NEW 313-ACRE PARK IN HUNTERDON COUNTY UNVEILED;
$7.5 MILLION PROJECT IS JOINT EFFORT BY GREEN ACRES PROGRAM,
AND FEDERAL, COUNTY, LOCAL, AND NON-PROFIT PARTNERS
(11/P81) TRENTON -A new park in Kingwood Township that offers sweeping vistas of the Delaware River Valley in an area of Hunterdon County that is filled with rolling hills, forested ravines and pristine streams, and which offers habitat to many wildlife species, was dedicated today, culminating a decade-long preservation effort with local and nonprofit partners, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin announced.
The 313-acre park, to be jointly owned, managed and maintained by Kingwood Township and the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance, will offer a venue for horseback riders, hikers, mountain bikers, bird watchers, and others who favor the peace and tranquility of nature. It includes a permanently preserved farm, with an 11,000-square-foot equestrian center, barns and other farm structures, plus seven miles of existing trails.
This preserved tract, located off Horseshoe Bend Road, is adjacent to some 500 hundreds of acres of adjacent open space and preserved farmland, resulting in creation of a more than 800-acre green space and farm corridor in western Hunterdon County.
"Preserving the State's natural spaces is critical to the quality of life for our residents. This land will provide countless benefits of open space preservation, including the protection of water quality, wildlife, and providing a place for people to recreate and enjoy the outdoors,'' said Commissioner Martin. "We are very proud the Green Acres Program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, could join with the many other organizations involved in this effort for their vision and cooperative efforts to protect this beautiful property.''
In addition to the DEP's Green Acres Program, which contributed $4.5 million to this project, key players and contributing partners include the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF), State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kingwood Township and the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance. Representatives of those groups gathered at the park today to celebrate the preservation deal.
"It is truly a celebration when organizations work together with such success; bringing resources to the table, envisioning the goal, and making it a reality,'' said Rich Boornazian, Administrator of the DEP's Green Acres Program. "The preservation of this beautiful property will contribute dramatically to enhanced water quality, protection of important wildlife species, and the quality of life for the people of New Jersey.''
NJCF first sought to preserve the tract 10 years ago but could not reach an agreement with the landowner, who then sought to develop the site. But a public-private partnership subsequently put together a preservation funding plan. The first phase of the preservation took place last summer, when 73 acres east of Horseshoe Bend Road in Kingwood Township were preserved at a cost of $1.7 million.
The second phase of the preservation, targeting 240 acres also on the east side of Horseshoe Bend Road, was completed last month at a cost of $5.8 million. Partners in Phase Two included the DEP's Green Acres Program, $4.1 million; DEP's Office of Natural Resources Restoration, $150,000; Kingwood Township's Open Space Trust Fund, $1.1 million; and NJCF, via a Hunterdon Land Trust open spaces grant, $444,000.
The farmland on the east side of Horseshoe Bend Road has been permanently protected with a farmland easement funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm and Ranchland Protection Program and the SADC.
The Horseshoe Bend Road property is one of the more visually stunning tracts in western Hunterdon County. Its high meadows are home to meadowlarks, bobolinks and redwing blackbirds. Bald eagles and hawks are believed to nest there.
"People care about preserving places like this because once they're gone, they're gone and we can't get them back," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
"I've seen some beautiful, amazing properties in Hunterdon County and this one is a true gem. Losing this place to development was simply not an option,'' added Margaret Waldock, executive director of the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance.
"This property is a local jewel, and we're so thankful that we and our partners were able to work together to successfully preserve it," said Kingwood Mayor Phillip Lubitz.
"The State Agriculture Development Committee was pleased to partner in this project to strengthen the significant investment in farmland preservation in Hunterdon County -- an investment that has made Hunterdon County the statewide leader in the number of preserved farms under the state Farmland Preservation Program," said State Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher.