County To Buy Waretown-Barnegat Tract

An open space purchase will surround Wells Mills County Park, with 95 acres bought through the county’s Natural Lands Trust funds. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

OCEAN COUNTY – The county is hoping to grow the amount of land preserved around the existing Wells Mills County Park, and plans to use $635,000 in open space funds to buy the 95 acres.

The purchase is near the county park and the scout campgrounds in western Barnegat and Waretown.

Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett said the purchase uses the county’s Natural Land Trust fund to buy land in need of preservation that is often at risk for development.

In the case of this tract, the parcel surrounds land already preserved but used for the park and campgrounds. This land will not be turned into more parkland but will be open space, said the freeholder, who is the liaison to the Ocean County Parks Department.

“This was an attractive preservation,” Bartlett said by phone recently. The Lynette Land Company owned much of the lots for the land buy.

The public hearing held late December paves the way for the county to pursue title searches and other paperwork before buying the property, he said.

“We don’t care who we buy it from, the important part is does it fit the program and is the price right,” said the freeholder. Negotiated prices come based on current value but the process often takes so long that the county will wait until real estate markets decrease before making an offer, he said. “This is a medium-sized purchase.”

The December hearing also asked the public whether the county should pursue several other land buys:

  A small parcel in Beachwood surrounding government offices there. The two small lots are less than a quarter acre in size. County would buy for $500.

An 11-acre site in Manchester in the Roosevelt City neighborhood which Bartlett said complements a previous open-space purchase the county made there. $105,000 price.

A controversial development site slated for multi-family apartments off Route 9 in Berkeley. The 13-acre site from Berkeley Family Apartments will instead be preserved as open space. It adjoins the Florence T. Allen nature preserve and Mill Creek. Of the $865,000 price, half of that will be paid by the county and the remaining through the National Trust for Public Land.

Bartlett said the county will move forward to purchase each tract.