New Park Site for Voorhees, NJ

CAMDEN COUNTY: The project was made possible by a partnership including Voorhees Township, Camden County, TPL and their foundation partner, the William Penn Foundation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program. Reclaiming the land will offer Voorhees Township the opportunity to create a town park. The vision is to create a “great lawn” for recreation in the area that was mined for sand when the land was used for asphalt manufacturing.

The property, which contains the headwaters of the Cooper River, a hardwood swamp and an area where a trail could be developed, was third on the Voorhees Environmental Commission list of priorities for protection. After the Open Space Ballot Referendum was approved by voters in 1998, the Commission launched an open space initiative to identify and map priority land for protection. The newly-acquired site was owned by Lafferty Asphalt Co. and was used for more than 50 years as an asphalt manufacturing facility.

“The decision to start purchasing open space in our township has been a joint effort between the residents and Township Committee from the start. The park that we will create together will be a lasting tribute to those efforts,” said Voorhees Township Mayor Harry Platt. “Every time the community gathers there, we will remember our success in preserving the quality of life in our township.”

“The Trust for Public Land is committed to helping communities fulfill their open space goals,” said Cindy Gilman, project manager for the Trust. “Voorhees Township positioned itself perfectly with the creation of a dedicated funding source and a plan to help prioritize acquisitions. We are pleased to have been able to make this park a reality.”

“This property is the largest parcel acquired to date using Camden County Open Space Trust Fund monies. This acquisition represents the wisest use of county taxpayer dollars,” said Freeholder Laurelle Cummings, Freeholder liaison to the Camden County Division of Open Space and Farmland Preservation. “By leveraging Trust Fund monies with municipal, state and nonprofit funding sources, we will both protect an environmental resource and provide county residents with passive recreational opportunities without jeopardizing funding for other county open space initiatives.”

The Trust for Public Land, in negotiating the acquisition, worked with the landowner and the township to establish the terms of the purchase. TPL also coordinated the funding structure by bringing the partners together. Green Acres awarded a nonprofit grant to TPL and planning incentive grants to Voorhees Township and Camden County.

“The Green Acres Program is providing state funds to Camden County, Voorhees Township and the Trust for Public Land to protect this property and each of these partners is providing matching funds,” said Green Acres Administrator Tom Wells. He went on to add, “Partnerships with county and local government and nonprofit agencies are vital to our success toward the state-wide million acre goal. These partnerships help to leverage funds and protect more open space across the state.”

“This acquisition supports our interest in watershed and biodiversity protection and is an important first step in an effort to connect the Delaware River and the Barnegat Bay in a way that encourages regional cooperation for natural resource planning and management–a goal for the Trust for Public Land and the foundation,” said Dr. Janet Haas, president of the William Penn Foundation.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization that specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance, and law to protect land for people. TPL conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in communities and to protect natural and historic resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, and based in San Francisco, TPL has protected more than 1 million acres of land valued at $1.8 billion.