Organizers Promote Morris Cty (NJ) Open Space Measure

Morristown, NJ, 10/24/01: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced that it has assembled a broad coalition of eminent citizens, organizations, elected officials and municipalities in support of County Question #1–Morris County’s referendum to expand its Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Calling itself the Committee for Morris Parks, Open Space and Clean Water, the coalition has coordinated a campaign to educate voters and promote a big turnout for the measure on November 6.

“We think it is important that the people of Morris County understand the full benefits of the referendum, and why their vote is so important–for themselves, their families and future generations,” said committee co-chair Franklin E. Parker. “We have a strong case, and we intend to present it to the voters,” said co-chair Leslie E. Smith, Jr.

The committee was established in early September through the Trust for Public Land’s campaign affiliate, the Conservation Campaign. TPL has since worked to recruit committee members, raise funds, and secure endorsements from organizations, public officials and municipal governments. The Committee’s membership includes prominent conservationists, business people and eminent citizens including former Governor Thomas Kean.

The committee’s roster of endorsements is equally impressive. Elected officials supporting the measure include all seven Morris County Freeholders as well as the majority of the county’s representatives in the State Senate and Assembly. Nearly thirty organizations have endorsed Question #1, including groups focused on land conservation, water quality, and outdoor recreation. The referendum has also been endorsed by Morris 2000 and United Taxpayers of New Jersey, a tax watchdog group. A number of town governments have already passed resolutions of support for the referendum, and many more have resolutions pending.

The Committee for Morris Parks, Open Space and Clean Water stresses that a yes vote for the referendum will help protect drinking water quality in Morris County by protecting more land around reservoirs and municipal wells and preserving stream valleys and other watersheds that feed and filter both municipal water systems and local groundwater. Of course, the committee notes, preserving water quality for people also benefits fish and wildlife.

The committee also emphasizes that an expanded county trust fund will help preserve more of the Morris County’s remaining open space and working farms, preserving the county’s unique quality of life, and helping local governments better manage traffic, school populations, and demand for municipal services. Also, says the committee, an expanded trust fund would finance additions to county and local park systems, to catch up with demand created by rapid population growth in the 1990s.

The group also stresses that investing in land and water protection is good for Morris County’s economy. “For decades, one of the keys to Morris County’s economic success has been its high quality of life; parks, open space and clean water are clearly a major component of that,” said Leigh Rae, the committee’s treasurer and director of the Trust for Public Land New Jersey Office. “The question we face today is how we maintain our desirable quality of life-and our competitive edge-in a time of rapid growth. In Morris County, voting for land conservation isn’t just the right choice, it’s the responsible economic choice.”

The County Open Space and Farmland Trust Fund has an impressive track record of stretching taxpayer dollars. “Since 1994, each dollar spent by the Trust Fund on grants to municipal and non-profit conservation projects has leveraged more than three dollars in matching funds,” said Chris Wells, conservation finance manager for TPL.

Between now and Election Day, the Committee for Morris Parks, Open Space and Clean Water will be sponsoring mailings and newspaper advertisements to promote County Question #1, and coordinating grassroots educational and “get out the vote” efforts with endorsing organizations.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit 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 1.3 million acres of land valued at $2.3 billion. With its state office in Morristown, the Trust for Public Land has protected more than 13,500 acres of land in New Jersey.