Community Park North
Community Park North lies between Elm Road and Route 206 in Princeton Township, across Route 206 from the swimming and recreation complex. The Park's western boundary abuts Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, and its southeastern boundary abuts Route 206. Visitors can reach the Park from a parking area off Mountain Avenue or from a footpath that leads into the tract from Route 206 near the Valley Road traffic light.
The Park, a generally square tract of 71 acres, encompasses both wooded ground and open space. The meadow areas contain an amphitheater and pond, and trails in this part of the recreation area paved and suitable for wheelchair use.
An interesting feature of the Park's woodlands is the contrast between the lower land along the southern part of the Park, where one is struck by the natural competitive mixture of tree canopy, understory, and ground cover vegetation, and the mature pine plantation of the northern section. This area, separated from the lowlands by a sewer pipeline right-of-way, was once farmed. It now consists of a few Norway spruce and a preponderance of white pine planted in the 1960s. The pine forest seems cool, silent, and detached from town, except for the auto/airplane noise that creeps in.
Princeton Township acquired the Community Park North land from the Harrop Family in 1965, and with federal and state funds created the pond and amphitheater in the 1970s. In 1992, the area just east of the Mountain Avenue parking lot was rededicated as Pettoranello, Italy. For over a century, Princeton has been receiving Pettoranello artisans, many of whom helped build Princeton University. Over the years they have contributed greatly to the wealth and well being of the community. The parking lot, pond, and amphitheater area have been rejuvenated thanks to the work of scores of volunteers.
Geology and Topography
Located in New Jersey's Northern Piedmont Physiographic Province, Community Park North lies at the base of the Princeton section of the diabase ridge, and part way up its slope. The ground is flat at the southern edge along Route 206 and slopes up gently to the north and west. Maximum grade is about 5%. The underlying rocks are red shale and siltstone, and they lie near the soil surface. The soils are silt loams and are highly eroded on the hillsides, with gullies revealing the shale bedrock. Along the streams and pond soils are poorly drained, particularly in the spring and summer.
Along the stream, pond, and parking lot, there are many alders, red maples, white ash, black walnut, and box elder trees. A few white oaks, hickory, and pin oaks can also be found here, and the understory is quite varied, too. Flowering dogwood, sassafras, spicebush, barberry , blackberry, Tartarian honeysuckle and wild grape are all found here, along with some ferns, skunk cabbage, and grasses are ground cover. Wildflowers are most prevalent in the meadow area, where spring and summer bring garlic mustard, yellow mustards, milkweed, buttercups, dandelions, peppergrass, shepherd's purse, chicory, and climbing Japanese honeysuckle.
The pond is fished regularly by local fisherman for sunfish and catfish species. Crayfish are present in the stream. Presumably there is mosquito breeding in the wetlands and the upper reaches of the pond. The stream below the pond has many minnows and waterstrider bugs.
The woodlands harbor rabbits, gray squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, and heavy populations of white-tailed deer. Wild turkeys and pheasants have also been observed. Large numbers of bird species summer in the park, including robins, wood thrush, common yellow throats, phoebes, towhees, tree swallows, kingbirds, flycatchers, cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds, catbirds, and cuckoos. Other species, such as cardinals, song sparrows, starlings, flickers, downy woodpeckers, and red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents. Crows are particularly numerous in this park.
Contact Princeton Township Recreation Department for information about skating on the Community Park North pond in winter months, and entertainment scheduled in the amphitheater on summer evenings.