MIDLAND PARK — A patch of woods in the borough was a favorite of local philanthropist David Bolger, whose foundation recently announced that it would donate the 3 acres to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Bolger in 1979 placed a conservation easement on the land, which is split between Midland Park and Ridgewood. He maintained the woods, clearing brush and litter from the property behind the Elm Court home where he raised his family, said his son, J.T. Bolger.

The woods in Ridgewood and Midland Park. (Photo: Alexis Shanes)

“Those woods were one of his joys,” J.T. Bolger said. “We spent many a time in those woods. It was like our oasis. We used to eat the blackberries off the bushes that grew there.”

David Bolger died in 2018. He was an influential Bergen County philanthropist, donating nearly $100 million to local causes during his lifetime. The Bolger Foundation has continued his work, most recently offering a $1 million challenge grant to the Ridgewood Public Library.  

The woods are home to more than 70 bird species, including great horned owls, hawks and migratory songbirds, according to the Conservation Foundation, which protects around 125,000 acres of land in the state. Spokeswoman Sandy Perry said the area is also home to common suburban animals, such as deer and foxes. 

“It’s one of the last remaining forested properties in the area,” said Conservation Foundation Executive Director Michele Byers, “so it’s important for wildlife — and also for local residents looking for a quiet place to connect with nature.” 

Visitors can walk a 0.15-mile path through the property starting at the end of Elm Court. Street parking is available.

“My father’s goal was to have it preserved for people to enjoy and walk,” J.T. Bolger said. “We hope the public realizes it’s there and gets to use it.

“And maybe they’ll pick up a piece of trash or two,” he added. “My dad would like that.”

The original reporting includes a slideshow, video and text. Click here to view the original presentation (paywall).

This story was produced in collaboration with the New Jersey Sustainability Reporting Hub project. It was originally reported by Alexis Shanes for northjersey.com, and may be re-distributed through the Creative Commons License, with attribution.

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