New Park Will Protect NJ Watershed

Morristown, NJ, 1/2/02–In another deal that protects New Jersey watersheds, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the preservation of 38 acres in Morris County along Stony Brook, which feeds the South Branch of the Raritan River. The land will be managed by Washington Township as a town park.

“The Trust for Public Land is committed to protecting resources like this one, which safeguards drinking water sources, and protects land for habitat and recreation,” said Terrence Nolan, project manager for TPL. “Washington Township is a key municipal partner for open space acquisition and we look forward to continued to work with the Township to acquire properties located along the Stony Brook.”

Funding for the $268,500 purchase was provided by a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres nonprofit grant to the Trust for Public Land for $134,250 which was matched by funds from the Washington Township Open Space Trust Fund.

“The Green Acres Program encourages public – private partnerships to protect land across the state,” said Tom Wells, Green Acres Program administrator. “As the cost of land increases, partnerships become more crucial to New Jersey’s success in meeting our ambitious land preservation goals. We commend TPL and Washington Township for their leadership role in this effort.”

As part of the deal, TPL, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, negotiated a hiking trail easement across an adjacent property that links the newly acquired land to township property on Squire Hill Road. The easement provides public access to a trail along the Stony Brook, a trout production stream that treats visitors to waterfalls and scenic views. The vision is for a network of township hiking trails that will connect with Heather Myst Farm, an adjacent 70-acre farm owned by the town.

“We are very pleased to see another key parcel of open space protected in this pristine area,” said Mayor John Krickus of Washington Township. “Whether we’re talking about water quality, recreation or the character of our town, the benefits of protecting our natural resources will be appreciated for years to come.”

“We try to be very good stewards of the land and are working hard to piece together a nice greenway corridor,” said Ken Short, of the Township Committee liaison to the open space committee.

“This is a big step in the right direction,” said County Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom. “We need to preserve contiguous open space corridors linking communities in Morris County and encourage municipalities to work together to achieve this goal. I’m proud to have participated in such a multi-municipal effort to achieve the ambitious open space goals of the local community and the wider region.”

The Highlands have been losing roughly 10,200 acres to development each year over the past decade. The pressure from development is particularly acute in Morris County. The South Branch of the Raritan River is one of twelve New Jersey Critical Treasures designated by the Highlands Coalition as priority areas for conservation.

As development pressures continue in Morris County, residents are increasingly taking action in favor of the protection of open space. In November, voters passed the largest open space ballot measure in the country, increasing the county’s open space tax by an additional two cents per $100 dollars, which is estimated to generate between $25 to $30 million per year for land conservation in the county.

The Trust for Public Land has been active in the protection of the New York-New Jersey Highlands for more than a decade. To date, TPL has helped to protect more than 25,000 Highlands acres. A member of both the board of directors and the steering committee of the Highlands Coalition, TPL is working with this team of eighty-five local, state, regional and national citizen organizations to protect this valuable resource.

In end of the year closings, TPL also partnered with the Green Acres Program and other local governments to protect land in Morris County in the Farny Highlands Critical Treasure Area. The 100-acre parcel is TPL’s second addition to the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area. In southern Jersey, TPL partnerships protected approximately 2,400 acres in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. TPL, whose state office is located in Morristown, has protected more than 1.3 million acres nationwide, more than 16,500 acres in New Jersey.