TOMS RIVER – Ocean County continues to expand its open space with the addition of a 3,100 acre donation adjacent to the recently acquired Forked River Mountain tract.
The newly acquired, 3,101 acre open space donation is located off of Lacey Road in Lacey Township. The property consists of wooded uplands and 509 acres of wetlands.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the purchase of the Forked River Mountain tract at its Sept. 19, 2018 meeting at the recommendation of the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee. It closed on the property in February.
“I want to extend the deepest appreciation from the Board of Freeholders to The Nature Conservancy,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines, who is liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund program. “This additional land goes hand in hand with the almost 8,000 acre tract purchased by Ocean County earlier this year.
The Nature Conservancy is a charitable environmental organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Founded in 1951, with over 1 million members, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 119,000,000 acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide. The non-profit has been working to preserve land in New Jersey for about 60 years.
“This donation is not only adjacent to the largest tract we have acquired under the county’s open space program but it is also one of the most environmentally sensitive tracts we have purchased under our Natural Lands program,” Haines said. “With this donation, more than 11,000 acres which straddles Lacey Township and Waretown will remain in its natural state. This type of land preservation is what this program is all about.”
Haines added that the newly acquired parcel mirrors the environmental qualities of the Forked River Mountain tract.
“The property has core Pinelands habitat and provides continuity with our Natural Lands Trust Fund Forked River Mountain acquisition and Structural Management Properties,” she said.
In addition to 3,101 acres of land, Ocean County also received an $112,613 endowment from The Nature Conservancy for property maintenance.
“This property is a perfect fit for our open space program since it is surrounded by land already preserved by Ocean County and the state,” Haines said. “We are grateful to expand our open space reach even more in this area. Our residents and visitors will always be able to enjoy this environmental gem…In addition to protecting all the resources here, the property also provides opportunity for nature lovers to enjoy bird watching and nature walks, which also is important.”
Residents are invited to enjoy the views offered by the Forked River Mountains, where you might be able to catch a glimpse of the historic Navy Lakehurst’s Hangar One and the lighthouse at Barnegat Light on a clear day.
“There are two mounts, side by side, with the western ridge at an elevation of 184 feet and the eastern ridge attaining 176 feet,” according to the Trust for Public Land’s Century Plan. “While most northern New Jersey residents may laugh at such low elevations, here in the Pine Barrens such heights truly represent ‘mountains.’ ”
In addition to the peaks of the “mountains,” you can enjoy the flowing streams of the Oswego River, the Factory Branch, the North, Middle and South branches of the Forked River, Oyster Creek, Cave Cabin Branch, Long Branch, Dennis Branch and Cold Branch.
There are also miles of pine oak and pitch pine lowland forests, providing a wide array of habitat types for many rare, threatened and endangered plant and wildlife species.
A portion of the old Tuckerton Railroad line also runs through the property.
“The entire Board of Freeholders is pleased we were able to place the last tract of the 21,000 acres into public ownership, protecting it forever,” Haines said.