Crooked Creek Farm and Gardens Protected
A turn off of a northern Wayne County country lane into the driveway marked “Crooked Creek Farm” brings the driver into an exotic world. An 8-foot wire fence, invisible because of judicial plantings, keeps out deer and other voracious garden predators.
As a result, Don Pfeufer was able to plan and care for a meticulous garden, the likes of which is seldom seen anywhere in Wayne County. Don’s garden is so exceptional that it was selected by the county Historical Society as a stop in their 2001 Spring Garden Tour. To see the garden, the surrounding land and hear him talk about its many unusual plants makes it clear that Don’s love for this land ran deep—which is why he reached out to the Conservancy.
Don and his mother bought this 312-acre farm 35 years ago, but she had passed away several years ago, and he had no direct heirs. Now he was battling cancer, and wanted assurance that his beloved land would never be subdivided. The Conservancy Director at the time, Lothar Holbert, helped him draft a conservation easement that would permit continued farming, but no subdivision.
Crooked Creek meanders diagonally across the fields and wetlands before joining Equinunk Creek to reach the Delaware River. Over the years Don planted more than 22,000 trees, built two ponds, and encouraged the diverse wildlife now found there. He has seen bobcat, mink, ermine, otter, bear, grouse, meadow lark, killdeer, and countless other birds and animals.
Dr. Ann Rhoads of the Morris Arboretum also visited the farm’s wetland. She chronicled “a central core of alder-sphagnum wetland surrounded by a zone of highbush blueberry—meadow-sweet wetland,” and “a hemlock palustrine forest occupying low areas adjacent to the shrub wetland and stream. Forested uplands contain northern hardwood forest.” She documented 115 plant species in the wetland and immediate surrounding area alone—a very rich diversity.
Sadly, on October 13, 2001, Don Pfeufer passed away, just three weeks after he signed the completed conservation easement. Fortunately for all of us, his generosity and foresight made possible the protection in perpetuity of a large, diverse and scenic area in northern Wayne County. The easement prohibits subdivision and restricts the use of the property, prohibiting activities which are adverse to good conservation and wildlife practices. We are deeply grateful to Don, and will miss his dry wit and objective observations about life in general and his farm in particular. Delaware Highlands Conservancy will work to ensure that his wishes for Crooked Creek Farm endure.