WOODLAND TWP.— With about 30 people looking on, the A.R. DeMarco Cranberry Meadows Natural Area within the Franklin Parker Preserve was dedicated on Oct. 3, in honor of the family that made the preservation of the 9,400-acre property possible.
“I know my parents would have been delighted with what’s happened here, absolutely delighted,” said J. Garfield DeMarco of Hammonton, who ran the cranberry and blueberry growing operation started by his late father, Anthony, before selling the property to New Jersey Conservation Foundation in 2003.
“My father had an almost mystical attachment to this property. He just loved the land, loved the nature,” added DeMarco. “It’s a paradise, really.”
Anthony R. DeMarco, the son of an Italian immigrant who worked in the cranberry bogs, began buying property in the Pine Barrens in 1940 to start his own business. After Anthony’s death in 1964, J. Garfield DeMarco took over A.R. DeMarco Enterprises at the age of 26 and expanded it into one of the largest cranberry operations in the world.
DeMarco said he and his sister, Anna Lynne DeMarco Papinchak, ultimately decided to preserve the property so that all could enjoy their paradise. “I like to think that if my parents were still alive, they would have made the same decision,” he said.
DeMarco’s mother was the former Gladys Alloway, a Chatsworth native who was the daughter of James Garfield Alloway, a pioneer in the cultivation of blueberries.
The DeMarco Cranberry Meadows Natural Area consists of hundreds of acres of former cranberry bogs in the northern end of the preserve that have been restored to their natural state. New Jersey Conservation Foundation won a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for the restoration project, which was completed in 2011.
Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, unveiled a sign on an observation platform overlooking the natural area and thanked DeMarco for his and his sister’s decision. Chris Jage, assistant director of the foundation for South Jersey, presented DeMarco with a handmade walking stick made from an Atlantic white cedar tree felled by beavers on the property and signed by attendees.
Now home to abundant wildlife, including bald eagles and pine snakes, the natural area is surrounded by hiking trails.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private, member-supported nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, it has protected 125,000 acres of open space — from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the foundations programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).