MANCHESTER – The Planning Board approved the town’s 2017 Open Space and Recreation Plan, which would include more than 6,000 acres of open space being in the Heritage Minerals tract.
Daniel Bloch, assistant project manager for Maser Consulting, which works for the township, presented the plan at a recent meeting. The Open Space and Recreation Plan was supposed to be updated every 10 years, he said. It was last updated in 2003, so the township was overdue for an update. The Department of Environmental Protection said that the township would be at risk of losing Green Acres funding if it didn’t update the plan by the end of the year.
The plan involved an inventory of open space and noting changes that have come about since 2003, he said, explaining that not a lot has changed since then in the township.
Environmental regulations have changed in those 14 years, however. Well head protection areas and open water recharge areas, created to protect drinking water, are new additions, he said.
In 2003, it was proposed that an abandoned railway would be used for a bike path. That bike path never got made. Instead, the railway was re-opened for freight transportation, he said.
With a population of 43,000, one task was determining how much open space the township needs. Currently, 40 percent of the township is already protected in some way, the plan read.
The goal is the preservation of 10,000 additional acres of open space, according to the plan. The entire Heritage Minerals tract is 7,300 acres. Of this, about 995 is developable. This leaves more than 6,000 acres left for open space.
The developer of Heritage wanted to expand the development, and reduce the open space, but is getting resistance from the state and township, he added.
During the public portion of the meeting, Peggy Middaugh, a member of the town’s Environmental Commission, said she was disappointed more people didn’t come out. She said the meeting was not well publicized.
She also suggested the township create a map of open space for residents, and include a dog park in their future plans.
The 210-page report is on the township’s website at manchestertwp.com, under the heading “important information.”