Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 30, 2013

Good example of what a coastal group can accomplish!

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The American Littoral Society
Protecting Open Space to Protect the Coast
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The American Littoral Society Contributes $600,000 Toward Preservation of Barrett’s Run Creek

The Open Space Institute has awarded the American Littoral Society a $300,000 grant which, along with a $300,000 grant the Society previously received from the state Green Acres Program, will be used to help Hopewell Township to establish a 132-acre municipal park.

 

The property, located in the Cohansey River watershed, includes approximately one mile of frontage along Barrett’s Run Creek, a local waterway which is vital to the health of Mary Elmer and other Bridgeton City Park lakes to which it drains.  In recent years, both the Upper Cohansey River and its many lakes have been plagued by high levels of phosphorus and fecal coliform, which have resulted in diminished recreational use and enjoyment of City Park lakes resulting due to excessive algal blooms and routine closures of popular public swimming beaches.

 

“This project represents one of the first cooperative partnerships in the Bayshore region in which state and local government and nonprofits coordinate to complete an open space project.  It will also be a highly visible step forward in beginning to address the water quality issues in the Upper Cohansey River and public usability of Mary Elmer and Sunset lakes directly downstream.  We are excited about this opportunity to create momentum for collaboration on the Bayshore,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator. Open Space Conservancy, Inc., an affiliate of the Open Space Institute, Inc. is managing the Bayshore-Highlands Fund, a $6 million fund established with an initial grant from the William Penn Foundation in order to protect land in the Delaware Bayshore in New Jersey and the Highlands in Pennsylvania.

 

“The Barrett’s Run project is a model for land conservation in the Delaware Bayshore region,” stated Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society.  “It protects the Cohansey River, provides needed recreational opportunities and connects the City of Bridgeton with its neighbor Hopewell. The partnership between the Littoral Society, Hopewell, Bridgeton, Green Acres, the Open Space Conservancy and the William Penn Foundation brings the talents of each to the project, and was key to its success.”

 

Since the Littoral Society established its Delaware Bayshore Program with the opening of an office within Cumberland County in 2005, it has been focused on land use issues and preservation efforts within the Cohansey Watershed-all aimed at protecting and improving water quality, wildlife, and quality of life.  Through its landowner outreach efforts and growing conservation finance work, the Society has helped the state and other non-profit partners preserve several thousand acres of open space throughout the watershed and region.

 

Hopewell Township Mayor, Bruce Hankins stated that the project only became a real possibility when the Littoral Society stepped up early on with a substantial pledge of money.  “When we first began discussing options for securing this land over a year ago, the Littoral Society helped us iron out a funding strategy that would leverage the maximum amount of state and non-profit grants available, while endeavoring to keep the Township’s costs down to an amount it could work with.”  “Hopewell Township greatly appreciates the Society’s leadership and the funding assistance from all our funding partners who have helped make this possible,” Hankins said.

 

According to Township officials, the deal currently involves several funding partners and sources of money, including four separate matching state Green Acres grants between county, local and non-profit grants.

 

Both Hopewell and Cumberland County recently adopted Open Space and Recreation Plans which, in the County’s case, made it eligible to apply directly to the state Green Acres for a 50% matching grant.  The County received $377,362, which it applied for in order to support both the project in.  “While farmland preservation remains the County’s priority, the Freeholder Board backed Hopewell’s project because it had broad public and local support not just from Hopewell Township, but also from the City of Bridgeton, which stands to benefit from seeing City Park lakes further protected,” said Matt Pisarski, Cumberland County Principle Planner.

 

According Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly, the City’s support of the project, is both an investment in the City Park and an example of neighboring communities working together to protect shared resources; “When Hopewell first approached us about having the City lend our urban status to secure funding, we were glad to partner with our neighbors; both as a way to enhance our City Park, but more importantly as a way to enhance the goals of open space and preservation in Cumberland County. We see good things ahead through these types of collaborative efforts”, said Kelly

 

The land was provided by J.S. Hovnanian & Sons, a New Jersey real estate developer.

 

“We are honored to be a part of this celebration and a contributor in preserving this land,” said Peter Hovnanian.  “Today we celebrate an exciting beginning that came together by working in harmony with our strategic partners and we thank everyone for making this field of dreams a reality.”

 

“These grants represent part of the last gasp of state Green Acres funds being made available from the 2009 bond referendum, which voters approved to allocate $400 million for open space, farmland and historic preservation projects throughout the state,” Renée Brecht, Program Director of the American Littoral Society’s Delaware Bay office, said.  “Unfortunately last round of funding is utilized, the race for open space and the preservation of New Jersey’s remaining farm-belts in places like Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland Counties will come to grinding halt.”

 

On October 15th, the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Environment Committee approved two bipartisan companion bills designed to appropriate the remaining $123 million in Green Acres funding.  The bills now head to both the full Assembly and Senate for expected approval before reaching the Governor’s desk for signature.

 

The bills provide funding for a range of land preservation projects throughout the state including in the Highlands, Pinelands and Barnegat and Delaware Bay Watersheds. They also provide matching grants to county and local governments and non-profit organizations for open space preservation, and funding to keep important agricultural soils in active farming and help get families out of harm’s way through Blue Acres, which purchases flood-prone properties.

 

“This funding adds to the legacy of the state’s Green Acres program and is a wise investment that more than pays for itself through the economic, environmental and health benefits it returns to our communities,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “NJ Keep It Green thanks both the Senate and Assembly committees as well as the sponsors of the appropriations bills and the Christie administration for their ongoing, bipartisan commitment to funding preservation of critical lands and waters and providing parks for future generations.”

 

A 2013 bill dedicating $200 million in sales tax revenues for open space, farmland preservation, and historical preservation was voted on by the New Jersey Senate twice, but was not brought to vote in the Assembly.

 

Disappointed voters, who overwhelming have supported open space preservation in 13 out of 13 times, hope to finally see this on the 2014 ballot.

 

Funding partners for Barrett's Run
Barrett's Run
American Littoral Society | shane@littoralsociety.org | www.littoralsociety.org
Delaware Bayshore Office
135 N High St, Millville, NJ 08332
(856) 825-2174

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