Whale Creek Property on Raritan Bay Protected (NJ)

Aberdeen, NJ, March 13, 2006: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Aberdeen Township, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced today the purchase of 15 acres near Whale Creek. The property is one of the few developable sites remaining in the area, and its preservation will help protect the water quality of the Whale Creek and Raritan Bay.

“We are happy to have been able to work with the state and the township to protect this property. The land is a Harbor Estuary Program priority acquisition site, which indicates its regional importance,” said Kathy Haake, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “We would like to continue to work with the state and local governments to conserve more properties important to the Harbor Estuary.”

The property is sandwiched between a town park and state land that borders Whale Creek. The newly protected land will be used for recreation such as hiking and birding and a trail to link Aberdeen’s Alvin Ross Memorial Field to Whale Creek has been discussed. The parcel also provides critical habitat for a variety of plant and bird species, including the threatened black skimmer and endangered least tern. The area is a popular migratory and wintering stopover for songbirds and raptors.

“This is a great opportunity to work in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the State of New Jersey Green Acres Program to preserve this important piece of environmentally sensitive property,” said Aberdeen Township Manager Stuart Brown.

Water protection was at the top of the list of reasons to purchase the property. The land is no more than 500 feet from Whale Creek, which feeds into Raritan Bay, the largest bay in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Raritan Bay was one of America’s richest fisheries until 1900, when it became over-fished and plagued by pollution and silt.

Funding for the $1,250,000 purchase was provided by Aberdeen Township and a variety of state funding sources including a Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program grant to Aberdeen Township, Natural Resource Damages funds and state acquisition funds. Once acquired, the State will co-own the property with the town, which will manage the site.

“This partnership among Aberdeen, TPL, and the state preserves an important Harbor Estuary Priority Acquisition site,” said John S. Watson, Jr., Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection. “The purchase of this strategic property, that had been threatened by residential development, completes an important Raritan Bayshore conservation and recreation greenway. Through the foresight and collaborative efforts of TPL and Aberdeen Township, this parcel will now remain open for public enjoyment and habitat protection.”

The Environmental Protection Agency established the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) in 1988 following growing public concern for the health of the New York/New Jersey Harbor and Bight ecosystem. The program pulled together representatives from the private and public sectors, including government, industry, business, and environmental interest groups, and elected officials from area counties. The HEP focuses a wide range of issues related to the health of the ecosystem including pollution and habitat loss.

The Trust for Public Land has taken a progressive lead in protecting and repairing the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary’s health and diverse ecosystem. Since the mid-1970s, TPL has been active in conserving land around the harbor that is vital to its well-being. This is the organization’s first harbor project in New Jersey, and plans are to continue this effort. In New York, TPL has protected 382 acres that are linked to the harbor, an investment of approximately $71 million.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Protection of the New York/New Jersey Harbor has been an integral part of TPL’s conservation efforts in the region for many years. With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected approximately 23,000 acres throughout New Jersey. For more information, visit www.tpl.org/newjersey.