Long Beach Isl. Woods, Wetlands Preserved (NJ)

Long Beach Township, NJ…July 1, 2003…The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with Save Our Community, Ocean County Natural Lands Trust, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program and the Township of Long Beach, has preserved one of the few remaining natural, wooded properties on heavily developed Long Beach Island. The 6.6 acres in Long Beach Township could have been developed with twelve homes, but the land will instead continue to provide habitat for wildlife and protect water quality. The property will be transferred to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust, will remain in its natural state and be open to the public under the management of Long Beach Township. This transaction will also facilitate an additional 133 acres, originally planned for the development of 101 homes, to be transferred from the developer to the state.

In addition to both freshwater and saltwater tidal wetlands, the property contains a stand of about 2.8 acres of primarily hardwood trees and shrubs—one of the last naturally wooded areas on the northern tip of Long Beach Island. The area provides one of the few suitable feeding and resting areas for neotropical migratory birds on Long Beach Island. More than 30 colonial nesting birds such as the snowy egret, great white egret, little blue heron, and glossy ibis benefit from the protection. The threatened black-crowned and endangered yellow-crowned night heron also inhabit the site. Additionally, the woodland area will help prevent tidal erosion and protect the water quality of the Barnegat Bay by reducing contaminants to the coastal waters by filtering street runoff and absorbing pollutants.

“Development runoff would have impaired the water quality of the Barnegat Bay especially in the small Vol Sedge Cove which the property borders. The impact on the adjacent Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and Barnegat Light’s public beach and conservation area could have been significant,” said Kathy Haake, field representative for the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization that negotiated the purchase. “The assistance of Mayor Mancini and the Township of Long Beach was key in this transaction and the fundraising efforts of the local advocacy group, Save Our Community, made the transaction possible.”

“This is a perfect example of action by multiple entities, the Trust for Public Land, Green Acres, Ocean County Natural Lands Trust, the Township of Long Beach, and, of course, Save Our Community and the individuals who were so important in providing significant funding for this transaction,” said James Mancini, mayor of Township of Long Beach and Ocean County freeholder.

This property and the 133 acres of nearby wetlands was owned by the estate of Arnold J. Desiderio, the developer of the High Bar Harbor Islands in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His son, as executor of the estate, sued the State of New Jersey in a takings litigation. With this transaction, the longstanding lawsuit was settled, permanently protecting this critical habitat along New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast.

Funds for the $1.6 million purchase include: $400,000 Green Acres nonprofit grant to the Trust for Public Land, $400,000 Blue Acres grant to Long Beach Township, $600,000 from the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust, $20,000 TPL Wetland Mitigation Fund, and $180,000 raised by Save Our Community, which with the county’s contribution, provided the necessary match for the state funds.

Tom Hofbauer, president of Save Our Community, Inc., the organization that spearheaded this protection effort, said that this is the result of a comprehensive plan that was designed to satisfy the objectives of all of the parties concerned with these lands. He praised the efforts and donations from more than 2,000 concerned citizens from 18 states for making this all possible.

“The enthusiastic grass roots effort led by Save our Community broadened the support and brought together the funding to make this preservation possible,” said John S. Watson, administrator of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program. He commended the partnering organizations in this successful initiative saying, “The collaboration to accomplish the preservation of this land is an outstanding example of the kinds of partnerships that are critical to our ongoing success.”

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. With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected more than 18,000 acres throughout New Jersey, including over 9,600 acres in the Barnegat Bay. TPL’s Barnegat Bay Initiative grew from The Century Plan, a 1995 study prioritizing sites for protection, and its sequel, Beyond the Century Plan (1997). Additional information on TPL’s Barnegat Bay Initiative is available at www.tpl.org/newjersey.

The NJDEP Green Acres Program works with landowners, municipal and county governments, nonprofit agencies and other conservation partners to protect land through direct purchase, donation, and conservation easement. The Program acquires land for state parks, forests, natural areas, and wildlife management areas. Green Acres provides low interest loans and grants to municipal and county governments and to nonprofit agencies to acquire open space and develop parks and outdoor recreation facilities. The Green Acres Program has protected more than 520,000 acres of open space and developed hundreds of public parks, bringing the state-wide system of preserved open space and farmland to more than 1.2 million acres. For more information, visit www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres.