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Two parcels, 52 forested acres, preserved in Washington Township, Morris County

Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Supported Purchase of Both Properties

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – A 37-acre wooded property has been permanently preserved that will help connect other Washington Township-owned open space parcels and serve as the entry point for a future trail system.

On March 11, the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation purchased the wooded property, located on the west side of Kings Highway in Washington Township, from Eric and Geraldine Turnquist. New Jersey Conservation plans to transfer the property to Washington Township to add to its holdings of already preserved land.

The Turnquist property is near the recently-preserved 15-acre Peach property and another 91 forested acres already owned by the township.

“The Turnquist property is a beautiful parcel of oak, hickory and tulip forest, with headwaters streams that flow to the Musconetcong River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River,” said Jay Watson, co-executive director of New Jersey Conservation. “We’re grateful to our funding partners for making this acquisition possible, and we look forward to seeing the land become a place where local residents can go to hike and enjoy nature.”

The Turnquist and Peach properties are both located in the preservation area of the New Jersey Highlands and valuable for their ability to recharge groundwater supplies.

The Turnquist property was acquired with funding from the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund and state Green Acres funds awarded to the nonprofit Washington Township Land Trust. The Peach property was purchased with Washington Township Open Space funds and a grant from the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund.

“Preserving this environmentally sensitive property is additionally beneficial because it is next to other protected lands,” said Morris County Commissioner Director Tayfun Selen of the most recent acquisition. “It’s important to create and maintain contiguous greenways for our preservation efforts to be meaningful. Morris County taxpayers overwhelmingly voted to create the Open Space Trust Fund nearly three decades ago to preserve our natural heritage because it goes to the heart of our quality of life here, and it is why Morris County remains the best place to work and raise a family.”

The Turnquist property purchase effort was known in the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund program as Linking Open Space in Washington Township – North project.  The county acquisition grant was for $169,050 and $10,000 additional was awarded for demolition. The Peach property endeavor was known as Linking Open Space in Washington Township – Central project.  It closed on August 31, 2021 and the county grant was for $84,825 toward the purchase.

The Turnquist property is located on the western slope of Schooley’s Mountain and includes steep terrain. The Peach property includes a high point with scenic winter views of the Musconetcong River valley.

The township is also hoping to preserve other nearby properties, with the goal of eventually having a nature preserve totaling over 200 acres open to the public for passive recreation.

“Washington Township has more than 800 acres of preserved open space, including almost 30 miles of trails and paths that are used by the public. The acquisition of this property is exciting as it will allow us to further expand our open space for the residents in this area of town,” Washington Township Mayor Matthew Murello said.

The Turnquist and Peach properties were ranked the highest priority for preservation by the state’s Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) project, which seeks to link wildlife habitat. The land supports habitat for many species, including barred owls, wood turtles and red-shouldered hawks.

“Habitat fragmentation is a serious challenge for New Jersey’s wildlife,” said NJDEP Fish and Wildlife Assistant Commissioner Dave Golden. “Roadways and poorly planned development act as barriers for species attempting to reach critical habitats necessary for their survival. The CHANJ project attempts to mitigate these challenges for wildlife by prioritizing open space acquisition, habitat restoration and management, as well as guiding mitigation of road barrier effects on wildlife and their habitats. The acquisition of the Turnquist property is a great example of landscape level planning and utilizing the CHANJ guidance for the benefit of both wildlife and people.”

According to Jim Fitterer, president of the Washington Township Land Trust, protecting the Turnquist property has been a goal of the organization for many years.

“It goes back to 1991, the year the land trust was formed, when we realized that the rural and historic character of the township was changing” due to large development proposals, said Fitterer. “Our goal is: anywhere you can do it, put land into preservation.”

The Turnquist property, the Washington Township Land Trust has preserved a total of about 1,100 acres, either alone or in partnership with other organizations including New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Fitterer said.

Among the partnership projects between New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Washington Township Land Trust was the acquisition of the 228-acre former Borgenicht property at the intersection of Drakestown Road and Fairview Avenue. New Jersey Conservation built a trail system on the property, now known as the Maureen Ogden Preserve.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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