Posted Friday, November 4th, 2011

The Morris County Freeholders expressed support and appreciation for Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to clean up and transition unused state property to Morris County for open space and productive uses for the public.

The governor on Thursday announced plans to remediate and convert approximately 165 acres at the original Greystone Psychiatric Hospital property in Parsippany to useable open space parkland to be operated by the Morris County Park Commission.

“I am truly impressed with the way the Christie administration has thought ‘out of the box’ to preserve this beautiful property in perpetuity,” said Morris County Freeholder John Murphy.

The county has been trying for several years to acquire and preserve most of the property as open space.

“I appreciate the governor and his administration’s recognition that Morris County has been good a steward of the 306 acres we had previously acquired from the state as is evidenced by their finding a way to partner with us on the remaining surplus,” Murphy said. “He sees we have transformed derelict buildings and excess state property into another jewel of the county park system and an important source of support for the nonprofit community and those it serves.”

Morris County in 2003 purchased 306 acres of what the state considered to be “excess” property at Greystone from the state for $1, with plans to use the land for recreation and open space and to create a nonprofit mall where individuals can have one-stop access to human services.

The county has since cleaned up the property, removed lead paint and asbestos from the older buildings that were on the land and demolished many of those structures that were beyond repair. However, buildings that were in good condition are being renovated to house non-profit organizations.

“The freeholders have a tremendous amount of time, work and more than $15 million invested in the Greystone site,” said Murphy. “Being able to preserve the remaining land will help us complete our vision for the area and enhance the quality of life for Morris County residents.”

Since the county purchased the 300 acres more than eight years ago, a recreation complex called Central Park of Morris County, overseen by the Morris County Park Commission, has been established.

The complex includes two lighted regulation-size in-line skating rinks, available for adult and youth leagues, open skating times and non-hockey activities; 5-acre dog park/canine center; a 5k cross country trail; a natural amphitheater/stage; and a fully accessible Challenger League ball field.

The Challenger Field is a rubberized surface painted to represent a baseball field. It is lit for nighttime play and can accommodate such activities as wheelchair baseball and softball, as well as wiffle ball and kickball.

“It will be wonderful for all the residents of Morris County, and particularly for the surrounding towns, to have the other unused acres returned to the public as open space,” said Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom. “The remediation aspect, cleaning up the dormant property in an environmentally sound manner, which the governor stressed today, is also very important.”

A number of nonprofit human services organizations have also relocated to the property. They include The ARC of Morris County, which is dedicated to the care, support and advancement of people with intellectual and related developmental disabilities and their families; The Interfaith Council for Homeless Families; New Jersey AIDS Services, which houses and provides counseling to residents with HIV and AIDS; The Interfaith Food Pantry; and Community Hope, which leases nine houses for use as transitional housing for the mentally ill.

The county will soon begin renovating what is known as the Central Avenue Complex, which the county plans to convert to its nonprofit mall, with the first tenant scheduled to be St. Clare’s Behavioral Health Center.