115 Acres Protected On Potter Creek (NJ)

Berkeley Township, NJ, 4/21/2007: Public and private partners that worked together to protect 115 acres on Potter Creek gathered today with U.S. Representative Jim Saxton — on the weekend of the nation’s 37th Earth Day– to highlight the permanent protection of this land for public use.

The $5.2 million purchase was made possible by a partnership among Ocean County, Berkeley Township and The Trust for Public Land, that received strong support from U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and Rep. Jim Saxton and NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation (CELP) program.

Prior to the acquisition, a developer had rights to the land and plans to develop as many as 130 homes. Such development could have put significant pollution into Potter Creek and nearby Barnegat Bay.

Congressman Saxton took the opportunity to highlight a bill that reauthorizes through 2012 the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation (CELP) bill that he and Senator Lautenberg introduced this past Wednesday in Washington. CELP provided the federal funds for the Potter Creek project.

“CELP is a proven success story in Ocean County, N.J., and the Potter Creek tract is a great example of federal, state and local governments working together with a private conservation group,” said Congressman Saxton, a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee who represents Little Egg Harbor Township. “The CELP legislation should be reauthorized so that the Jersey Shore and other coastal communities around the nation can seek federal assistance to preserve land. My hat is off to The Trust for Public Land for being at the forefront of this coast-to-coast effort.”

“This is another jewel in the emerald necklace of green space along the bay which offers feeding and resting sites for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway and recreation spots for residents and visitors,” said Kathy Haake, project manger for The Trust for Public Land, a land conservation organization that negotiated the purchase and the protection effort. “Thanks to Ocean County, Berkeley Township, the bipartisan efforts of the New Jersey congressional delegation, and all of our supporting partners, 115 more acres have been saved for public benefit.”

“Every time we can preserve open space in New Jersey, we help keep our water clean, provide a safe haven for wildlife, and help provide outdoor space for residents to enjoy,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ). “I was glad to help secure federal funds for this project and pledge to continue to support projects like Potter Creek so future generations can enjoy their surrounding environment.”

“Earth Day is a time for us to show our appreciation for our planet, and to look for ways to protect it,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). “Preserving Potters Creek is one way to guarantee a healthier environment, shelter local ecosystems, guard against flooding, and ensure that our children will grow up in a more beautiful Garden State. I pledge to continue protecting this picturesque and important land.”

The land links township and county lands and includes a mile of frontage on Potter Creek, which weaves through forests, wetlands, marsh, and ultimately Barnegat Bay. The property is now owned and managed by Ocean County and open to the public for hiking and nature viewing on an existing trail.

“When a number of organizations and agencies join together to make a purchase like this happen, it results in benefits to the public and the environment for years to come,” said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund program. “I am pleased that we can partner together for this purchase. It’s a magnificent piece of property that deserves to be kept in its natural state.”

“The preservation of open space has always been a top priority of my administration,” said Jason Varano, Mayor of Berkeley Township. “Every acre we are able to preserve means less overdevelopment, less traffic congestion, and a cleaner environment. Since 2000, we have preserved over 2,500 acres of land that was slated for development. Only through our aggressive preservation policies and by working with other government agencies have we been able to put the public’s quality of life ahead of corporate profits.”

A highlight of the event, was the participation of students from Berkeley Township Elementary School, who recently received a grant to enhance their environment and conservation library resources and to become more connected with the outdoors by visiting local parks and conducting research.

“It was great to have the students come out and participate in this Earth Day event and to see first hand the partnership effort that protected critical land for the Barnegat Bay in their own backyard,” said Kathy Palagonia, BTES Media Specialist. “This celebration was a great opportunity for the students to enhance their awareness and strengthen their appreciation for the natural environment.”

Funding for the $5.2 million project came from nine different public and private sources pulled together by The Trust for Public Land. Nearly half was covered by Berkeley Township, with another $1.2 million from the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust. New Jersey Green Acres contributed $650,000 in the form of a nonprofit grant to The Trust for Public Land. Thanks to the efforts of the New Jersey congressional delegation, a $467,922 grant was secured through the CELP program. In addition, the William Penn Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Conservation Resources Inc., and The Trust for Public Land all made contributions to make the purchase possible.

“NOAA has been pleased to support the implementation of the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program since its creation by Congress in 2002,” said David Kennedy, Director of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, which administers the Program. “To date, funding support from the CELCP has helped to preserve more than 22,000 coastal acres, including this project. In addition, $15 million was included for the program in the fiscal year 2008 budget request for NOAA. “The CELCP’s objective — to help permanently conserve lands in coastal and estuarine areas with significant ecological, conservation, historic, aesthetic, or recreation values — was clearly met by the purchase this 115 property along Potter’s Creek. Through the efforts of all the project partners, the property will be preserved for the benefit of New Jersey’s coastal zone and enjoyed by present and future generations.”

CELCP was created by Congress in FY 2002 in order to “protect those coastal and estuarine areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical or aesthetic values, or that are threatened by conversion from their natural or recreational states to other uses.”

In New Jersey, thanks to the leadership of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, nearly $10 million of CELCP funds has been appropriated to projects in New Jersey, such as Potter Creek. To continue these efforts, Congressman Saxton and Sen. Lautenberg unveiled respective House and Senate bills on Wednesday to boost federal efforts to protect coastal land from development. The “Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act” – also called the “CELP” bill – will allow Congress to increase funding for coastal funding for coastal land conservation in Barnegat Bay and throughout New Jersey and the coastal states.

The Trust for Public Land first identified the Potter Creek site as a priority for preservation in our 1995 publication, The Century Plan-A Study of One Hundred Conservation Sites in the Barnegat Bay. The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.2 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 10,500 acres in the Barnegat Bay watershed.