Open Space Parcels Preserved Along Arthur Kill Greenway
in Middlesex County:
Push for November Open Space Ballot Initiative Continues
(03/159) EDISON TOWNSHIP
- Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M.
Campbell, joined by the Coalition for Conservation, the
Natural Lands Trust and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation,
announced today the creation of a new, urban passive recreation
preserve in Middlesex County.
"The preservation of this land will
promote a higher quality of life for the citizens of New
Jersey, and it is with great pleasure that I present the
deed for this property to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust,"
said Senator Vitale. "The Soldiers and Sailors property
will serve to protect wildlife and provide refuge from our
busy, urban lives."
The preserved area within Woodbridge and
Edison townships includes two contiguous properties - a
nearly 53-acre property known as Soldiers and Sailors and
a 16-acre parcel known as the Sparks Properties. Situated
in the floodplain of the South Branch of the Rahway River,
the properties feature significant wetland and wildlife
habitat and have been identified as high priority acquisition
lands by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation's "Greenways
to the Arthur Kill" report. These properties combined
form the largest contiguous forest over a 10 square mile
"This urban preserve protects significant
habitat for wildlife including the endangered red-shouldered
hawk and advances Governor McGreevey's goal of providing
our urban communities greater access to dwindling open space,"
said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "A successful partnership
effort among the state, the nonprofit community and the
local government, and the invaluable support from Senator
Vitale enabled us to save this critical parcel of land from
The Soldiers and Sailors property is located
on the site of the New Jersey State Home for Disabled Soldiers
and was preserved through legislation sponsored by Senator
Vitale, which allowed for a transfer donation of surplus
land from the Department of Treasury to the nonprofit Natural
Lands Trust within the DEP.
"I am glad that the Sparks Tract has
been preserved," said Edison Mayor George A. Spadoro.
"This preservation adds key parcels to Edison's open
space inventory. Edison showed its dedication to this project
by contributing $250,000 from its local open space trust
fund to this acquisition project."
Located in a densely developed area along
the Arthur Kill Greenway, the Soldiers and Sailors property
is 90 percent forested. A study conducted by the New Jersey
Audubon Society for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation's
"Greenways to the Arthur Kill" report, determined
the site to be critical migratory songbird habitat. According
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), the site also
is of high value as a fish and wildlife resource, providing
habitat for 97 species of breeding and migratory birds,
including the endangered red-shouldered hawk and 33 species
identified on the USFW New Jersey list of breeding birds
of concern. The property serves as a basin for much of the
area's stormwater runoff.
"A group of community activists were
the initiators of this legislation," said Senator Vitale.
"Due to the leadership of Dennis Miranda, Arthur Kill
Coalition; Joy Grafton, Association of New Jersey Environmental
Commissions; Jane Tousman, Edison Open Space Committee;
Walter Stochel, Edison Greenways Group; Robert Spiegel,
Edison Wetlands Association; and Florence Caparaso, a devoted
Woodbridge activist, our state will forever enjoy this land."
Senator Barbara Buono, who represents Edison
Township, said the successful efforts to create the recreation
preserve should serve as statewide models."It was truly
heroic to preserve this oasis of nature in a thriving, fully-developed
region," said Senator Buono, D-18th Legislative District.
"Without those tireless efforts, we could very well
be staring at an office park today instead of a preserve
which will be saved for generations to come."
Bordering the Soldiers and Sailors parcel
on its southern border, the Sparks Properties land contains
significant wetland habitat within the Hudson-Raritan Estuary.
The property features approximately 7.5 acres of upland
forest, 5 acres of wetland forest and 4 acres of grassland.
The Sparks Properties was acquired for $2 million from a
private landowner by New Jersey Conservation Foundation
and then transferred to the Natural Lands Trust. The state
Green Acres Program, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
and the Township of Edison funded the property transfer.
"The preservation of these lands marks
the culmination of years of hard work and commitment of
many individuals and organizations, including Governor McGreevey's
leadership as Mayor of Woodbridge Township, efforts of the
Arthur Kill Coalition, including the Edison Greenways Group,
and Senator Vitale's successful legislation to transfer
lands for permanent preservation," said Michele S.
Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
The addition of the Sparks Properties to
the overall preservation effort in Middlesex County will
significantly increase the opportunity for future public
access to the whole of the preserved wetland forest that
straddles Evergreen Road along the South Branch of the Rahway
River. In addition to being immediately accessible to the
many residents of a nearby apartment complex, the parcel
provides for safe roadside parking for visitors from more
distant areas along a paved access easement.
"One of the most important gifts we
can give to future generations is open space," said
Woodbridge Township Mayor Frank G. Pelzman. "This recreation
preserve will not only provide an area where children can
learn about the environment, but will create a place where
residents can relax and enjoy nature."
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.
Five years ago, voters approved a constitutional
dedication of $98 million annually over the next 30 years
to provide a stable source of funding for open space purchases,
farmland preservation and historic preservation. 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. The increased bonding would
place no additional costs 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.
At least $50 million of the additional
funding will be used to create and improve parks in cities
and suburbs over the next three years as part of Governor
McGreevey's reforms to the Green Acres program. 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.
"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 New Jersey Natural Lands Trust was
created in 1968 by the Legislature as an independent agency
with the mission to preserve land in its natural state for
enjoyment by the public and to protect natural diversity
through the acquisition of open space. The Trust preserves
land primarily by donations of open space through acquisition
of title in fee simple or of conservation easements, and
manages its properties to conserve endangered species habitat,
rare natural features, and significant ecosystems. The Trust
invites passive use by the public for recreational or educational
purposes wherever such use will not adversely affect natural
communities and biological diversity.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation's
mission is to preserve New Jersey's land and natural resources
for the benefit of all. As an innovator and catalyst for
saving land, NJCF protects strategic lands through acquisition
and stewardship; promotes strong land use policies; and
forges partnerships to achieve conservation goals. Since
1960, NJCF has protected over 100,000 thousand acres of
open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the
Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban