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RELEASE: 4/16/01
CONTACT: Sharon A. Southard 609-984-1795
or Pattit Quinby 609-341-2056


State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn and State Agriculture Secretary Art Brown today announced the signing of an agreement to preserve one of the most sought-after open space parcels in Monmouth County — the 416.8-acre Chase tract.

Through a partnership with Green Acres, Monmouth County, Holmdel Township, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation, Friends of Holmdel Open Space and the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), the parcel will be preserved in perpetuity at a cost of $19,024,800.

The tract, which had been approved for commercial development, contains freshwater wetlands, a stream corridor, threatened and endangered wildlife habitat, and farmland. The landmark deal also will protect the Ramanessin Brook, an important source of fresh water that flows into the Swimming River Reservoir, which provides drinking water for more than half a million Monmouth County residents.

"The agreement today is another leap forward in reaching our goal to save half of the precious open space and farmland which remain in New Jersey. More open space and farmland means cleaner air, cleaner water, a better habitat for wildlife as well as ensuring that our agricultural and historic lands remain protected for future generations to enjoy," said Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco. "I am committed to making sure that New Jersey remains a national leader in open space preservation and will continue to encourage local and state governments to create an interconnected system of open space by employing a variety of techniques for land and farm preservation in concert with sound land use and infrastructure planning and cooperative partnerships."

Shinn hailed the public-private conservation efforts spurred by the state's Green Acres Program, stressing the need for dedicated partners and willing private sellers such as The Chase Manhattan Bank to work together to preserve high quality open space.

"We want to thank The Chase Manhattan Bank for its cooperation. Partnerships are the key to preservation. Cooperative partnerships like this are the centerpiece of the state's plan to preserve 1 million acres of open space and farmland. The preservation of this expansive property is a great example of how partnerships enable us to leverage funds, stretch our dollars and achieve our open space and farmland goals," said Shinn. "We need to keep these partnerships alive to help keep our Garden State green."

Agriculture Secretary Art Brown, Jr., who chairs the SADC said, "Thanks to this agreement, 190 acres of farmland in Holmdel Township will be preserved forever for agricultural use. We're pleased to be a part of this cooperative effort that will help maintain both our agricultural industry and the quality of life in Holmdel Township."

"The sale of this property is a win-win for all parties. We're pleased to be able to balance the interests of our shareholders with the concerns of the local community," said Leslie Whatley, senior vice president, JPMorgan Chase real estate business services. "By selling this land at a price below market value, we are in effect making a donation to the State of New Jersey and the Holmdel community for the preservation of this land."

The negotiated agreement permanently protects 226.8 acres of open space. When preserved, this land will be managed by the Monmouth County Park System for recreational purposes.

The remaining 190 acres of the 416.8 tract is productive farmland that will be purchased by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and resold at auction to a private owner, with deed restrictions that permanently preserve the land for farming.

"Monmouth County has been and will continue to be aggressive in the pursuit of open space for passive and active recreation. This acquisition is a significant addition to the 12,000+acres already preserved in the county for the benefit of our residents and future generations," explained Monmouth County Freeholder Edward J. Stominiski.

"I am so proud and pleased that Monmouth Conservation Foundation could play an integral role in the consortium of partners to preserve this land," said Judith H. Stanley, president of Monmouth Conservation Foundation. "The completion of this project represents the largest land deal we have participated in. Saving this land as open space is a tremendous benefit to the residents of Monmouth County."

Jeannette Karg, president of the Friends of Holmdel Open Space, added her thanks. "Working side by side with the Monmouth Conservation Foundation and state, county and local government agencies, we have struggled to protect the Chase Tract. We (FOHOS) sincerely thank everyone who signed petitions, attended meetings, wrote letters, signed surveys, and responded to our requests for the funds needed to purchase this property. What once seemed an impossible dream has now become a reality: the preservation of this magnificent piece of land!"

Holmdel Township has committed township funds and has applied for a loan from the DEPís Environmental Infrastructure Funding Program (EIFP). This is the first year that the EIFP will provide low-interest loan funding for the purchase of open space lands that will be maintained in their natural condition and thus provide water quality benefits.

"The contribution this acquisition will make to water quality in Monmouth County clearly illustrates the value of financing purchases like these through the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program," said Ellis S. Vieser, chairman of the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust. "In its first year of financing land purchases, the program will make loans for as many as 18 acquisitions, all of them tracts that might have slipped away to development if ready financing had not been available."

In addition to the benefit of protecting water quality, the acquisition will protect the habitats of threatened and endangered bird and wildlife species and native vegetation.

The acquisition of this tract will link areas of open space between Holmdel and Thompson County Parks, Bayonet and Cross Farms, the Ramanessin Brook Greenway Trails, and the Swimming River Natural Area.

Art Davey, Mayor of Holmdel, thanked The Chase Manhattan Bank and all of the partners for making this land preservation deal happen. He went on to add, "I especially want to thank Monmouth Conservation Foundation for the part it played in bringing the partners together and also the residents of Holmdel for making open space and protection of the regional watershed a high priority."

The Chase tract is part of the original 1677 land grant to the Holmes family, from which Holmdel got its name. The tract contains several historic homes and barns from the 1700s and 1800s and several Lenape archeological sites registered with the New Jersey State Museum.


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