Gateway to Long Beach Island Protected (NJ)

Stafford Township, NJ, 11/15/2005: The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Ocean County announced today the purchase of 93 acres in Ocean County’s Stafford Township for conservation and public recreation. The site sits on the north side of Route 72 and through this transaction will forever provide a green entryway to the popular vacation destination of Long Beach Island. The property provides a buffer between the heavily used commercial strip of Route 72 and the State of New Jersey’s Manahawkin Wildlife Management Area and will be managed by Ocean County as a natural area.

“Ocean County is pleased to partner with Stafford Township, the Trust for Public Land, and our state and federal governments in preserving this land as a gateway to Long Beach Island,” said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund. “The cooperation among agencies and individuals and the staunch public support of the Garden Club of Long Beach Island got us here today and helped bring this purchase to fruition.”

The Trust for Public Land identified the property as a priority for protection in its 1995 publication The Century Plan: A Study of One Hundred Conservation Sites in the Barnegat Bay Watershed. When the county asked the group to acquire the property on their behalf, TPL negotiated the purchase from the landowner and helped secure the federal funding.

“Many people had reached out to Stafford Township to request that this last stretch of green space along the route to Long Beach Island not be turned into another strip mall,” said Kathy Haake, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “TPL was glad to be able to assist in its permanent protection.”

Funding for the $1.8 million purchase was provided by various funding sources including, a congressional appropriation from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), Ocean County Open Space Trust Fund, Stafford Township Open Space Natural LandsTrust Fund, the NJDEP Green Acres Program, and the William Penn Foundation.

The CELCP funding, administered by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was secured by U.S. Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Congressman Jim Saxton.

“The purchase of the Manahawkin March is another example of how crucial a role the federal government can play in conserving and preserving critical habitat,” said Senator Jon Corzine. “I look forward to working with the Trust for Public Land as it continues its important efforts.”

“We have a critical need to set aside land for wildlife habitat,” said Congressman Jim Saxton, a ranking member of the House Resources Committee and long-time supporter of land conservation. Saxton added $800,000 to the House budget in 2004 under the CELCP program to help purchase the Manahawkin Marsh property. “Stafford Township has seen a good deal of development over the past 20 years, so there’s an acute need to conserve as many remaining wildlife areas as possible. This particular tract is close to state wildlife areas, so its acquisition will certainly help protect our native species.”

“We are very pleased that the Trust was able to put together the partnership with the county and the town and we hope to see many more acquisitions like this in the future,” said Stafford Township Mayor Carl Block.

One of the unique things about the Manahawkin Marsh property is that it contains the entire natural gradient of plant communities from upland pitch pine forest to freshwater wetlands fanning to tidal wetlands. These transition areas typically contain an amazing amount and diversity of plants and animals in a small area. These are some of the most ecologically diverse areas in New Jersey, yet they are quickly disappearing to development.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) 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. TPL’s Barnegat Bay Initiative, begun two decades ago, grew with the 1995 the publication of The Century Plan, a comprehensive study identifying 100 high-priority conservation and public access sites in the Barnegat Bay. This year, TPL recently reached a conservation milestone: the protection of 10,000 acres in the Barnegat Bay watershed. The Century Plan has become the “greenprint” for the protection of the watershed for TPL as well as other nonprofit and civic groups, and local, state, and federal agencies committed to a healthy bay ecosystem.

With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected approximately 23,000 acres throughout New Jersey.