TPL Agrees to Purchase 188 Acres from St. Mary’s Abbey (NJ)

Morristown, NJ, 7/23/2008: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has reached an agreement to purchase 188 acres of land from the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey that owns and manages Delbarton School and St. Mary’s Abbey in Morris Township. The agreement is subject to the approval of the Abbey’s local governing board, as well as higher ecclesiastical sign offs. The Monks have owned this property for more than 80 years. It is one of the last large undeveloped tracts of land in Morris County, and adjoins the Lewis Morris County Park and Morristown National Historic Park. The expected fair market value for the property is $13,750,000, which The Trust for Public Land is currently working to raise.

Once conveyed, Morris County Park Commission plans to include the property in Lewis Morris County Park. TPL is submitting an application this week for funding from the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund. Additional funding for the purchase is expected to come from the Morris County Park Commission, The Township of Morris Open Space Trust Fund, the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund, the Great Swamp Watershed Association, The Trust for Public Land, Morris County Municipal Utilities Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program.

The sale of this land will enable the Order to provide some financial support for the monks, while also preserving a significant portion of Abbey land for open space. Located in the heart of Washington Valley and near General George Washington’s encampment, conservationists and neighbors alike have set their sights on seeing the property conserved. If it were developed, approximately 30 homes could have been built on the site. Conservation of the land will also enhance and expand the Patriots’ Path trail system.

“We are pleased that we will be able to secure enough funds to provide for the continuing existence of our Order and to preserve a significant amount of land in perpetuity for the Abbey, Delbarton School and our neighbors,” said Abbot Giles Hayes, O.S.B., the superior of the monastic community. “We have enjoyed this natural environment for many years, in fact we regard it as sacred, and we can now be certain that it will remain preserved for the future.”

“The sale of this land by the monks for conservation purposes benefits everyone,” said Dene Lee, project manager for the New Jersey Field Office of The Trust for Public Land. “As a result of the commitment of TPL’s partners and the Abbey, generations of residents, as well as visitors to Morris County will enjoy its serene beauty in perpetuity. At the same time, the monks are ensured good neighbors and a fair price that allows them to continue their ministries and care for those retiring in their order.”

“The Morris County Park Commission is pleased to partner on this land preservation project,” said Dave Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission.”It is fitting that a preservation project of this magnitude will protect open space contiguous with the first county park under the Park Commission’s stewardship and the first National Historic Park. This acquisition will increase the total land preservation area of Lewis Morris County Park to over 2,000 acres.”

St. Mary’s Abbey at Delbarton is a Benedictine Abbey of the American Cassinese Congregation. The monks at St. Mary’s Abbey serve as the teachers and administrators at Delbarton School, a private college preparatory school that ranks as one of the best high schools in the United States. For more than 80 years, the monks have been responsible stewards and owners of approximately 400 acres of land in the area. The monks have been particularly fond of the land’s tranquility and the many scenic areas it provides for solitude and reflection.

TPL conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.5 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 23,000 acres in New Jersey. Locally, TPL recently protected 112 acres through a purchase from the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist in Mendham Township. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.