MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Morris County’s Open Space Trust Fund Committee Monday recommended the award of $1.49 million in county preservation grants for six 2020 open space projects, totaling 69 acres located in five Morris County towns.
The projects were presented to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders at a virtual public hearing. Included are projects in Kinnelon, Mendham Borough, Morris Plains, Parsippany-Troy Hills and Washington Township. They range from a 1.6-acre tract in Mendham Borough, which adjoins borough parkland, to a 36-acre forested tract in Washington Township that abuts farmland preserved through a project sponsored by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.
The freeholders will make a formal decision on the grant recommendations at the board’s Monday, Nov. 23, virtual meeting. Public phone and web access will be posted before the meeting.
Funding for the projects will come from the voter-approved Morris County Open Space & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which is generated by a special county tax. The funding source also is used for farmland and historic preservation, county parkland acquisition, trail construction, and the purchase of residential properties prone to flooding.
Jay Thomson, who chairs the 15-member Morris County Trust Fund Committee, presented the recommendations to the freeholder board, noting the recommended awards range from $84,825 to $659,000.
“We would like to thank you, the Freeholders of Morris County, for your continued support of the Open Space & Farmland Preservation program,’’ Thomson said. “These projects have made a lasting impact on the quality of life of the residents of Morris County.”
“Morris County’s careful and strategic practice of preserving open space for the public is why our County is consistently rated one of the best places in the nation to live, work and raise a family. This ongoing effort is one of the most important government functions the Freeholder Board oversees, and we are dedicated to continuing this program to the benefit of our residents and future generations,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Stephen Shaw, the board liaison to the committee.
A portion of the county’s Open Space Tax, which this year is 3/4ths of 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value, is used to fund open space preservation. Any of the 39 municipalities in the county and qualified charitable conservancies are eligible to apply for project funding.
The Open Space grant program has helped preserve 12,706 acres in 36 of the county’s 39 towns since the awarding of grants started in 1994. Morris County voters approved the program in November 1992.
The following is a look at the 2020 Open Space Recommendations:
- Boonton Avenue Recreational Facility, Kinnelon
- Applicant – Borough of Kinnelon
- 17 acres
- Recommended Award – $150,000
- Description – This property is located on Boonton Avenue at the intersection with Fayson Lake Road. The Borough of Kinnelon has utilized this property for recreational use since 1974, and had a lease agreement with the Town of Boonton, the owner from 1974 to 2019. The Borough is interested in purchasing rather than entering into another lease with the Town of Boonton. This would enable Kinnelon to be the owner of the facility that they invested in, and will ensure that the facility is available for the residents of Kinnelon in perpetuity. The Town of Boonton is a willing seller and the Borough is currently in negotiations with the Town to acquire the property.
- United Methodist Church Property Acquisition, Borough of Mendham
- Applicant – Borough of Mendham
- 6 acres
- Recommended Award – $220,000
- Description – The project site covers 1.60 wooded acres behind the United Methodist Church in Mendham Borough, located at 10 East Main Street. The property is surrounded by existing parkland owned by Mendham Borough on Park Avenue (Mendham Borough Park). The project site is forested with mature trees. The Borough envisions maintaining the forested nature of the site and featuring a walking trail that connects to the active recreational uses in the surrounding Borough Park. The project site is important for the Borough because it represents the only area where the Borough Park can expand.
- Watnong Brook Greenway, Morris Plains.
- Applicant – Borough of Morris Plains
- 29 acres
- Recommended Award – $204,000
- Description – The acquisition of this parcel is uniquely important to the Borough for two reasons: (1) preservation of natural habitat, prevention of stream encroachment, and flood mitigation, and (2) preservation of an existing path connecting multiple neighborhoods. The portion of the proposed preserved property to the north of the Watnong Brook is heavily wooded with mature trees, shrubs, groundcovers and native flowers. The acquisition of this parcel will ensure that the existing path that connects multiple neighborhoods in the Borough will be preserved in perpetuity.
- Kosut Property Acquisition – Parsippany
- Applicant – Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills
- 44 acres
- Recommended Award – $659,000
- Description – The Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills is applying to the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund for the acquisition of the Kosut Tract for the future development of a park and recreational facility. The Kosut tract is located on Knoll Road across from the Boonton Reservoir (also known as the Jersey City Reservoir). The property surrounding the Kosut Tract is already owned by the Township and makes up the 11.1-acre Fieldfair Property. The Kosut Tract is the final parcel of land required to complete the Fieldfair Property. The acquisition of the Kosut Tract has been a long-time goal of the Township.
- Linking Open Space in Washington Township – Central, Washington
- Applicant – Washington Township
- 5 acres
- Recommended Award – $84,825
- Description – The Township of Washington is applying for the preservation of this 14.5-acre tract. This heavily wooded property contains some existing trails and one of the highest points in the township. The project will create connectivity with a 63-acre tract preserved for open space by Washington Township.
- Linking Open Space in Washington Township – North, Washington
- Applicant – New Jersey Conservation Foundation
- 06 acres
- Recommended Award – $180,000
- Description –The New Jersey Conservation Foundation is applying for the preservation of this 36.06-acre tract. This property is heavily wooded. This property’s direct access and gravel parking area off King’s Highway makes it an ideal location for a trailhead into future preserved properties. The existing unimproved woods road on the property is an excellent foundation for a future trail network.