Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

The new 136-acre Giralda Farms Preserve at Loantaka Brook Reservation in Chatham Township opened to the public on Saturday, June 6, following a special dedication ceremony on the tract, as part of a National Trails Day event.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, jointly sponsored by Chatham Township and the Morris County Park Commission, was held at the trail head off Woodland Avenue. Dignitaries included Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen; Morris County Freeholders Kathryn DeFillippo, Thomas Mastrangelo, and Douglas Cabana; Chatham Township Mayor Kevin Sullivan, Harding Mayor Nicholas Platt, and Morris County Park Commission Executive Director David Helmer.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, jointly sponsored by Chatham Township and the Morris County Park Commission, was held at the trail head off Woodland Avenue. Dignitaries included Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen; Morris County Freeholders Kathryn DeFillippo, Thomas Mastrangelo, and Douglas Cabana; Chatham Township Mayor Kevin Sullivan, Harding Mayor Nicholas Platt, and Morris County Park Commission Executive Director David Helmer.

The 136-acre tract was purchased and permanently preserved for public use at a cost of $14.1 million, including a $10 million Morris County Open Space grant, which was the largest single grant ever awarded by the county open space fund.

In addition to the county, funding was provided by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, Chatham Township Open Space Trust Fund, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, Normandy Real Estate Partners, the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority and the Morris County Park Commission.

Mayor Kevin Sullivan

This joint effort preserves one of the largest remaining tracts of open space in southeastern Morris County. For the first time in more than a century, the public will be able to walk freely on what was already a private estate when Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge purchased it in 1916. After her death in 1973, the property became part of the Giralda Farms Corporate Park, off limits to the public behind a fence and guarded gatehouse.

The site includes a current 1.2 mile network of hiking and off-road biking trails (which could be expanded in the future), which connects to the existing trail system at Loantaka Brook Reservation via Woodland Road.

“This is a spectacular addition to the county’s existing network of natural lands and trails, which improves the quality of life for all residents of our county,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo. “It is testament to the continued importance of the county’s open space trust fund, which helps to make such important preservation projects possible.’’

Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo and other dignitaries

“This project connects greenways and enhances the recreational opportunities for all residents of our county,’’ said Freeholder John Cesaro, county governing board liaison on preservation issues. “We thank all of the partners who worked to make this happen.’’

The Giralda tract features a stunning combination of meadows and hardwood wetlands and uplands, as well as lawns, winding carriage trails, majestic specimen trees, and a pond. In addition to recreational potential as a resource for hiking, biking and cross country skiing, the new preserve offers key environmental protections.

The vast majority of the Giralda tract is owned by Chatham Township but the trail network and property will be maintained by the Park Commission.

To view a video of a portion of the June 6 event (provided via the courtesy of TAPintoChatham.com), please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbY4XxGfcAw

To view a rendering of the preserve, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/images/giralda.jpg

For information on the history of Giralda Farms, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/pdfs/giraldabrochure.pdf

For more information on Morris County Park Commission facilities please visit: http://www.morrisparks.net/

All photography is © Tom Salvas.