State, county and local officials gathered with members of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Wednesday afternoon to officially usher in the second phase of its restoration and renovation of the Darlington Schoolhouse.
The volunteer environmental group, which maintains nature trails throughout Bergen County and the Hudson Valley, N.Y., maps those trails for area hikers and promotes education about trails, nature and hiking, broke ground at the historic Mahwah building at the end of Darlington Ave. last March. The NYNJTC is planning to use the schoolhouse, originally built in the 1800’s, as its headquarters.
Wednesday’s ceremony marked the finish of the restoration of the exterior of the building, and the beginning of a capital campaign to finance the renovation of the interior, which will include preservation of the 4,400 square foot building, and a 3,900 sq. foot addition to it.
According to NYNJTC Executive Director Ed Goodell, the project began in 2007, when the Conference began working with the county and township to acquire the schoolhouse. The building was privately owned at the time, and had not been used for years. With grant money from the NJ Green Acres Fund and the Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund, Mahwah and the Trail Conference became co-owners of the property.
Since then, Goodell said the group has raised about $2.2M, including grants from the state’s and county’s Historic Preservation Trust Funds, to put toward the project. Some of that money was spent during the now-completed Phase One of the project, and “some is left for Phase Two,” Goodell said.
However, the director estimates the group still has about $1.5M more to raise before the project can be paid for in its entirety.
Goodell, TC volunteers and state and county officials seemed optimistic about being able to raise the funds Wednesday, saying that cooperation between multiple agencies and groups has made the project successful so far.
“An incredible amount of teamwork goes into projects like this,” Stephanie Cherry-Farmer, the Senior Programs Director for Preservation New Jersey, said at the ceremony. She called the local advocates of the project and the coordination between TC volunteers, and the township, county and state, “great work.”
Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and Dean of the School of Theoretical and Applied Science at Ramapo College, Dr. Edward Saiff, addressed the crowd Wednesday to say the restored Darlington Schoolhouse will become an important part of the township and the college.
The schoolhouse “will be a centerpiece of our community,” Laforet said, while commending the TC for being able to raise funds for the restoration of the “beautiful place” during tough economic times.
The nearby Ramapo Reservation is “a part of the home of [Ramapo College’s 5,200 students] in a very real way,” Saiff, who also serves as a Trail Conference Board member, said. He said the school, located across the street from the DSH, is looking forward to furthering the relationship between the college and the conference moving forward.
Anyone interested in becoming involved with the Trail Conference’s Darlington Schoolhouse project can contact Jennifer Easterbrook at Jennifer@nynjtc.org or 201-512-9348 x 24.