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October 9, 2003

Contact: Jack Kaskey
(609) 984-1795

DEP Green Acres Program Adds 460 Acres to Double Trouble State Park

(03/146) TRENTON -- The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Coalition for Conservation today celebrated the acquisition of 460 acres of Pinelands watershed land that will be added to Double Trouble State Park in Berkeley Township, Ocean County.

"Protecting this land in its natural state will help buffer the water quality of the Toms River," said John S. Watson, administrator of the DEP Green Acres program, which recently completed the purchase. "At the same time, this land will provide residents in the nearby densely developed area of Ocean County, and residents statewide, with excellent opportunities to get outside and enjoy New Jersey's unique Pinelands habitats."

The $1.15 million acquisition, which includes three houses and 460 acres, will be added to the DEP's Double Trouble State Park. The park previously encompassed 7,336 acres.

The land includes a stream that drains to the Toms River, several lakes, vast forested areas of cedar swamp, and a globally rare natural community of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens. The land also provides habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, including the northern pine snake, bald eagle, Pine Barrens tree frog, two species of dragonflies and several rare insects.

The property is in a region the Pinelands Commission has designated as a special agricultural area, and active agriculture will continue on the land's 50 acres of cranberry bogs. Ned and Jeffrey Lipman sold the land to DEP so it would be permanently preserved in memory of their father, Edward V. Lipman, who purchased the tract in 1951. At that time, the cranberry bogs were already 105 years old.

Since Governor McGreevey took office last year, the state Green Acres program has acquired 43,492 acres of open space, and the State Agriculture Development Committee has preserved 310 farms covering 25,516 acres.

Voters will have an opportunity to approve an additional $150 million for open space purchases and community park improvements on Election Day, Nov. 4. Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment, proposes to increase the bonding capacity of the Garden State Preservation Trust to $1.15 billion, an increase of $150 million from the $1 billion voters approved in 1998.

The increased capacity would place no additional tax burden on New Jersey taxpayers. The sales tax dedicated in 1998 to pay off Garden State Preservation Trust bonds would cover these additional bonds by taking advantage of today's lower interest rates.

"Public Question No. 1 is an incredible opportunity to provide another $150 million for community parks, open space, farmland and clean water without raising taxes or costing taxpayers any additional money," said Michael Catania, chairman of the Coalition for Conservation. "The Coalition urges all New Jersey voters to take advantage of this opportunity and vote 'yes' on Public Question No. 1 on Nov. 4."

The newly formed Coalition for Conservation includes a broad base of statewide and local groups representing land conservation, parks and recreation, and farmland preservation interests.

At least $50 million would be used to create and improve parks in cities and suburbs over the next three years as part of Gov. McGreevey's reforms to the Green Acres program. Last year, Green Acres could provide only $1 in matching funds for every $8 requested by local governments. The additional money would help meet New Jersey's growing demand for open space.

A minimum of $50 million also would be spent on open space purchases and farmland preservation in the Highlands, a critical environmental resource that is the source of drinking water for more than a third of New Jersey's residents.

In 1998, voters approved a constitutional dedication of $98 million annually from sales and use tax revenue over the next 30 years to provide a stable source of funding for open space purchases, farmland preservation and historic preservation. Currently, the state may borrow up to $1 billion over the first 10 years, using the $98 million annually to pay off the debt. With today's low interest rates, $98 million annually is sufficient to cover payments on $1.15 billion in debt, allowing the state to expand its open space and farmland preservation efforts.



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