NJ Voters Approve Open Space Funds Despite Poor Economy

Morristown, NJ, 11/5/2008: On November 4, voters nationwide approved $7.3 billion in new public money to protect land for parks and open space-the highest amount ever according to The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization. The increase can be attributed in large part to the Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment accounting for $5.5 billion. Overall, 62 out of 87 measures (or 71 percent) were passed by voters.

In New Jersey, voters approved 14 of 22 county and municipal measures generating $191 million in conservation funding. New Jersey more open space ballot measures than any other state.

In Hunterdon County, voters approved the largest measure and the only county measure on the ballot, with 76 percent voting to continue the current levy of three cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund the Hunterdon County Open Space Trust Fund indefinitely rather than letting it expire next year. The move is expected to generate $7.6 million annually for open space, farmland, and historic preservation efforts, as well as stewardship of county and municipal parklands.

In Ocean County, Ocean Township voters approved increasing the open space tax from 1.2 to three cents per $100 of assessed value, and voters in Barnegat Light Borough approved a new one-cent open space tax. Both measures will provide funds to help acquire lands important to protecting water quality in the Barnegat Bay watershed. In Mercer County, Hopewell Township voters approved a one-cent increase to the open space tax that will generate an additional $459,000 annually for preservation efforts.

A complete list of results from local and state balloting on conservation and parks is available online today from LandVote 2008-www.landvote.org.

“These results demonstrate sustained support among New Jersey residents for new investments in parks and open space, even in a very tough economic climate,” said Tom Gilbert, mid-Atlantic conservation finance director with The Trust for Public Land. “Looking ahead to 2009, we look forward to working with Governor Corzine, the New Jersey legislature, and our conservation partners on the critical need to renew and strengthen the Garden State Preservation Trust next year.”

Last November, New Jersey voters approved $200 million in bonding to replenish state open space, farmland, and historic preservation programs for one more year. Those funds will soon run out resulting in the first gap in state funding to preserve open space in decades.

“We call on Governor Corzine and state legislative leaders to follow the great example given by the voters in this election and make good on their pledge to replenish the Garden State Preservation Trust,” said Thomas Gilmore, Chair of the New Jersey Keep it Green Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations working to promote open space preservation in New Jersey. “Renewing and strengthening this state-wide Fund is integral to preservation efforts and allows the State to continue to actively partner with local governments to preserve our parks, forests, farms, and historic places.”

Since 1988, voters have approved newly 1,700 conservation measures, generating more than $54 billion in new public funds for conservation. The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. To date, TPL has helped protect more than 2.5 million acres nationwide, including more than 25,000 acres in New Jersey.