History of the Lawrence Nature Center
-- by Anne Demarais
Hundreds of years ago the Lenni Lenape Indians lived and hunted in the woods along the Shabakunk Creek. Shabakunk is from a Lenni Lenape word meaning "shore land." When the Ewing-Lawrence Sewer Authority pipe was laid through the woods in the 1950's, a surveyor for the sewer line found a number of axes and arrowheads that the Lenni Lenape had left behind.
By 1776 European settlers had replaced the Indians and the woods had become a part of Mahlon Stacy's tract. The land was later cleared and farmed by various owners into the 1970's.
Various development plans were proposed for the 36 acres between Notre Dame High School's property and Lawn Park Avenue in the following decades, first for 200 affordable housing units, then for 63 single family houses. Natural and manmade delays kept the parcel undeveloped and the fields reverted to woodland.
Residents' support in public hearings led to the township purchase of the 37 acre tract of the Drexel Woods for open space and passive recreation in 1998.
In 1941 Carl and Lucille Rinck owned a 9 acre parcel adjoining the Drexel Woods. On this property, they built their home with bricks recycled from the Trenton Pottery where Carl worked. They planted numerous exotic trees on the land. After Carl's death, Lucille continued to welcome the neighborhood children to her meadow and taught them about the numerous birds inhabiting the woods and meadow. Lucille died, without an heir, in her nineties. Her property was then purchased with the Drexel Woods in 1998 by the Township.
In 2002, the township committed funds to developing the house into the Lawrence Nature Center. A township facility within the Recreation Department, the Lawrence Nature Center is grateful for the Public Works department, which did most of the reconstruction. Volunteers have been an integral part of the work, contributing the architectural renderings, planning and manning events and programs, and seeking grants to develop nature and environmental programming for Lawrence Township.