Morristown has moved a giant step closer to preserving 11 acres near Foote’s Pond.
Morris County’s Open Space Trust Fund Committee this week recommended spending $1.35 million on the project. The Morris County Freeholders are anticipated to approve the grant, one of six totaling $2.4 million, at its Nov. 20, 2017, meeting.
Earlier this year, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Board approved $1 million for the purchase, as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program.
Additionally, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Garden State Preservation Trust have okayed a $500,000 Green Acres matching grant to Morristown for the town’s acquisition of the James Street lot owned by the Loyola House of Retreats.
The county’s open space committee describes the property as “gently sloping and completely forested. It is situated in the Green Brook watershed and has a high capacity for groundwater recharge.
“Preservation would create a 25-acre open space just one mile from the Morristown Green. It would be used for passive recreation and trail expansion, while offering protection to an abundance of birds and other wildlife.”
Former Morris Township Mayor Rick Watson, chair of the 15-member committee, thanked the freeholders “for recognizing the need for continued public support for this program, and understanding the need for towns to be able to preserve land for active and passive recreation and environmental protection.
“Many of these projects could not be done without County support,’’ Watson said in a statement.
“The current board continues to hear the voices of our county residents who have repeatedly voted to approve a special tax for these purposes, and have directed us to make preservation a priority issue,’’ freeholder Director Doug Cabana said in a statement.
Open space preservation is funded with the county’s Open Space Tax, which this year is 7/8ths of 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value.
Approved by Morris County voters in November 1992, the program has helped save 12,247 acres in 37 of the county’s 39 towns Morris County voters.
Here is more, from the Morris County Freeholders:
SIX MORRIS COUNTY OPEN SPACE PROJECTS RECOMMENDED TO FREEHOLDERS AT COST OF $2.4 MILLION
INCLUDED IS 11-ACRE TRACT JUST ONE MILE FROM THE MORRISTOWN GREEN
Morris County’s Open Space Trust Fund Committee today recommended funding six 2017 open space preservation projects at a cost of nearly $2.4 million and totaling 147 acres located in six Morris County towns to the Morris County Board of Freeholders.
Included are projects in Denville, Hanover, Jefferson, Lincoln Park, Morristown, and Washington Township.
They range from one-acre purchases for flood storage and a pocket park in Lincoln Park and Hanover, to the purchase of an 11-acre undeveloped tract near downtown Morristown, 12 scenic acres in Washington Township, and a 118-acre forested tract in Jefferson.
The freeholders will make their formal decision on the grant recommendations at the county governing board’s Monday, Nov. 20, meeting in Mount Arlington. The county governing board traditionally has accepted the recommendations of the committee.
Funding for the recommended projects would come from the voter approved county preservation trust fund, generated by a special county tax. That money also is used for farmland and historic preservation, county parkland acquisition and the purchase of residential properties prone to flooding.
Former Morris Township Mayor Rick Watson, who chairs the 15-member committee, presented the recommendations to the freeholder board during its work session in Morristown this morning. The recommended awards range from $52,800 to $1.35 million.
“The committee thanks the freeholders for recognizing the need for continued public support for this program, and understanding the need for towns to be able to preserve land for active and passive recreation and environmental protection,’’ said Watson. “Many of these projects could not be done without County support.’’
“Freeholder Boards over the last several decades have clearly understood that the high quality of life in Morris County is directly connected to the preservation of open space and farmland and historic properties,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “The current board continues to hear the voices of our county residents who have repeatedly voted to approve a special tax for these purposes, and have directed us to make preservation a priority issue.’’
“We thank the volunteers of the county’s Open Space Trust Fund Committee for dedication to thoroughly reviewing applications for preservation to ensure that we make the wisest choices when spending our open space tax dollars,’’ added Freeholder Christine Myers, who is the county governing board’s liaison to the Open Space Committee.
“These open space dollars finance the creation of parks, connect trails, offer recreational opportunities for residents, or just to ensure that we have green spaces in each of our towns as places to think or breathe.’’
A portion of the county’s Open Space Tax, which this year is 7/8ths of 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value, is used to fund open space preservation. Any of the 39 municipalities in the county and qualified charitable conservancies are eligible to apply for project funding.
The Open Space grant program has helped preserve 12,247 acres in 37 of the county’s 39 towns since the awarding of grants started in 1994. Morris County voters approved the program in November 1992.
For specific details on each project and a locator map, go to https://www.morrisplanning.org/divisions/PresTrust/OpenSpace/index.asp
The following is a snapshot of the projects that were recommended:
Foote’s Pond/Loyola Acquisition – Morristown
Applicant – Town of Morristown
Located in Morristown
Recommended grant: $1.35 million
Located west of James Street, adjacent to Foote’s Pond Park, at the southern municipal boundary, the tract is gently sloping and completely forested. It is situated in the Green Brook watershed and has a high capacity for groundwater recharge. Preservation would create a 25-acre open space just one mile from the Morristown Green. It would be used for passive recreation and trail expansion, while offering protection to an abundance of birds and other wildlife.
Jonathan’s Woods Extension – Denville
Applicant – Protect Our Wetlands, Waters and Woods
Located in Denville
Recommended grant: $245,000
Located in the northern section of Denville, these three properties are accessed off Hillcrest Road. The lands contain steep rocky slopes, with a predominant forest of mature oaks. Acquisition would continue expansion of the 600-acre Jonathan’s Woods north of Cedar Lake and enable further trail connections. Denville would take ownership of the acreage upon acquisition.
Rockaway River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Addition — Jefferson
Applicant – Trust for Public Land
Located in Jefferson
Recommended grant: $565,000
Located east of Route 15, this forested tract is adjacent to town ship and state lands that comprise the Rockaway River Wildlife Management Area. Existing trails throughout the property offer opportunities to link to preserved land located to the east. The property will offer passive recreation and wildlife habitat.
The state, township, and TPL have been pursuing acquisitions to the WMA to attain a large, contiguous land mass that eventually would extend from the county’s Mahlon Dickerson Reservation to the Newark Watershed.
Cataract Park Expansion – Washington Township
Applicant – Washington Township
Located in Washington Township
Recommended grant: $52,800
Located east of Schooley’s Mountain Road, near the Warren County border, the heavily wooded tract is surrounded by existing Cataract Park. Acquisition of this property would allow for creation of a new trail to provide much easier access to the scenic waterfall at the top of a ridge in Cataract Park. It also would offer continued protection from further degradation to nearby Cataract Brook.
The township previously sought a county open space grant for a nearby tract but was unable to reach agreement with the landowner.
Whippany River Blue way – Hanover Township
Applicant – Township of Hanover
Located in Hanover
Recommended grant: $90,000
The property contains the former Whippany Post Office, at the corner of Parsippany Road, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, and Old Parsippany Road. The tract flooded during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, and the Post Office never reopened. The township proposes removing the abandoned building and creating a pocket park for the neighborhood.
The county grant would cover only the land purchase, with municipal and state Green Acres funds to finance demolition and creation of the park, which also would fit well into the township’s pedestrian and bicycle connectivity plan.
Midwood Flood Storage Area Addition – Lincoln Park
Applicant – Lincoln Park
Located in Lincoln Park
Recommended grant: $82,500
Located off Route 202/Boonton Turnpike and Midwood Road, at the oxbow section of the Pompton River, this one-acre property is the site of a former restaurant that closed in 2011 due to numerous severe floods. The borough will demolish the structure and parking lot, and return the site to a floodwater storage area and wildlife habitat.
The county grant would cover only the land purchase. This purchase compliments Lincoln Park’s active pursuit of flood buyouts of residential properties through federal, state, and county programs.