Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Morris County officials Oct. 26 celebrated 20,000 acres of land preserved through the county’s Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund with a ceremony at the Ayres-Knuth Farm in Denville.

The Ayres-Knuth Farm in 1994 was among the first properties to receive Preservation Trust funds.

Since the Preservation Trust Fund’s inception, 543 projects have been completed in 38of the county’s 39 towns, and more than 20,000 acres of land in the county have been permanently preserved.

Morris County Freeholder Ann Grossi, liaison to the Preservation Trust, said preserving the land benefits everyone.

“Critical natural resources, which are vital to our public health and quality of life, have been protected, and we now possess, in perpetuity, some of the most beautiful, diverse and highly accessible parks and outdoor recreation facilities in the state,” Grossi said.

Grossi said the utilization of Preservation Trust Fund dollars also supports both the state and Morris County’s agricultural heritage.

“Agriculture remains a deeply- rooted part of our economy,” Grossi said. “It is a $42 million industry in Morris County alone, which provides healthy, locally-grown foods, much-needed jobs and tax revenues generated by farm markets and tourism.”

Rich Boornazian, administrator of the state’s Green Acres Program, called preserving 20,000 acres of land a “huge achievement” for Morris County. He told those in attendance at the outdoor ceremony that county officials should be congratulated for being in the forefront of land preservation efforts.

Tim Brill, planning director for the State Agriculture Development Committee, said the more than 100 farms in the county that are among the 20,000 preserved acres represent “an investment in ensuring agriculture remains an important part of Morris County’s future for decades to come.”

Morris County voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the trust fund in November 1992. The following year the freeholders established the program to acquire and preserve land for public open space, outdoor recreation sites, and farmland. In 2002 the Trust Fund’s scope was extended to include the preservation of historic sites.

The program is funded through a dedicated tax, which in 2011 is 1 ½ cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Going forward, Freeholder Grossi said the Preservation Trust has 171 projects in progress.

Additional information about the Morris County Preservation Trust may be found online at www.morrispreservation.org.