Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Trail Non-Profit Moves into Historic School

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Trail Non-Profit Moves into Historic School

Article excerpt

MAHWAH -- One of Bergen County's most majestic architectural structures began a new life Tuesday as the headquarters of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Dozens of supporters, conference members and professionals who worked on the project packed the former first-floor schoolroom in the two-story building, where blackboards are still embedded in the walls, to celebrate the near completion of the more than $4 million project that has spanned a dozen years.

"It seemed like a crazy thing to do, but we did it," said Ed Goodell, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a non-profit that maintains more than 2,100 miles of hiking trails. Goodell spoke about the work that went into acquiring the 124-year-old building, stabilizing it and doubling it in size.

The appraisers' statement when the building was being purchased said that the best and highest use for the site was to demolish the fieldstone and shingle structure and build a single-family home.

"That was the reality if people didn't step forward and help us," Goodell said.

The trail conference cobbled together about $2 million in grant money to obtain the roughly 3-acre property and restore the existing portion. An additional $2 million to expand and furnish the building was raised through private fundraising campaigns.

Adam Strobel, director of the Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund said, though skeptical when Goodell first called him, the county had an interest in preserving the schoolhouse.

"This is just one example of how we leverage dollars from the public side and private side to be able to have a vision come to be," he said.

Exterior work remains unfinished but the trail conference obtained its certificate of occupancy at the end of March and moved its offices into the upstairs space. A store and public area is on the lower level.

Much of the remaining work - landscape planting, a stone wall, a crushed stone walkway from nearby Ramapo College to the trails, parking lot and pathway lights, and a final coat of asphalt for the driveway - is expected to be completed by fall. …

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