Friday, November 14th, 2014

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Nov. 12 approved spending $12.1 million from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve nearly 265 acres of open space in seven towns.

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

Committee Vice-Chairman Stephen Shaw of Mountain Lakes presented the recommendations to the freeholder board during its work session in Morristown on Wednesday afternoon.

A grant of $10 million, the largest ever awarded in the program’s 21-year history, went to Chatham Township to assist in the purchase and preservation of 136.1 acres of Giralda Farms. The property, located adjacent to Woodland Avenue at the Harding and Madison municipal borders, is a remnant of the larger estate once owned by Geraldine R. Dodge.

According to Shaw, Chatham Township will co-own the larger, 101.58 acre northeastern parcel with the Morris County Park Commission. The Park Commission will own the smaller parcels that total 34.5 acres and manage all of the properties as an extension of the county’s adjacent 744-acre Loantaka Brook Reservation.

“The committee recognized the significance of this acquisition and the tangible public benefit to a large population by adding the property to a heavily used county park,” Shaw told the freeholders.

Visitation to Loantaka Brook Reservation in 2013 totaled 362,967 people, with an additional 4,000 equestrians from the adjoining Seaton Hackney Stables, Shaw said.

A Park Master Plan that outlines proposed trails calls for the current 8-mile trail network from Loantaka to be extended onto the property. Acquisition, said Shaw, will expand the network of protected parklands that are open to the public in the densely populated eastern section of the county.

The Park Commission is contributing $1.6 million of its portion of the Trust Fund toward the project, and the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority is contributing $1.25 million.

A $1 million grant was awarded to the Harding Land Trust for the purchase of the property known as Blue Mill – Pine Brook Preserve in Harding.

The 10.58 acres are located south of Blue Mill Road and east of Dicksons Mill Road, directly north of lands owned and managed by Harding Land Trust for passive recreation including public walking trails.

Pine Brook, located along the western property boundary, flows into the preserved lands south of the property.

According to Shaw, acquisition will permit further expansion of the trail network onto neighboring preserved lands and the restoration of the riparian area adjacent to Pine Brook to prevent further erosion.

Open space grants of $800,000 for Vallevue Farm in Morris Township; $200,000 for Beasley Ridge in Jefferson; $75,000 for the Ogden Parcel in Rockaway Borough; $30,000 for the Morris Canal Greenway-Shippebnport in Roxbury; and $25,000 for Hillcrest Woods in Boonton Township were also approved.

A list and details about each of the 2014 approved projects can be found on the Morris County Preservation Trust website, http://www.morrispreservation.org.

A portion of the county’s Open Space Tax, which this year is 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 nearly 11,750 acres since the awarding of grants began in 1994.  Morris County voters approved the program in November 1992.