Camp Glen Gray Protected (NJ)
Mahwah, New Jersey, 2/5/02: At a press conference and hike held today in Mahwah, a coalition of public and private partners announced the permanent protection of the 750-acre Camp Glen Gray property, a former Boy Scout camp. The $5.1 million acquisition was orchestrated by the County of Bergen and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization.
The Trust for Public Land negotiated the purchase of the property and directed the deed to Bergen County. As the new owner, the county will steward the land and manage it in conjunction with approximately 3,000 adjacent acres that it already owns in the Ramapo Mountains. The core area of the camp—containing Lake Vreeland and approximately 20 buildings—will also be open to the public and will be endowed and maintained by the Friends of Glen Gray (FOGG), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Glen Gray for camping, environmental education and scouting activities through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and contributors.
Funding for the purchase was provided by the County of Bergen, the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, and the Trust for Public Land through grants from the Victoria Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and private contributions.
“The Trust for Public Land’s first projects in New Jersey were here in the Ramapo Mountains more than two decades ago,” said Terrence Nolan, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “We are thrilled that with the vision of Bergen County and the support of the state and many private partners, we were able to help protect this legacy of land in Northern New Jersey and make it available to the public.”
“The purchase of Camp Glen Gray is the realization of a long held dream for me and the people of Bergen County,” said County Executive William ‘Pat’ Schuber. “We are not only preserving 750 precious and beautiful acres of wilderness, we are preserving a piece of our heritage for future generations to enjoy and marvel at.”
“The state is glad to be a partner in the protection of Camp Glen Gray,” stated Bradley M. Campbell, Acting Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. “Public-private partnerships like this enable us to protect significant parcels in New Jersey’s natural landscape. By protecting these lands in the Highlands, we protect the water quality for millions of New Jersey citizens and provide a place for them to enjoy the outdoors for generations to come.”
The New Jersey Highlands, where Camp Glen Gray is located, have been losing roughly 10,200 acres to development each year over the past decade. The Highlands region has been recognized in the State Development and Redevelopment Plan as the first Special Resource Area in New Jersey. Because of the significance of the region, the Green Acres Program has directed significant funds towards acquisitions in this region.
When Frank Gray established Camp Glen Gray in 1917, his goal was to create an experience rather than a place—where young people could enjoy themselves, but where they would also learn and practice skills. Practical jokes and the telling of ghost stories around the campfire were balanced with lessons on botany and wilderness, survival weekends and physical work to help build and maintain the camp. No child who visited Camp Glen Gray during the summer of 1945 will forget the price he had to pay for a swim in the stream—hauling a stone at least the size of his head in order to help build the dam and create Lake Vreeland. For three generations, boys visited Camp Glen Gray and experienced what “Uncle Frank” dreamed of so many years ago, coming away, perhaps most of all, with a love and respect for the land.
“Generations of scouts have learned the lessons of teamwork, self-reliance and respect for nature around Glen Gray’s campfires,” said John Hartinger, chairman of FOGG. “Our dedicated corps of experienced volunteers and leaders looks forward to expanding the camp’s mission to a wider audience. The importance of preserving this historic wilderness camp as a place to learn outdoor lessons cannot be understated.”
Camp Glen Gray has been on Bergen County’s open space master plan since 1986 and for the last decade, the Trust for Public Land has been exploring ways to purchase the camp as public open space. Following a merger of four Scout councils to form the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 1999, the council considered the number of camps owned by the new alliance and made a decision to sell Camp Glen Gray. Funds from the sale of the property will be invested in maintenance and capital improvements at other Scout camps and will be used to expand the Scouts’ endowment fund.
“On behalf of the Northern New Jersey Council, I am very pleased to support the County of Bergen, the State of New Jersey, the Trust for Public Land, and the Friends of Glen Gray in their efforts to keep Camp Glen Gray forever open space and available for use by all of our citizens, including the youth members of the Boy Scouts,” said Cary Edwards, president of the Northern New Jersey Council.
In addition to public dollars that went toward the purchase of the camp, private funds were raised by the Trust for Public Land. “We are extremely grateful to the agencies, foundations and individuals that made the protection of this amazing resource possible. This partnership is a model of what needs to be done state-wide to protect New Jersey’s dwindling open space resources,” said Leigh Rae, New Jersey field office director for the Trust for Public Land.
“It is a win-win situation when private grants can be used to leverage existing public funding sources to protect treasures like Camp Glen Gray,” said Peter Howell, Program Director for the Environment for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Foundation has been a major contributor to land conservation in the New Jersey Highlands region for many years and named the Trust for Public Land co-manager of an $8 million matching grant to protect ecologically significant landscapes in New Jersey.
“Protecting an important resource like this is an investment in the future—the dividends of which will be paid out to generations of visitors who will visit this new park, explore its wooded trails and take in the views from its peaks,” said Cathy McFarland, Executive Officer and Secretary of the Victoria Foundation.
Bergen County Freeholder Chairman Anthony Cassano noted: “The acquisition of Glen Gray reaffirms Bergen County’s commitment to preserving open space and improving the quality of life of our residents. Along with the other county acquisitions in the Ramapo Mountains, we have created a natural haven from the modern world.”
Bergen County has been a leader in protecting open space for public use and recreation. Camp Glen Gray is the second of three Boy Scout Camps initially identified in 1986 by the county for preservation. In 1998, the county acquired the 181-acre Camp Tamarack in Oakland, which abuts Camp Glen Gray to its south. The county is now in discussions about the acquisition of the 184-acre Camp Yaw Paw. With the acquisition of Camp Glen Gray, the total acreage of county-owned parkland is almost 8,100 acres. This represents a 61 percent increase since the Bergen’s “Last Chance” Open Space Preservation Campaign began in 1987. With the acquisition and preservation of Camp Glen Gray, the total amount of contiguous protected land in the Ramapo Mountains is 13,400 acres or almost 21 square miles – from Oakland and Mahwah into Passaic County to the New Jersery/New York border. In 2001, the 218-acre Sun Valley Farms, located just south of Glen Gray, was the first property preserved under the county’s farmland preservation program.
The Green Acres Program was created in 1961 to meet New Jersey’s growing recreation and conservation needs. Green Acres celebrates its 40th anniversary with noteworthy results. To date, the Program has protected nearly 482,000 acres of open space and developed hundreds of public parks, bringing the statewide system of preserved open space and farmland to nearly 1.2 million acres.
The Trust for Public Land, with a state office in Morristown, 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. Working in partnership with Bergen County and the State of New Jersey, TPL has protected more than 4,300 acres in the Ramapo Mountains since 1979, including the land adjacent to the newly protected camp.