Posted Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Nov. 28 approved spending $4.4 million from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve 84 acres of open space in eight towns.

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

Committee Chairman Greg Poff, Rockaway Township’s business administrator, presented the committee’s recommendations to the freeholder board during its work session Wednesday morning.

The largest grant award, $2,075,000, will go to the nonprofit Harding Land Trust for 43.5 acres of property in Harding and Morris townships known as Frelinghuysen Fields-2.

The property, southeast of Harter Road and James Street, consists of wooded wetlands surrounded by crop and pastureland, and will be used for passive recreation.

“Two tributaries that flow into the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge traverse the property, which is also a critical habitat for endangered species,” Poff said. “By acquiring the land, the Harding Land Trust will be building upon already preserved property in the area, with the potential to extend walking trails to those adjacent preserved lands.”

A grant totaling $1,575,000 was awarded to Morristown to acquire 0.9 acres of property on the north side of Early Street for the town’s Early Street Garden project to expand the number of garden beds, provide a public park area along the sidewalk and establish a walking path through the garden to link with an adjacent church.

“This thriving community garden project fulfills a recreational need for people of all ages in an urban setting,” Poff told the freeholders.

Preservation projects in Denville, Chatham Township, Mountain Lakes, Washington Township and Pequannock were also approved.

A complete list of the 2012 approved projects can be found on the Morris County Preservation Trust website,

A portion of the county’s Open Space Tax, which this year is 1 ¼ cents 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.

Since the awarding of grants began in 1994, nearly 23,000 acres 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.