NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program has funded the preservation of nearly 677,000 acres of open space and developed hundreds of parks across New Jersey. DEP Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette is inviting local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations to apply for future Green Acres grant and loan funding. Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2021.
In this funding round, DEP Green Acres will further advance the Murphy Administration’s commitment to building community resilience to climate change while furthering the promise of environmental justice. DEP will prioritize projects that provide equitable and meaningful public access, and maximize social, environmental, and health benefits to the public, particularly within the State’s overburdened communities. Each year, DEP provides funds to acquire open space, create or rehabilitate parks or complete stewardship projects.
“Parks and open space help connect us to nature and improve our physical and mental health, yet our environmental justice communities often have the least access to these important public benefits,” Acting Commissioner LaTourette said. “DEP’s Green Acres Program helps to provide children with outdoor places to play and areas for everyone to enjoy nature—together. Investing in parks and open space also enhances the quality of life in New Jersey communities and helps to drive economic development. I strongly encourage New Jersey’s local governments and nonprofit organizations to take advantage of this incredible resource and apply for Green Acres funding by June 30 so that we can continue building healthy and resilient communities across the Garden State.”
To celebrate the opening of this funding round, Acting Commissioner LaTourette toured Colonial Park in the Franklin Township section of Somerset County. Acquired in 1965, the 685-acre Green Acres property includes scenic frontage on the historic Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Millstone River and offers visitors numerous nature-based and recreational activities.
Eligible acquisition projects include the purchase of land for active or passive recreation or for natural resource conservation. Park development projects can provide for outdoor recreation such as games and sports, boating, fishing, walking, swimming, biking, picnicking, camping, or nature interpretation. Stewardship funding is available for natural resource enhancement activities on recreation and conservation lands.
“This money has the potential to transform a city-owned vacant lot into a neighborhood gem,” said Olivia Glenn, Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Justice and Equity. “We encourage New Jersey’s municipal, county, and nonprofit leaders to get creative with unused or underused properties. The opportunity to leverage these funds for open space preservation and recreational facilities is great.”
Green Acres also will prioritize projects that contribute to resilience or mitigate climate change impacts, such as by preserving forested and flood-prone areas, enhancing chronically inundated wetlands, revegetating riparian areas, connecting wildlife corridors, expanding upstream flood attenuation potential, promoting wildlife and integrating green infrastructure into park designs.
Since the number of project applications typically exceeds available funding, the Green Acres Program will only consider funding requests from new applicants or from applicants making significant progress on open projects and following Green Acres rules on their parkland. Green Acres will review and rank the applications it receives and send to the Garden State Preservation Trust a list of projects recommended for funding. The Garden State Preservation Trust will forward the approved list to the state Legislature for appropriation.
The Green Acres Program is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and is the oldest continuing program of its kind in the nation. The program, with its public and nonprofit partner agencies, has been instrumental in the acquisition of the 1.6 million acres of public open space and farmland preserved statewide.
To learn more about the Green Acres Program, click here.