43-Acre Sparta Fields Protected (NJ)

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY, 1/22/04: Forty-three acres known as Sparta Fields along Route 94 are now protected as open space thanks to a partnership between the nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Sparta Township. The acquisition links more than 100 acres of land already owned by the township and will ultimately make the land’s meadows and wetlands available for passive recreation such as hiking.

Since the Trust for Public Land’s acquisition in 2001 of the White Lake property just ?-mile away from the recent acquisition, TPL has actively supported Sparta Township’s efforts to implement a plan to preserve critical open space in the face of an ever-increasing development threat. When the land was listed by a realtor, TPL became involved in its preservation at the request of the township.Competing offers had already been made by developers and the town feared a new residential development would be established on this land, which they deemed more appropriate for preservation.

“Towns throughout New Jersey and nationwide are faced with tough decisions regarding how to provide adequate recreational amenities and open space for their growing populations,” said Angelou Ezeilo, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “We are pleased to have been able to assist Sparta Township and strike a balance here.”

Funds for the $475,000 purchase were provided by Sparta Township. Up to 50 percent of the purchase price will be reimbursed later this year through a nonprofit grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program to the Trust for Public Land and funds from the Sussex County Open Space Trust Fund.

The Trust for Public Land has worked with Sparta Township to create a patchwork of protected lands to insure that there is sufficient open space to serve the township’s growing population. The Sparta Fields property includes more than 40 acres of meadow and critical wetlands habitat. It is adjacent to more than 100 acres of municipally owned parkland and thus forms an important buffer from development along highway Route 94. It is also near land protected through the Sussex County farmland protection program, preserved land owned by the Girl Scouts of America and a former rail bed owned by Sussex County that is being considered for a hiking/biking trail.

“This property is an important piece of the puzzle which we are trying to put together in Sparta Township. It is part of a picture that includes farmland protection, community open space and other public uses of land and resources,” said Township Manager Henry Underhill.The Trust for Public Land is proud to have worked closely with Sparta Township on the preservation of the 43-acre Sparta Fields property, which links 100 acres of protected land along Route 94.

The New Jersey Highlands, which encompass Sparta Township, Sussex County and beyond, have been losing roughly 5,000 acres to development each year over the past decade. With a state office in Morristown, TPL has been active in the protection of the Highlands for more than a decade. To date, TPL has helped protect approximately 26,000 acres in the New York – New Jersey Highlands.

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. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.