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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2006

 

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Darlene Yuhas (609) 984-1795

 

DEP EARMARKS FUNDING TO IMPROVE PUBLIC ACCESS
AT KEN LOCKWOOD GORGE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA

(06/59) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced that the DEP will spend $150,000 in capital funding to improve public access to Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area, renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty and popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

The funding, included in the 2007 state budget Governor Jon S. Corzine signed in July, will enable the DEP to correct longstanding drainage problems along a two-mile gravel road paralleling a stretch of the South Branch of the Raritan River, which runs through breathtaking Ken Lockwood Gorge in Lebanon Township, Hunterdon County. Repeated washouts have made the roadway less safe for drivers, and erosion into the river has raised concerns about water quality.

"Ken Lockwood Gorge is an exquisite piece of New Jersey's landscape, revered by trout anglers, hikers and cyclists," Commissioner Jackson said. "Governor Corzine recognizes these natural resources need protection and made it possible to begin tackling long-overdue repairs. But the fact remains, New Jersey needs a reliable source of funding for maintenance and capital improvements at all of its wildlife areas, parks and historic sites. In November, voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on whether these special places get the care they deserve."

In addition to improving drainage to help protect the river's water quality, the project calls for transforming the gravel road into a pedestrian trail and closing it to vehicular traffic. Parking areas will be created at both ends of the trail, and are expected to enable more visitors to enjoy the area's recreational offerings and scenic views.

Named for the late Kenneth F. Lockwood, a luminary in wildlife conservation and longtime reporter for the Newark Evening News, the gorge is among dozens of wildlife management areas, parks and historic sites forced to go without regular maintenance and necessary capital improvements because there is no stable source of state funding for such projects. Today, deferred repairs and improvements at these sites will cost an estimated $250 million.

On Nov. 7, New Jersey voters will be asked to consider a constitutional amendment that would provide a dedicated source of funding - $15 million a year until 2015 and $32 million annually beginning in 2016 - for maintenance and capital improvements at wildlife areas, historic sites and state parks. Without requiring any new taxes, Public Question 2 would allow revenues already generated through the Corporate Business Tax Fund to be used for maintenance and capital-improvement projects.

Voters' approval of Public Question 2 would guarantee a stable source of state funding every year for maintenance and capital improvements at New Jersey's parks, historic sites and wildlife areas. If voters reject the ballot proposal, these projects will receive minimal or no state funding annually.

The first portion of the 400-acre Ken Lockwood tract was purchased in 1948 with hunting and fishing license fees; later, more acreage was acquired through the state's Green Acres Program. The gorge was dedicated as a memorial to Lockwood in 1949, the year after his death at age 67.

In 2002, Lockwood was identified as one of New Jersey's best-known conservationists for the first half of the 20th century and one of Newark's Literary Lights in a special publication to commemorate the Newark Public Library's designation as a New Jersey Literary Landmark. For more than 35 years, Lockwood wrote the widely read Newark News column "Out in the Open" and is credited with sparking the state's trout-stocking program. The publication featured Lockwood among some 60 others, including famed author Washington Irving, poet Stephen Crane and American Revolutionary War pamphleteer Thomas Paine.

To learn more about Ballot Question #2, visit: www.NJSOS.org

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Last Updated: October 19, 2006