107 Acres Added to Morris County Nature Preserve (NJ)

Mendham Borough, NJ, 6/5/2008: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Mendham Borough, and the Schiff Natural Lands Trust announced today the acquisition of 107 acres adjacent to the Schiff Nature Preserve, the largest nonprofit nature preserve in Morris County. The newly acquired land will be known as the McVickers Brook Preserve, named for the Raritan River tributary, which flows through the property.

Located in Mendham Borough, the new preserve will increase recreational opportunities for nearby residents and conserve the property’s mature, diverse forest. Existing trails on the property will be improved and linked with those on the adjacent Schiff Preserve providing the public with over 450 acres of contiguous open space. Mendham Borough and the Schiff Natural Lands Trust will jointly own the McVickers Brook Preserve.

TPL will provide $50,000 to the Schiff Nature Preserve to help manage the land and establish the Franklin Parker Trail in honor of Frank Parker, founding director of TPL’s New Jersey Field Office and the first board chair of the Schiff Natural Lands Trust.

Parker, a long-time conservationist who had a hand in protecting land for public use and conservation all over New Jersey and pioneered the TPL’s Parks for People-Newark program, died this February at age 82. A ceremony unveiling the Franklin Parker Trail is expected this summer.

“This conservation effort honors the memory of Frank Parker, a conservation leader who saw to it that New Jersey would forever deserve the moniker of ‘Garden State,'” said Tom Gravel, field representative for The Trust for Public Land. “The preservation of this high priority property came together quickly due to the dedicated efforts of our partners on the local, county, and state levels.”

“Frank was instrumental in setting up the Schiff Natural Lands Trust and setting aside the original open space,” said Michael Catania, president of the Schiff Natural Lands Trust. “He was a visionary who was always watching out for the land and always wanting to protect it for all people and all communities throughout New Jersey, from rural and remote to the inner city. This project is yet another example of Frank’s dedication and passion for his work, and it truly brings me joy to think of what he’s left behind for the rest of us.”

Funding for the acquisition was provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, Mendham Borough, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, and the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant from the Morris County Preservation Trust, which awarded its second largest grant in the program’s history to the project.

State, local, and private land conservation partnerships such as this could become a thing of the past without a long-term dedicated funding source for the Garden State Preservation Trust, the primary source of funding for land acquisition and grants to municipalities and nonprofit land trusts through the Green Acres Program. This past November voters approved borrowing $200 million to fund these programs for another year, but funding beyond next year is as of yet uncertain.

“The borough council and I are extremely delighted that we were able to participate in the preservation of this property,” said Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry. “This tract of land had been identified as a priority by our open space committee. Mendham Borough had not used any of its open space tax until we helped acquire this land and the governing body can’t think of a better return on our open space tax dollars than the McVickers Brook Preserve.”

“This property is the first project acquired by Mendham Borough through the municipal grant program of the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund,” said Morris County Freeholder Jack Schrier, liaison to the county’s open space program. “The county’s trust fund has assisted with the purchase of over 17,000 acres of open space and farmland since 1994 with over 4,500 acres pending.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.4 million acres nationwide, including more than 25,000 acres in New Jersey.