Land Acquisition Important Step in Protecting Toms River

Today The Trust for Public Land announced a significant purchase of land to help protect the Toms River Corridor. The 195 acres, which are part of the Barnegat Bay watershed, will provide both residents and visitors to the Jersey Shore with a nearby place to hike, bike, canoe, and just experience nature. This purchase will also protect water quality in nearby Barnegat Bay and habitats for several state-threatened species, including the northern pine snake and a flower named the sickle-leaved golden aster.

"The Toms River Corridor is a priority acquisition area," said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund. "To date, we have acquired 17 properties totaling 3,000 acres along this branch of the Toms River. This latest purchase with The Trust for Public Land reflects our continuing efforts to work with partners on protecting the vital river corridors of Ocean County."

The purchase, which includes 1,500 feet of land along the Toms River and extensive wetlands, was facilitated by The Trust for Public Land with funds from the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund and a grant from the New Jersey Pinelands Commission through their Pinelands Conservation Fund. The land is part of the New Jersey Pinelands and includes acreage in Jackson, Manchester, and Toms River Townships. It was previously owned by a subsidiary of the Clayton Companies and will now be owned by Ocean County.

"The Trust for Public Land is dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy," said Greg Socha, senior project manager at The Trust for Public Land. "There are plenty of residential areas, malls, and big box stores in the area. People want to protect the Toms River and save this land for hiking, biking, canoeing, and experiencing nature. We are glad we could make that happen."

In addition to its recreational benefits, the land is also a critical habitat for the threatened northern pine snake and sickle-leaved golden aster. There are a mix of habitats for the snakes to nest, forage, and bask in the sun. There are also sandy areas that are ideal for the sickle-leaved golden aster to thrive. As part of the sale, Clayton Companies completed a habitat restoration plan on the property to further improve the area for these species. Ocean County will now manage the land, so the endangered species and other plants and animals will continue to thrive.

"The Commission has long focused its efforts to protect land in the Toms River Corridor, and we're pleased to be a part of this project," said Nancy Wittenberg, Executive Director of The New Jersey Pinelands Commission. "Since 2008, the Commission has provided funds to preserve 7,277 acres, an achievement for which we are very proud."

The property is now permanently protected both by regulations for lands purchased with money from the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund, as well as by a conservation easement required by the Pinelands Conservation Fund grant. Conservation easements are legal agreements between landowners and qualified organizations that restrict future activities to protect a property's unique natural heritage.