Horse Farm Protected for Camden Cty. Park (NJ)

Gloucester Township, New Jersey, 1/6/03Slim’s Ranch in Gloucester Township is no longer being considered for the development of new homes. Instead, Camden County residents will be able to enjoy a new 60-acre park with fields, woodlands and an existing network of trails. In a purchase orchestrated by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, Camden County Parks will own and manage the property.

The land, a former horse farm, was proposed for more than 700 new homes, which would have undoubtedly increased traffic to already congested Gloucester and surrounding townships. The park includes nearly a half-mile of frontage on Big Timber Creek, which flows to the Delaware River, and will be an extension of the county’s Big Timber Creek Greenway.

“With more than 90,000 people living within a three-mile radius of the site, this new park is sure to be a well used resource,” said Cindy Gilman, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, who negotiated the purchase. “In a part of New Jersey where there are very few remaining properties of this size and natural resource value, we are pleased to be working with Camden County and the NJDEP to protect the most critical lands before they are lost forever.”

“The pressure to develop this property was real and immediate, but the purchase of this land eliminates that threat and permanently protects important natural resources for present and future generations,” said Freeholder Laurelle A. Cummings, liaison to the county parks department, who oversees the Open Space Advisory Committee.

The $5.6 million property is being purchased with funds from public and private sources, including: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, Camden County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund, Gloucester Township, the Trust For Public Land, NJDEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration, and William Penn Foundation.

“Through direct funds as well as nonprofit, township and county grants, the state has made a total commitment of $3.72 million toward the purchase of this ecologically significant property,” said Bradley M. Campbell, commissioner of the New Jersey DEP. “Governor McGreevey has directed DEP through his Smart Growth Initiative to protect properties like Slim’s Ranch that are threatened by dense development and can be better used to protect water quality and serve the recreational needs of New Jersey residents.”

In awarding its grant of $200,000, the William Penn Foundation cited the effort to preserve Slim’s Ranch as model public-private partnership that combines the expertise and resources of many different entities to protect important resources for the well being and enjoyment of future generations.

The Camden County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund is dedicated to buying, preserving and maintaining land for open space, recreation and farming. It also funds recreational enhancements and historic preservation. In the past two years, the program has protected 520 acres toward its goal of saving 2,000 acres by 2010. Just two miles from the property protected today, the Camden County Open Space Program has purchased the 63-acre Laurel Ravine property with another grant from the New Jersey DEP Office of Natural Resource Restoration.

NJDEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration was established to restore the public’s natural resources injured by hazardous waste sites and oil spills. Funding for the Slim’s Ranch and Laurel Ravine acquisitions comes from a settlement with the parties responsible for natural resource damages associated with the Gems Landfill in Gloucester Township.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Slim’s Ranch is the third property protected through TPL’s River to Bay Greenway Initiative, a partnership with local communities that will provide linkages to existing parks, protect additional land and create new parks. The greenway is a proposed multi-use recreational greenway that spans 70 miles across southern New Jersey and links the Delaware River and the Barnegat Bay. By protecting land to create new parks, as is the case with Slim’s Ranch, the River to Bay Greenway will enhance recreational resources for urban and suburban residents in rapidly growing Camden, Burlington and Ocean counties. To date, TPL has protected nearly 18,000 acres in New Jersey.