In 1954, George and Lillian Willoughby bought the old farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War, at the end of Pine Avenue in the Blackwood Terrace section of Deptford Township, sitting on top of a hill a thousand feet from Big Timber Creek.In 1974, the Willoughby's established the Delaware Valley Land Trust, thus creating a vision of a land trust. They placed their own home and three acres of land in the trust and bought additional property as it came up for sale. Three years later, they purchased 33 acres adjoining the farmhouse property. This additional acreage was originally part of the Moffa farm, whose old farmhouse still stands on the other side of Big Timber Creek, part of the only remaining undeveloped land in Gloucester Township. Prior to the Moffas, the land was held by the Whitalls and Coopers, two important local families of the colonial era.The initial vision of the land trust was to form a small community of residential houses for like-minded individuals. The plan was for about 10 houses on half- to one-acre lots with the remainder of the 35-acre parcel of woods, meadow and marsh to be preserved as open space. The final rejection of this plan by Deptford Township occurred in 1989, so plans were changed to create a land trust whereby no development would take place.Its successor, Old Pine Farm Natural Lands Trust, was established in 1992 to oversee the care and use of the land. The trust, a nonprofit voluntary membership organization, is governed by a Board of Trustees selected by the members of the trust. The trust's purpose is to conserve the natural aspects of the site and educate the public about this important environmental treasure along Big Timber Creek. In 1997, the trust became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Consisting of more than 45 acres of land, Old Pine Farm is one of the few remaining natural and protected areas along the highly developed tidal portion of Big Timber Creek. It offers a variety of terrain, including a meadow, woodlands, and wetlands, while being surrounded on three sides by many acres of fresh water in the Big Timber Creek.
Walt Whitman first discovered the Big Timber Creek during his stays at the Stafford Family farm in Laurel Springs from 1876 to 1882. He walked along the creek and its surrounding areas and wrote about the nature he saw, which he included in his collection of essays, Specimen Days. When you walk the land trust today, Whitman's essays come alive, as though he wrote them just yesterday. The land trust is a current, living reflection of what Whitman experienced so long ago.from Specimen Days: "I write this down in the country again, but in a new spot, seated on a log in the woods, warm, sunny, midday. I have been loafing here deep among the trees, shafts of tall pines, oak, hickory, with a thick undergrowth of laurels and grapevines..."
This protected land along the Big Timber Creek, with its upland woods, open meadow, and tidal wetlands, supports many indigenous and migratory species.The creek is home to many fish, including yellow and white perch, largemouth and striped bass, channel catfish, carp, chain pickerel, American eel, and sunfish. Migratory American shad and blueback herring are also present in the right seasons. Freshwater clams are common and blue claw crabs visit when there is a low water condition in the Delaware River.Many native plants are found in or near the wetlands, such as wild rice, swamp rose, smooth Solomon's seal, fringed Loosestrife, spotted touch-me-not, pickerel weed, marsh marigold, turtlehead, giant sunflower, cattail, skunk cabbage, and Turk's cap lily.The meadow contains many wildflowers, such as the Deptford pink, blue toad flax, sweet everlasting, groundnut, yarrow, Queen Anne's lace, prickly pear cactus, smaller pussy toes, rabbit's foot clover, and Venus' looking glass.There are many wildlife species in the area, including fish-eating birds such as the blue heron, green heron, great egret, belted kingfisher, double-crested cormorant and greater yellowlegs. Other common wildlife species include the red-tailed hawk, marsh hawk, osprey, red-bellied woodpecker, junco, cardinal, swamp sparrow, box turtle, painted turtle, muskrat, and gray squirrel.Various times of the year, migratory wildlife also pass through the area. During the winter, Turkey Vultures hunt in the area from their nearby winter roost of Wenonha, NJ, and for the lucky few, Tundra Swans can be witnessed as they pass through to and from winter nesting grounds further south.
Recreational use of Old Pine Farm is passive and relaxing in nature.
Bird Watching: There are three ecosystems to choose from, each with its own variety of birds to observe in each.
Identifying Trees: We count at least twenty different species of trees, including beech, black oak, chestnut oak, Virginia pine, choke cherry, hickory, walnut, and evergreens.
Walking: You can walk the trails any time of year. Observe the early signs of spring, enjoy summer wildflowers, marvel at fall foliage, identify wildlife by their pawprints in the mud or snow. This is a good way to introduce your children to nature.
Sitting in Silence: See and hear the power of nature at work. Be surprised at how refreshed you can feel after a quiet hour in the meadow or woods.
Canoeing: An adventure on the Big Timber Creek. We even have a launch ramp of our own on the far side of the meadow.
These restrictions are in place to preserve the ecosystem: No hunting, weapons, motorized vehicles, alcohol, drugs, open fires, swimming or trapping. Please do not pick the wildflowers. Please dispose of your trash responsibly. You may dispose of your trash at the can available next to the parking entrance.Naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts have a motto: Take only pictures, Leave only footprints.