soil Conservation District office. There is no net increase in parking along Hughes Drive.
  • The park’s Core Activities Area is located as far away from all existing residences as possible, thereby respecting neighbors’ privacy.
  • Combs Road will have no major site improvements, strictly restoration to meadows and trails.
  • Playgrounds will be relocated to the Core Activities Area.
  • No shared parking or public trails through the adjacent Mercer Technical School.
  • Elimination of possible future pedestrian access at Clarion Court.

Of the Miry Run Ponds’ 230 acres of land area, only 17 acres, or approximately 7.4 percent of the site, would be disturbed for trails, parking and other park visitor facilities. The site’s valuable natural features will be augmented through the establishment of 34 acres of new forest and 64 acres of native meadow.