Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
NEW TRAILS WILL ADD RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES COUNTYWIDE
The Morris County Board of Freeholders today approved in concept a new Morris County Trail Construction Grant Program which will award grants annually to qualified applicants from the county’s 39 municipalities to build new recreational trails on municipal open space, thereby enhancing recreational opportunities for all Morris County residents.
The new program, expected to get formal freeholder approval on April 27, will have an estimated $700,000 to award in 2016 from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund. Letters of intent from interested towns are due in July and formal applications are due in September. The first grant awards are expected to be announced this December or January 2017.
Funding will come from a portion of the county’s existing voter-approved Morris County Preservation Trust Fund, which will generate just over $8 million this year through a tax of 7/8ths of one cent per $100 of assessed property value. In 2014, voters approved a ballot question by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 to permit diverting a portion of that fund to trail development as an allowable use of the money
“After more than 20 years of county taxpayers’ enthusiastic financial support for the preservation of undeveloped lands by towns and nonprofit groups, I am excited this next step is being taken to provide resources towards trail construction on some of these beautiful properties,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo.
“The purpose of the grant program is to provide recreational trail use opportunities which benefit the communities and enhance the quality of life for the residents of Morris County,’’ said Morris County Park Commission Executive Director David Helmer.
“The investment will increase the value of preserved properties by making them more accessible to the public and create a more connected countywide trail system,’’ added Morris County Freeholder Doug Cabana, who is the county governing board’s liaison to the Park Commission.
“This is a wise investment in the improvement of our county’s recreational opportunities, which improves the quality of life for all residents, making Morris County a better place to live and work and locate a business,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, who is the board’s liaison to planning and public works.
The program was detailed to the freeholders at their meeting in Morristown this morning by Park Commission Executive Director Dave Helmer and Deena Leary, Director of the Morris County Department of Planning and Public Works.
It was initiated as a result of an outreach effort conducted as part of the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund Analysis & Strategy Report from September of 2014, in which nearly all municipalities responded that trail development was their highest priority. Subsequently, the Freeholder
Board authorized a ballot question in 2014, with voters strongly supporting use of a portion of trust fund money for trail development.
The new program will operate on a reimbursement basis only. Municipal applicants are limited to one request per funding cycle. The program will rely upon municipalities to provide planning and design of new trails and to contribute a 20 percent financial match for the trail construction projects.
Permissible Uses and Projects, include:
Various aspects of project development are not eligible for funding as part of this grant program. They include, but are not limited to the following: land condemnation, land acquisition, trail feasibility studies, planning, design, sidewalks, improvements or construction to roads, lighting, running tracks (tracks used for races involving athletes at track meets), law enforcement personnel and activities, promotional materials (shirts, caps, pins, etc…)
Funding from this new program only will be considered if the land on which a trail is to be constructed is:
The minimum grant amount is $5,000. The maximum grant award limit is defined as “no one award shall receive more than 60 percent of the funds available during each year’s funding cycle”. However, this exception can be waived if the pool of applicants is limited and/or the project is deemed to be a regionally significant project.
Applicants are required to submit a completed Letter of Intent which verifies property ownership, estimates costs, and approves pursuit of grants. Letters of intent from towns are due by Friday July 29 at 4 p.m. The application deadline is Sept. 1, at 4 p.m.
Applicants will have an opportunity to attend Community Workshops scheduled for May 18 and June 6 to learn more about the program. Additionally, applicants can schedule pre-application meetings to review and discuss individual applications prior to the deadline.
For more information on the program, visit: http://planning.morriscountynj.gov/divisions/prestrust/trail/