RU Ecological Preserve Mission Statement
The EcoPreserve was established in 1976 by the Rutgers Board of Governors with the goal of preserving the natural ecological characteristics of the property and that it serve as outdoor teaching area for the university.
A Brief History
The Rutgers Ecological Preserve and Natural Teaching Area is a designated 316 acre tract of land that is part of a larger 425 acre tract of undeveloped forest land. The EcoPreserve directly abuts with Rutgers University’s Livingston Campus. During colonial days, most of the EcoPreserve was part of the estates of “gentleman/woman” farmers that graced the bluffs along River Road above the Raritan River lowlands. The Metlar-Bodine house, just outside the SW corner of the EcoPreserve, still stands today. Another estate, Ross Hall was noted for its vineyard and the production of fine wines. General George Washington attended several galas at Ross Hall during the Revolutionary War and both American and British troops camped on EcoPreserve lands at different times. While most of the EcoPreserve was used for farming or pasturing livestock during this period, one section was released from cultivation in the mid 1800’s. This section today is dominated by a beautiful stand of mature red, white and black oaks along with beech, maples and hickories and is known locally as Kilmer Woods. The famous poet, Joyce Kilmer, reputedly lived in the greater New Brunswick area as a boy. A portion of the Ross Hall estate was made into a golf course in the early 1900’s which was then later developed as the present day Ross Hall residential area. By the 1940’s, any remaining farm fields were abandoned to natural succession. Those portions of the EcoPreserve are dominated by red cedar, pin oak, white ash and red maple woodlands.
Shortly after the US entered WWII, the US Army built one of the largest military staging areas, with over 11,000 workers finishing “Camp Kilmer” in a record six months. The Camp was named after Joyce Kilmer who dies in World War I. There are many remnants of the camp that you can see today, from the barracks outside the preserve, to the fences, telephone poles, and bunkers within it, where munitions were serviced or stored. The munitions were kept here away from the main facility in case of any accidental explosions. After the war, returning soldiers were processed here, and then the camp was used as a refugee center for Hungarians refugees in 1956.
Rutgers University acquired the land in stages with the first acquisition in 1945 and the last in 1963. Most of the land was acquired directly from or was held at one time by members of the Johnson and Johnson family. The EcoPreserve was formally established in 1976 by the Rutgers Board of Governors as the Rutgers Ecological Preserve and Natural Teaching Area with the goal of preserving the natural ecological characteristics of the property and that it serve as outdoor teaching area for the university. Present day management of the EcoPreserve tries to maintain this balance between preserving, if not restoring, the area’s ecological system and natural values while continuing to expand the EcoPreserve’s role as an educational, recreational and aesthetic resource for University students, faculty and staff as well as local citizens.