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In 1973, volunteers and community activists worked to preserve the land that is Flat Rock Brook Nature Center. These visionaries had the foresight to preserve the land in a densely populated suburb that was experiencing rapid development. However, the land that is today a nature preserve and education center has a long history of varied land use and conservation successes. Our timeline provides a historical snapshot of our preserve – one of the last remnants of the Palisades Forest – and of the Flat Rock Brook Watershed.

A Timeline History of Flat Rock Brook

pdfRead the full history of the Flat Rock Brook Watershed by Dustin Griffin, historian and former trustee of Flat Rock Brook.


1850 Most of the land in what later became the city of Englewood still held in large farms, long, narrow tracts extending from the Overpeck Creek to the Hudson River (so as to include hay meadow, farmland, and woodland), belonging for generations to old settler families (Van Nostrands, Van Brunts, Westervelts, Lydeckers, and Vanderbecks).
1859 The Northern Railroad reaches Englewood. Large-scale logging on the western slope of the Palisades to provide railroad ties.
1876 A pond (later known as Macfadden's Pond), is created by damming the Flat Rock Brook, first appears on a map. On an 1880 map it is marked as "Vanderbeck's Millpond," evidently the site of a sawmill.
1891 Palisade Railroad proposes construction of north-south light rail line through Flat Rock Brook land to Palisade Avenue and beyond, and begins buying land.
1893 William O. Allison buys large tract of land (including what is now the Allison Woods Park section of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center) from Garrett Lydecker.
1900 The Englewood Crushed Stone Co. (later the Prentice Co.), headquartered in Englewood, leases land and operates the quarry off Jones Road for production of crushed stone. Quarrying operations continue until about 1925.


1924 At his death William O. Allison leaves undeveloped woodland (including what is now the "Allison Woods Park" portion of Flat Rock Brook) in the hands of a trust.
1927 Paterno Construction Co. begins buying and selling land in what is now Flat Rock Brook Nature Center in preparation for residential development. Lays out grid of streets and constructs Van Nostrand Ave. from Jones Rd. through to Summit St. Sells quarry site to City of Englewood for proposed firehouse, school, and playground. Project collapses when stock market crashes in October 1929, but property remains in the hands of dozens of individual buyers and (when buyers failed to pay property taxes) the city seizes the land.


1953 Allison trustees attempt to sell "Allison Woods" for residential development. Plan rejected by state courts. Court decision reaffirmed in 1956 and 1957.
1964 New Jersey voters approve the first "Green Acres" bond issue, for public acquisition and preservation of undeveloped land.
1966 South Woodland St. resident Campbell Norsgaard, naturalist and noted nature photographer, urges that Flat Rock Brook "woods" be protected from development. "Green Lands for Englewood" association formed, to build support for plans to acquire undeveloped land in Englewood. City of Englewood applies for and receives state funds.
1968 Englewood voters approve city bond issue to acquire open land. City begins buying property at what is now the Nature Center. Land acquisition continues until 1976. In 1969 Englewood Conservation Commission is established to recommend policies and programs for public use of newly acquired land.
1973 Englewood Nature Association, independent nonprofit organization, founded. First executive director Peter Brooks is hired.
1974 Englewood Nature Association is renamed the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association. Leases newly-acquired land from the city for 25 years. Trail Guide program for school children begins.
1975 Allison Woods Park trustees again seek approval to sell land for residential development. Petition rejected by court in 1977.
1980 Nature Center building opens.
1988 Flat Rock Brook Nature Association named trustee of the 75-acre Allison Woods Park. First education director appointed.
1989 Quarry boardwalk trail constructed. First full-time ranger/land manager hired.
1992 "Backyard Habitat for Wildlife" native plant gardens constructed by volunteers from the Garden Club of Englewood with funding from the Garden Club of America.
1993 Flat Rock Brook celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Priscilla McKenna is honored with the presentation of the first Campbell Norsgaard Award.
1998 Flat Rock Brook celebrates its 25th anniversary. Marie Karanfilian honored with second Campbell Norsgaard award. Flat Rock Brook Gardeners group organized to create and maintain demonstration gardens and the Backyard Habitat.


2001 Nature Playground constructed at Jones Road picnic area.
2003 Flat Rock Brook celebrates its 30th Anniversary. At the 30th Anniversary gala, Carolyn Stenzel was honored with the third Campbell Norsgaard Award.
2009 The first forty-six solar panels in two arrays are installed on the interpretive center’s roof, a first step in the Nature Center’s efforts to make its facilities greener.
2012 Flat Rock Brook opens its new interpretive exhibit "A Walk in the Woods" in memory of long time trustee Sam Gold. "A Walk in the Woods” focuses on the habitats found at Flat Rock Brook. Flat Rock Brook also began the complete renovation of its gardens including the Backyard Habitat (now the Native Habitat Gardens). The restoration of Quarry Pond was completed.
2013 The Nature Center builds a four bay raptor aviary to house birds of prey that are used in the Nature Center’s education programming. Flat Rock Brook celebrates its 40th Anniversary with the fourth Campbell Norsgaard Award going to Louise Pitkin.
2014 Flat Rock Brook receives approval from the New Jersey Forest Service for a 10 year Forest Stewardship Plan that will guide the Nature Center’s plans to create a better forest ecosystem.
2015 Ken Albert receives the fifth Campbell Norsgaard Award at the Nature Center’s annual Recognition Dinner.
2016 The City of Englewood provides funding for a deer exclosure that will help protect the majority of Flat Rock Brook’s forested lands from deer damage. A second set of forty-two solar panels are added to the Nature Center’s roof accounting for a total of eighty-eight panels that generate nearly half the electricity needs for Flat Rock Brook.


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