MANCHESTER – Nearly 30 acres are being added to the county’s open space roster in town.
Manchester Township is donating 29.6 acres along the Toms River, off Ridgeway Road and around the perimeter of Pine Lake Park, to the county for its open space program. The Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee recommended the acceptance of this donation to the Board of Chosen Freeholders, which approved the donation at its May 1 meeting.
Previously, in 2007, the county and township entered into an agreement that included a donation of 17 acres adjacent to county-preserved property.
“That was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances,” Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines said. “The township has now agreed to donate the original lots plus the additional 12 acres.”
This acquisition will connect three Natural Lands Trust Funds preserves totaling 86.5 acres along the Toms River, Haines said.
Manchester Business Administrator Donna Markulic said that back in 2007, the township received $650,000 from the county to purchase open space. Specifically, the township purchased property from Ciba-Geigy and gave the county an easement on that property. The township also agreed to donate lots in Pine Lake Park that bordered that Ciba-Geigy property, but that never happened.
“…The Supervising Planner of Ocean County contacted us recently, since we were currently working with them on donating property for the [Ocean County] Park, and asked to resurrect that agreement. The numerous lots…border on the east side of Pine Lake park and are all wetlands and unbuildable,” Markulic said in an email to The Manchester Times. “They will be deed restricted as Open Space and listed on the Recreational and Open Space Inventory overseen by Green Acres through the DEP.”
The park that she mentioned will be on land along routes 571 and 547 that borders Jackson. The county plans to build its 28th park on 120 developable acres there.
The Natural Lands Trust program is dedicated to protecting open space in Ocean County. The fund was approved by Ocean County voters in 1997, and established a 1.2-cent tax to fund land acquisitions. The program generates about $8 million per year.
A nine-member advisory committee, established in 1998, nominates properties for the Freeholders to consider. The county both purchases land and accepts donations of land.
Freeholder director Gerry Little has said that in a county that’s 408,000 acres, about 60 percent of it is permanently protected against development through Pinelands, state parks and 21,000 acres preserved through the natural lands and farmlands programs.