LHT Historic Site – Parks for the People
Parks for the People
The County of Mercer boasts close to a dozen parks and other recreational facilities, all geared to support the health and well-being of residents and visitors. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail wends its way through Mercer Meadows which, at more than 1,600 acres, is one of the larger tracts of County-owned land set aside for the pleasure of the public. Mercer Meadows is a combination of Rosedale Park, where you are now, and the former AT&T Pole Farm and other surrounding open space subsequently acquired by the County.. Mercer Meadows is devoted chiefly to passive recreation and offers a fascinating blend of nature and history along with opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, fishing and boating.
Above: Avid anglers sit on the dam in the foreground and line the banks of Rosedale Lake at the opening of trout season in the spring of 1975 (Mercer County Park Commission).
Rosedale Park has its origins almost a century ago in a recommendation of the Mercer County Planning Commission in 1931 that the County create a park commission and develop its own park system.
This aerial photograph from 1930 shows how Rosedale Park and Mercer Meadows were created by the County of Mercer from a broad swath of agricultural land in Lawrence and Hopewell townships.
Stony Brook was one of five stream corridors suggested for park development and, as a first step toward realizing the County’s goal, Pennington Borough in 1933-35 took on the task of rebuilding the dam at Pennington Mill and restoring the millpond about a half mile upstream of here. This initial project was undertaken by local workers employed through the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
Stony Brook Park, as Rosedale Park was first known, gradually took shape between the 1930s and the late 1960s as the County acquired properties piecemeal, stitching together the recreational preserve that we know today.
Horseback riders canter across the bed of partially created Rosedale Lake in September of 1969 (Mercer County Park Commission).
The smaller water body within the park – the six-acre Willow Pond that hides across the lake and beyond the trees – was created around 1960 as a water conservation project and for fishing, while that land parcel was still in private hands. It was finally acquired by the County from the Blackwell family in 1968, along with the historic Hunt House where the Mercer County Park Commission is now headquartered. The large 40-acre Rosedale Lake in front of you was constructed in 1969-70, a publicly funded endeavor that also included the razing of the old Blackwell farmstead that was clustered around the spot where the playground is today.
The land now covered by Rosedale Park was once rich and productive farmland.
Mercer County officials gather for the Stony Brook Park groundbreaking in 1969 on the porch of the soon-to-be demolished Blackwell farmhouse (Mercer County Park Commission).
First cleared and settled early in the 18th century, this gently rolling terrain alongside Stony Brook was long associated with the Blackwells, one of Hopewell’s pioneer families. The first of the family to reside in this area was Robert Blackwell, Jr., who moved here from Newtown, Long Island circa 1700-1710. Roughly half of the park acreage was acquired by Mercer County from Blackwell descendants in 1968.