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April 16, 2004

Contact: Elaine Makatura
(609) 292-2994

DEP Wins Victory for Historic Preservation: Remaining Portion of Black Creek Site Listed to New Jersey Register of Historic Places

(04/39) Trenton - Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today applauded a court ruling in favor of DEP's position that all 40-acres of the Black Creek Native American Site must be protected and its history preserved.

"I'm grateful that the court has vindicated our efforts to save a precious resource from destruction," said Campbell. "New Jersey could have lost thousands of years of Native American history. We always support local community efforts to develop recreational spaces but it need not come at the expense of other local treasures like the Black Creek Native American site. I am also pleased that the court recognized our efforts to accommodate the interests of the township prior to listing the site.

The Black Creek Native American Site, in Vernon Township, Sussex County is a 40-acre parcel of land with significant archaeological and historic value.

"Ten thousand years of human history are now saved, not just for Native Americans, but all citizens who respect history and for their sons and daughters," said the Tribe's attorney, Greg Werkheiser of the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice. "The Tribe is most grateful for this decision. We thank the Commissioner of the DEP for his courage, and the hundreds of supporters who have stood by the Tribe during this long battle for their humble dedication. Your friendship will not be forgotten."

Previously, four acres of the south field portion of the site were not included when the DEP originally listed the site in January 2002. The remaining four acres were remanded back to the State Review Board for further deliberation.

However, in April 2002, just moments before Vernon Township called an emergency meeting to hire a contractor to bulldoze the area to create recreational playing fields, Commissioner Campbell listed the remaining four acres of the Black Creek Site to the NJ Register of Historic Places. This was later appealed by the Township of Vernon.

Thousands of artifacts dating from approximately 8500 BC to 1700 AD have been uncovered at the Black Creek Site which is one of the last areas to exhibit settlement in northern New Jersey by the Lenni Lenape. The artifacts uncovered are indicative of 10,000 years of human habitation on the site.

Besides the Black Creek Site, only four of approximately 1,626 sites listed in the NJ Register are Native American sites. The NJ Department of Transportation discovered the site in the early 1990's as part of a bridge replacement project on Maple Grange Road.

Today's ruling was issued by the Superior Court of New Jersey's Appellate Division.



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