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Volunteers promote trails and equine rides for public in NJ

Lusscroft Farm has a network of trails that connects the site with additional trails in High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest. The major purpose of this event has been to reintroduce the concept of equine trail rides to this area of New Jersey.

From the Heritage & Agriculture Association, Sussex, New Jersey

For the past four years Janice Elsishans has coordinated an equine trail ride on National Trails Day (June) originating from Lusscroft Farm in Sussex County, New Jersey. Lusscroft Farm has a network of trails that connects the site with additional trails in High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest. The major purpose of this event has been to reintroduce the concept of equine trail rides to a facility and area of New Jersey that had a long history of similar activities beginning in the mid 1970’s until the Lusscroft Farm site closed in the mid 1990’s. Each year up to 50 people participate in the National Trails Day equine trail ride.

In 2005 at the request of Glen Vetrano, Sussex County Freeholder, and Kevin Mitchell, retired 4-H administrator, Janice Elsishans volunteered to coordinate the revival of equine trail ride activities at Lusscroft Farm. Glen provided a 20’ x 20’ tent and commercial style BBQ grill for the first activity. Donna Traylor also provided assistance with advertising the activity. Another aspect of the preparation for the 2005 equine trail ride was clearing and reopening the Lusscroft Farm trail system. Each year since 2005 the number of available trails increased until 2008 when all of the original trail system was reopened.

Under the guidance of Kevin Mitchell, with assistance from Wes Demerest, Glen Vetrano, Dick Bayles, Frank Hennion, Cub Scout Pack 84, Boy Scout Troop 84, I Spy Science 4-H Club, New Jersey Society of American Forester volunteers, and Boy Scout Troop 1 the Lusscroft Farm trail system was cleared, marked, and reopened. In 2007 and 2008 Frank Hennion, New Jersey Forest Service, utilized the Global Positioning Satellite system to develop a map of the Lusscroft Farm trail system. This map can be accessed via the Heritage and Agriculture Association web site at

In addition to the National Trails Day rides Janice Elsishans has also implemented overnight trail rides conducted in early autumn. Janice utilized volunteers from the equine community and volunteers from the nonprofit organization, Heritage & Agriculture Association, to implement these equine activities.

In 2006 Frank Hennion made arrangements for and also paid for repairs to a tractor donated to Lusscroft Farm. This tractor is used by Dick Bayles for clearing corrals and barnyards at the Lusscroft Farm Equine Facilities.

During the past two years Janice Elsishans has worked with Sue Gerber and Dick Bayles, Heritage & Agriculture Association volunteers, to secure an $8000.00 grant from National Recreational Trails to install fencing for new corral areas and for much needed repairs to two pole barns originally built in the mid 1970’s for equine programs at Lusscroft Farm when it was the Rutgers University 4-H Youth Center for Outdoor Education (commonly referred to as the Beemerville 4-H Camp).

The revival of equine trail rides at Lusscroft Farm has resulted in an opportunity for people to experience firsthand a part of New Jersey that is not concrete and overcrowded cities. In addition to the equine use of the Lusscroft Farm trail system; the general public was invited to use the trail system year round at a May 17, 2008 trail reopening ceremony attended by over 35 people. In the fall of 2007 Kevin Mitchell nominated the Lusscroft trail system to be included in the Skylands Edition of the New Jersey Audubon Birding and Wildlife Trails Project. In April 2008 the Lusscroft Farm trail system was included in the Swartswood Lake Trail (Sussex County) of the Skylands Edition of the New Jersey Audubon Birding and Wildlife Trails Project located at

Lusscroft Farm is approximately 578 acres nestled in the foothills of the Kittatinny Mountains of Northwest New Jersey. This site has a rich and diverse history spanning over 100 years.

During the early 1900’s James Turner a Montclair, New Jersey stockbroker, purchased the property and invested over $500,000 to make what he named Lusscroft Farm a perfect model of dairy farming. In 1931 Mr. Turner donated Lusscroft Farm to the State of New Jersey because of his “interest in agricultural research and education and in furtherance of human progress and welfare”.

As a result of his donation, the North Jersey Dairy Branch of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station was established and administered by Rutgers University. Research in artificial insemination and genetic improvements to dairy cattle, grassland farming and ensilage, and improved nutritional values in food and feed was conducted at the site until 1970.

In 1973 through the efforts of Thomas J. Murphy the site was reopened as the Rutgers University 4-H Youth Center for Outdoor Education (commonly referred to as the Beemerville 4-H Camp). Children and adults from all of New Jersey visited the site throughout the year to learn about agriculture and the natural environment.

The trail system was established during 1975 and 1976 for summer activities that included horseback riding, recreational hiking, and environmental programs. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Kevin Mitchell coordinated the expansion of the trail system at the Beemerville 4-H Camp resulting in the trails being utilized throughout the year by a variety of groups including schools, community groups, and horse & pony associations.

Rutgers University suspended operation of the Beemerville 4-H camp in 1997. As of 2002 jurisdiction of the Lusscroft Farm site was transferred from Rutgers University to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry. After public hearings were conducted in 2004 and 2005 the Division of Parks and Forestry accepted a Management Plan for Lusscroft Farm. The Management Plan recommended the establishment of an agricultural heritage center with emphasis and opportunities for education in the dairy industry, outdoor recreation, historical interpretation, equine trails, heirloom gardening, forestry, maple sugaring, and all phases of farming from organic gardening to marketing value added products.

In 2005 the non profit, volunteer organization named the Heritage & Agriculture Association, was designated as a “friends group” to work with the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry to raise funds to stabilize and restore Lusscroft Farm. For additional information about the Heritage & Agriculture Association visit the web site at

Published May 2008

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