Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Nov. 9 approved spending $11,626,750 from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve 1,286.5 acres of open space in 11 towns.

The freeholders approved funding 12 projects based upon the recommendations of the county’s Open Space Trust Fund Committee.

The largest grant award, $2,880,000, will go to the nonprofit Harding Land Trust for nearly 70 acres of property in Harding Township known as Primrose, said Freeholder Ann Grossi, liaison to the Preservation Trust.

“This property contains wetlands, important watershed lands adjacent to both Primrose Brook and the Passaic River and endangered species habitat,” Grossi said. According to the Harding Land Trust, the property will be managed to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat and water quality and to provide opportunities for passive recreation, including hiking.

A grant totaling $2,343,750 was awarded to Long Hill to acquire 71.4 acres of property at the northwest intersection of Morristown and Valley Roads. Known as Central Park, the township plans to maintain nature trails, picnic areas, and walking and bicycle trails throughout the tract, with portions of the property also being used for active recreational fields.

One of the smallest projects approved by the freeholders was the fifth phase of the Pompton Riverwalk in Pequannock. The township will receive a $988,000 grant to purchase the land portion of six properties totaling 1.2 acres on the Pompton River as a continuation of a long term project to recover riparian buffers and flood mitigation along the river.

“The first four phases of this project were funded with assistance from the county open space program, and most of the properties in these phases are now preserved,” Grossi said. “This latest acquisition will fill in the gaps between existing preserved lands, and further Pequannock’s goal of creating a linear park along the Pompton River.”

Preservation projects in Chester Township, Rockaway Township, Jefferson, Roxbury, Mendham Township, Mount Olive, Washington Township and Florham Park Borough were also approved.

A complete list of the 2011 approved projects will soon be found on the Morris County Preservation Trust website, www.morrispreservation.org.

A portion of the tax of 1 ½ cents per $100 of assessed property value was used to fund the 2011 program. Any of the 39 municipalities in the county and qualified charitable conservancies are eligible to apply for project funding.

According to Grossi, since the Open Space Program began awarding grants in 1994, more than 23,520 acres, or approximately 36.8 square miles of open space in Morris County have been funded for preservation, slightly larger than the size of Mount Olive Township.

Morris County voters approved the program in November 1992.