Ocean County Acquires Open Space

Ocean County Administration Building (Photo by Chris Lundy)

TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the purchase price of three parcels to add to the county’s natural lands trust program at a recent meeting.

Two of the properties are in Jackson Township. The other is in Berkeley.

The first lot, 4.55 acres (Block 18904, Lot 4) on Toms River Road in Jackson, is $32,000, plus up to $665 for property tax adjustments.

Freeholder Director Gerry Little, filling in for Freeholder John Bartlett, who was absent and usually handles discussions on open land purchases, said this particular lot is wooded and vacant. Located in the Pinelands, the lot is along the Ridgeway branch of the Toms River, a category one water stream that requires preservation. This property is also considered a priority area for preservation for the Pinelands Commission and U.S. Department of Defense, Little said. It’s in the flight path for Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst.

The small, yellow parts of this map show what land is being purchased. The green sections show what has already been purchased. (Map courtesy Ocean County)

“They have encouraged us to do everything we can to preserve this area as a buffer to the base,” Little said.

This parcel is eligible for 50 percent cost sharing through the federal government.

The second lot in Jackson is located near Ogden Lane (Block 18905, Lot 1). The county plans to purchase the 5.63-acre lot for $33,000, plus up to $150 for property tax adjustments.

This is a heavily wooded parcel, also located in the Pinelands, Little said. It too is along the Ridgway branch of the Toms River, a priority area for state and federal agencies as already mentioned, is in the flight path for JBMDL, and likely contains endangered species, although what specific species was not clear.

This parcel is also eligible for 50 percent cost sharing through a federal program.

The third parcel, this one located in Berkeley Township on Roberts Avenue (Block 1689.03, Lot 24), is a .07-acre lot.

“As Freeholder Bartlett is so fond of saying, this is the best deal because it is a donation to our program,” Little said.

Map courtesy Ocean County

This lot is part of what the county calls the Roberts Avenue preservation area in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley, just north of Island Beach State Park. The county acquired the Roberts Avenue tract back in 1999. This one lot was retained by the owner, probably to have built a house upon, but the owner now decided to donate the property.

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.

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.