Area philanthropist tells residents to take a hike

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

    A walk in the woods results in thousands donated to local groups BYRAM - A Byram philanthropist asked area residents to take a hike on Saturday to support the township’s schools, fire department and emergency rescue squad The owner of the Hudson Farm in Byram pledged $1 per year age of each hiker towards his or her choice of either the Byram Township schools, Bryam Fire Department or Lakeland Emergency Squad. More than 500 hikers took up the invitation and strolled the 3.5 mile course that offered a front seat view of the changing leaves. Byram township manager Greg Poff said the farm’s owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been involved in a number of local charitable causes, particularly those involving open space. Poff said the philanthropist recently donated two all-terrain vehicles and trailers to the township police department for officers to patrol against vandals destroying area trails. “A substantial amount of the farm’s holdings are in Byram,” said Poff. “It’s an opportunity for a good neighbor to give back to the community.” In an interview last week, Poff said the township would provide logistical and public safety support during the event. “It was cool. You got to cross the river,” said Kimberly Ellis, who attended the event with her mother and two brothers. The Ellis split their donations among the three charities. “The hike was long but fun. We did it because we wanted better stuff for our school and our town,” said Becca Meelosky, taking a break after hiking the trail with her friend Megan Griff. At the end the event raised some $19,000, with the school receiving $11,000, the emergency squad $5,000 and the fire department $3,000. “People were exited that they had a trail in their town,” said Marie Raffay, a Byram resident who helped organize the benefit hike. “They wanted to see some part of their town they had not seen before.” According to Raffay, the farm owner is already planning on repeating the event next year. The farm, which is located on Sparta-Stanhope Road, formerly served as a backdrop for New York City children and artists for about 80 years dating back to 1877. The current owner bought the farm nine years ago and has used it as a private commercial hunting preserve. The designated trail through the farm includes several miles of the 160-mile Highlands Trail which will eventually connect the Hudson River in Orange County, N.Y., and the Delaware River in Hunterdon County.