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Dec. 13, 2016
The Civil War Trust and the Institute for Advanced Studies has come up with an agreement to help preserve part of the historic Princeton Battlefield. The original plan was for the Institute to build housing on historic Maxwell's Field. However, today they agreed that Civil War Trust will pay $4 million to the Institute to buy 14.85 acres of land known as Maxwell's Field and expand the Battlefield State Park. The purchase will preserve two-thirds of the Maxwell's Field property, along with an extra 1.12 acre tract north of the property that has been identified by historians as part of the battlefield. We are glad that the two parties have reached this agreement because the faculty housing should not be built on land that George Washington charged the British during the Battle of Princeton in the Revolutionary War.
"This is a victory for the Princeton Battlefield now that 2/3 have been saved. This the best outcome that we could have hoped for given the fact that they had already received their necessary approvals and started to build. By preserving most of Maxwell's Field at Princeton Battlefield, this is a major step to protect the battlefield. This is a good example of what happens when people say you can't stop this project, but instead the community groups kept fighting. It shows when you stick together and persevere, you can win," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "As the site of the famous Battle of Princeton, Maxwell's Field is one of the landmark treasures in our state. The land in and around the park is environmentally sensitive wetlands and the waterways drain into the Millstone River. The Sierra Club and our members have worked for years to save this property from encroachment of surrounding development. This decision is a victory for open space and historic preservation."
The original footprint of the Institute's faculty housing project will be reduced by replacing seven single family home lots with eight more townhouses, for a total of 16 townhouses that will a be located east of Gödel Lane on Maxwell's Field. The plan also avoids any development within the Princeton Battlefield National Historic Landmark boundary, designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1961. There have been many battles here to develop this land in the past and Sierra Club member, Kip Cherry has been leading the Club's fight to protect the Park for years.
"The park was the location of the Battle of Princeton, one of the fiercest fights of the Revolutionary War. General George Washington won the battle against the British forces, making this an important victory in the War for Independence. This site holds historical value for not only the people of New Jersey, but for the country as well. Adjacent development could threaten the historical and aesthetic value of this important battlefield," said Jeff Tittel. "There is evidence of wetlands from hydric soil borings in the area that could be disturbed if this development would go through. The amount of fill from the project could change the water patterns around the wetlands and deprive them of essential water sources."
The area consists of slightly rolling land and a series of connected ponds and streams that drain to Stony Brook which is a tributary of the Millstone River. Any pollution from this development could end up in the River. The Millstone River provides both drinking water and recreational use for many members of Mercer County. The Princeton Battlefield Society agreed to suspend its litigation against the Institute, pending closing on the property by the Civil War Trust and the Institute. Once the purchase is complete, the Society will dismiss all legal challenges.
"There have been many battles here to develop this land and we are glad its most historically significant features have been preserved. By reducing the size of the development, it will have less impact to important forested areas for threatened and endangered species. Once built, we were concerned that the housing development would also add to noise and traffic and may block historical views of the battlefield and we are hoping the Institute reduces these impacts. Had the Institute worked with the environmental and historic community, we would have had similar results with the project being done by now," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "The original proposal for housing at Maxwell's Field would threaten both the historical character and the environmental integrity of the Park and its surrounding land. We are glad a compromise has been reached to preserve most of this historic land. The battle to save Princeton Battlefield shows why we need to save these historical places and the views of them for future generations."