MANSFIELD, NJ (Warren County) – Mansfield Township will have to say goodbye to the historic Rockport Pheasant Farm, which has been operational since the early 1920’s.
The conclusion came earlier today at a meeting in Freehold Township, when New Jersey Fish and Wildlife officials finalized the decision to shut down the Rockport Road Facility – and instead import the birds.
The 492-acre Rockport facility is currently operated by the state; however, it’s been home to exotic pheasants, turkeys and white-tailed deer, ducks and geese for decades.
Mansfield Township Committee Member, Ron Hayes, says he attended the meeting to voice his concerns regarding the impact the closure could have on the area.
“It’s the end of an era, if you want to call it that. The pheasant farm used to be a destination families would visit. Grade schools did tours at the farm. Rockport was born as a stop on the Morris Canal. So there’s a lot of history there, and some potential tourism lost,” explains Hayes.
Hayes is no stranger to the Rockport Pheasant Farm. His father-in-law, Jim Ackerman, is former superintendent of the farm and dedicated decades of his life to running it. Hayes says at its peak, the Rockport Pheasant Farm was producing over roughly 60,000 birds per year.
“My wife, Kelly, grew up at the farm along with her sister, Colleen. They were…as Jim used to call them, the first volunteers ever at fish and game. They’d pick up the eggs. Put the chicks to bed at night. It was a really such a nice place to be,” reflects Hayes.
According to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife’s website, the decision to close the Rockport Pheasant Farm stems from recent changes in quarantine requirements by the USDA National Poultry Improvement Plan in response to avian influenza. Keeping Rockport Pheasant Farm operational would require costly measures that the division says they, “simply cannot afford.”
The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s website also explains the financial backing for the pheasant program. No state tax dollars are reportedly used for the program. The cost comes from the Hunter and Angler Fund, which is comprised of revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and permits.
The state is now considering ideas or suggestions for the site. Hayes says, “The Director of Fish and Wildlife was asking us if we had any ideas for an alternative use, such as poultry production or some other type of farming…otherwise it may revert back to a wildlife management area, where it would become overgrown.”
The plan also indicates no pheasants will be raised at the farm starting in 2019, as long as the state is able to gain the necessary contacts with outside vendors to purchase the birds.
Pheasants are stocked throughout the state at designated New Jersey Wildlife Management Areas and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.