DEP Commissioner Campbell Announces New
Green Acres Open Space Priorities:
Allocates Greater Funding
for Densely Populated Communities; Targets Land Purchases
to Protect Water Quality; Strengthens Long-Term Protection
of Preserved Public Lands
(03/107) TRENTON Supporting
Governor McGreevey's commitment to smart growth, Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell
today announced new Green Acres open space acquisition and
park development priorities that allocate greater funding
for developed communities, protect the state's water resources
and enact more stringent measures to safeguard existing
Green Acres properties against pressures of development.
"The new Green Acres open space priorities
enable us to make wiser property purchases by placing a
greater emphasis on the quality not the quantity of land
purchased in New Jersey," said Governor James E. McGreevey.
"This more strategic approach to open space acquisitions
bolsters my Administration's smart growth priorities and
ultimately ensures that New Jersey's children grow up next
to parks, not parking lots."
The top three priorities of DEP's new Green
Acres policy include: the establishment of a Parks for
People initiative that will increase grant and loan
funding for local and county governments and nonprofit organizations
to purchase recreational lands and develop parks in cities
and older, densely developed suburban communities; greater
state and local funding allocations focusing on open space
that protects water resources and critical wildlife habitat;
and more stringent measures to protect all Green Acres-encumbered
parklands from being disposed of or diverted for non-recreation/conservation
Under the Parks for People initiative,
additional state land acquisition funding will be allocated
to urban areas. In addition, larger awards will be available
as incentives for open space and park development projects
undertaken in "Densely Populated Municipalities."
These are defined as areas with populations of at least
35,000 or with population density greater than 5,000 people
per square mile. A formula has been established that recognizes
and rewards projects undertaken in more densely developed
"For too long, municipalities faced
the same rigid funding cap regardless of whether they had
8,000 residents or 800,000," Commissioner Campbell
added. "This policy brings fairness to densely populated
communities that have been shortchanged by Green Acres in
Parks for People policy initiatives
An increase in grant ratios from 50 percent to 75 percent
of a project cost for park development projects in Urban
Aid municipalities that are designed as a part of an
overall urban redevelopment plan.
A pilot challenge grant category to assist Urban Aid
municipalities with park stewardship. Green Acres will
increase Green Acres' grant portion of a project to
75 percent if the Urban Aid sponsor provides a match
of 50 percent of the project cost. The city will use
its remaining 25 percent to establish an endowment or
purchase an annuity specifically for the newly developed
park's operation, supervision, and maintenance.
The elimination of funding caps for demolition of structures
to create open space for acquisition projects in Urban
Aid Municipalities. The current cap for demolition funding
is 10 percent or $100,000 of the cost of the land.
New incentives in priority ranking for park development
projects that are part of the Abbott School construction
Greater collaboration between Green Acres and the DEP's
Site Remediation Program, Office of Brownfield Reuse,
conservation groups, and economic development advocates
to reclaim former brownfields sites.
Placing high priority on the protection
of critical natural resources, DEP's new open space policy
directs Green Acres to prioritize land purchases that protect
the state's water resources and critical plant and wildlife
habitat. A new priority ranking system established through
legislation (P.L. 2002 c.76) and signed by the Governor
will be established that triples the priority value for
water quality and water supply protection and doubles the
priority value of those lands that will protect flood prone
areas. The ranking system also will provide for greater
prioritization of lands with endangered or threatened species
habitat independent of water resource protection. Green
Acres will be more proactive in pursuing the purchase of
high quality water resource-related lands.
To ensure the long-term protection of New
Jersey's preserved open space and recreation lands, under
its new open space policy the DEP will establish more stringent
measures that prevent existing Green Acres-encumbered parkland
from being disposed of or diverted to non-recreation/conservation
purposes. These measures include:
- An increase in the ratio of replacement land to parkland
proposed for disposal or diversion. Presently, the minimum
replacement to diversion/disposal ratio is one to one.
- Rules that prohibit the use of dedicated open space
tax funding for the purchase of replacement lands.
- Required public hearings for diversion/disposal applications
so that the public is informed - as early in the process
as possible - that Green Acres-encumbered lands may be
used for purposes other than recreation or conservation.
The DEP also will seek statutory authority
to levy fines for the diversion/disposal application review
process and penalties for violations of the Green Acres
funding agreements and rules.
Other priorities outlined in the DEP's
new Green Acres policy include the acquisition of two new
state parks, a higher ranking criteria encouraging the planting
of shade trees on park development project sites to assist
in the reduction of Greenhouse gases, and a greater emphasis
on ensuring meaningful public access on all lands protected
through conservation easements.
In addition to the DEP's new Green Acres
land acquisition priorities, New Jerseyans can impact open
space policy in the state when they cast their votes on
November 4, for a ballot proposition initiated by Governor
McGreevey to provide an additional $150 million in open
space and recreation funding. The Governor has committed
to dedicating $75 million of this funding to establish or
improve local parks, with another $75 million going to open
space purchases in the Highlands.