Ocean County Acquires Land For Open Space

Freeholder John Bartlett, with the assistance of Freeholder Director Gerry Little, shows where the donated land in Ocean Township is located. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

OCEAN COUNTY – The county is adding more open space to its roll.

The freeholders unanimously approved the acquisition of three parcels of land – one donation in Ocean Township, and two purchases in Berkeley and Toms River – at their May 16 meeting.

The county accepted the donation of .73 acres of land on Pancoast Road in Ocean Township.

“This is the kind of acquisition we like, because it’s a donation,” Freeholder John Bartlett quipped.

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The county owns lands around the Garden State Parkway and Wells Mills County Park, about 4,000 acres preserved. The county had purchased a piece of land on the Barnegat side of the line, and that owner decided to donate the .73 acres on the Waretown side.

Freeholder Director Gerry Little said that in a county that’s 408,000 acres, about 60 percent of it is permanently protected against development through Pinelands Commission, state parks and 21,000 acres preserved through the natural lands and farmlands programs.

“Approximately 60 percent of the county is permanently preserved, which is protecting our watershed, which is protecting our quality of life,” Little said. “We will never become an urban area. That’s our goal, to preserve our quality of life for all of us here today, and for our children and generations to come.”

All 33 county municipalities approved the creation of the Natural Lands Trust Fund. A cent-and-a-half is taken from every $100 property valuation and put into the trust fund.

The county hires out two independent appraisals when making larger land purchases, and never pays more than the top appraisal amount, Bartlett said.

The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee also recommended the acquisition of two other properties: 3.62 acres, located on Harvey Avenue in Berkeley, and 20.08 acres, located on North Bay Avenue in Toms River.

The county will pay $25,000, and up to $38 for a property tax adjustment, on the Berkeley property. The 3.62 acres is on Cedar Creek, much of it wetlands, Bartlett said.

This wetland area was purchased by the county for preservation. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

That land will join property the county already owns around Berkeley Island County Park.

The 20.08 acres in Toms River will be purchased for $850,000 plus up to $40 for property tax adjustments. The land is developable.

The land is contiguous to county-owned land near Ocean County College.

“The board has been very diligent over the last number of years in buying all of the land that abuts Ocean County College so that it can never be encroached upon,” Bartlett said.

The advisory committee accepts nominations for open space acquisitions and makes recommendations to the freeholders on an ongoing basis.