New beginnings and nearly a century of service were celebrated at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference’s grand opening event on Saturday, Sept. 12. Along with members, local officials, and the community, the Trail Conference marked its first trail season at the historic Darlington Schoolhouse headquarters while kicking off the organization’s 95th year of creating, protecting, and promoting trails.
The headquarters in Mahwah, N.J., is located at 600 Ramapo Valley Road between Ramapo Valley County Reservation and Ramapo College of New Jersey. A brief program and commemorative tree-planting opened the event.
“We have been striving for 95 years to involve the public in protecting and promoting public lands,” said Trail Conference Executive Director Edward Goodell. “It is fitting that the Trail Conference is inhabiting a schoolhouse—and an old one at that. “We still have much to learn in this rapidly changing environment and feel lucky to pursue our mission where so many children learned to pursue their own calling.”
Attendees enjoyed hikes, workshops, and tours of the 124-year-old schoolhouse and new addition. Local children attended classes in the original building from 1891 until the 1940s. It had been empty for 40 years and badly needed repair when the Trail Conference and Township of Mahwah jointly purchased the schoolhouse in 2007. Following an eight-year effort to meticulously restore and repurpose the building, the Trail Conference received a 2015 Bergen County Historic Preservation Trust Award for adaptive use and one of 10 prestigious 2015 New Jersey Historic Preservation Trust awards.
“Caring for this building is a significant responsibility that’s been made possible through the donations of Trail Conference members, local residents, foundations, and public support from Mahwah, Bergen County, and the State of New Jersey. We are proud to be part of an effort that has revitalized this community landmark,” Goodell said.
Ramapo Valley Reservation was the perfect setting for a kid-friendly nature hike, a yoga hike, a history hike, and a more challenging 4.5-mile hike. Workshops—including an introduction to map and compass land navigation; how trail maps are made, and an introduction to the Invasive Species Strike Force—allowed hikers to brush up on their outdoor skills.
“We look forward to hosting many more activities at the new headquarters in the year ahead, including volunteer recognition events, delegates meetings, corporate events, educational workshops, and fun gatherings, to engage people of all ages with the Trail Conference,” said Don Weise, Trail Conference membership and development director. “It’s exciting to see how quickly the new headquarters has attracted public interest in our work and our mission.”
The grand opening was made possible by the generosity of lead sponsor, United Water New Jersey, and through sponsorships and donations from Inserra Supermarkets, Inc./ShopRite, Northwestern Mutual, L.L. Bean, and Secor Farms of Mahwah. Special thanks to our Volunteer Committee and all of the volunteers who made this special day a great success.