Flat Rock Brook

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Flat Rock Brook Nature Center [1]

Flat Rock.jpg


It was in the troubled late 1960s that efforts were begun that led ultimately to the founding of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center in 1975. The story has often been told, but it bears repeating in outline form. Campbell Norsgaard, an eminent nature photographer who lived on South Woodland Street, deploring the abuse of the woods and fearing that they would be ruined, began to bring the problem to the attention of local residents. Passage in 1964 of a state “Green Acres” bond issue for the purpose of acquiring and preserving undeveloped land, raised hopes that public money might be found to buy the woods. In 1966 a group that called itself “Green Land for Englewood” formed to lobby the city to apply for “Green Acres” funds – which required that the applicant commit to spend local tax dollars on the project too. The city council agreed to apply for funds and in 1968 proposed a local bond issue for land acquisition. In part due to strong support from the League of Women Voters, and despite some local opposition, voters approved the bond issue, and the city began the laborious process of appraising and buying (and in some cases condemning) property, including two lots that once belonged to Bernarr Macfadden. The last pieces were not acquired until 1976. Much of the property had suffered heavy abuse over the years. Most spectacular, perhaps, were the rusted hulks of cars half-buried at the foot of the quarry cliffs. Equally wounding was the raw state of the North Meadow, where top soil and brookside gravel had been scraped off the land as late as the 1960s, probably by unscrupulous contractors. Photographs from 1972 show that the streets Paterno had bulldozed through the woods were in some cases still passable dirt roads, in other cases grown over with shoulder-high brush.

Conservation Commission

By 1969 enough property had been acquired that the city established a Conservation Commission to manage the land and recommend plans for repair of environmental degradation, maintenance, and eventual public use. Local resident Priscilla McKenna was appointed its first chair. Renamed the Environmental Commission, the group built support for further land acquisition and coordinated land management, but it concluded that long-term management would best be accomplished by a nongovernmental body, immune from year-to-year political pressure. It encouraged the formation of the nonprofit Englewood Nature Association, which was duly organized and held its first meeting in March 1973. This group elected officers and established plans for maintaining the land as a nature preserve and presenting environmental education programs, especially for school children. The acquired property, now owned by the City of Englewood, was leased to the Association for $1 a year for a period of twenty-five years. To emphasize that it sought to serve more than the residents of Englewood, the Association in 1974 renamed itself the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association.

Allison Woods Trustees

The struggle to save the land was not over. In 1975 the Allison Woods trustees again sought approval from the courts to sell their portion of the woods for commercial development. In anticipation of approval, they invited developers to submit proposals, one of which called for the construction of a “major tennis center” on fifteen acres. After a strenuous legal battle, the trustees’ petition to the court was rejected. Finally, in 1988, the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association was named successor trustee, and the one hundred twenty five acres on the Flat Rock Brook watershed were at last united under single management.

External Links


  1. Griffin, Dustin. "The History of the Flat Rock Brook watershed". scholarly. D Griffin. http://www.flatrockbrook.org/about/Flat_Rock_Brook.pdf. Retrieved 2/4/2015.