The DEP announced today that the Garden State Preservation Trust has approved nearly $87 million for Green Acres projects across the state. $26.4 million would go to municipal and county land acquisition, $46.3 million to local development of parks and recreation facilities, $5 million for local stewardship projects, $6.1 million for acquisition projects by nonprofits, $1.9 million for recreational development and $800,000 for nonprofit stewardship projects. The Legislature will now need to approve legislation to formally appropriate the funds for the recommended projects.
“We are glad to see funds going to Green Acres projects. This money will go toward purchasing important pieces of open space. It will also help fund improvements in parks. We need these funds because there are massive backlogs and parks are falling apart without improvements for years. It is important for these projects to get funded because urban areas have a real shortage of open space. We are only doing Green Acres every other year because the DEP doesn’t have enough staff to do it every year,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This money will help put the green back into Green Acres so we can get things done.”
The money will fund a wide variety of projects, including the development of Vista Park in Paterson. This project will add 40,000 square feet of green space, pathways, a loop trail, picnic areas, and much more. Bloomfield township will be able to restore the floodplain and wetlands along the Third River and Spring Brook by acquiring 12.7 acres of land. East Rutherford in Bergen County will be able to acquire 3.82 acres for a passive park.
“This Green Acres funding will allow dozens of municipalities and counties to acquire and develop local green spaces. Parks make a big difference in a community, attracting homeowners and businesses and improving the quality of life. Funding projects like the development of Vista Park in Paterson is important because the park is next to Great Falls National Historic Park. Great Falls is a national treasure with a unique history. It is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution; it has an abundance of natural resources, historical sites, and cultural aspects all in the middle of a living, breathing city,” said Tittel. “This money will also go toward acquiring land, like in East Rutherford and Bloomfield. These projects will help protect and restore important ecosystems like the wetlands along the Third River and Spring Brook. Restoring wetlands is important because wetlands act as a buffer for flooding along waterways. They are a natural water filter and provide habitats for a variety of wildlife.”
In Gloucester County, a proposed land acquisition next to Alcyon Lake Park in Pitman would add an additional 20 acres of passive recreational land while also increasing the natural buffer between the park and nearby land development by Rowan University. Bound Brook in Somerset County plans to acquire a half-acre riverfront property to more open space along the Raritan River and improve connections to Rock Machine Park.
“It is important that these funds will help fund the acquisition of land to create more green space and buffers. Urban parks have significant health benefits, and this funding will help fund the expansion of parks across the state. These land acquisitions will also help buffer natural spaces from land development. In Pitman, an additional 20 acres could be added to help protect the park from development by Rowan University. This is important because it will help protect the wildlife living in the park. The plan in Bound Brook to acquire riverfront property will help improve connections to Rock Machine Park,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are glad to see this money from the Garden State Preservation Trust going toward Green Acres projects, but there needs to be more. Making sure our parks are adequately funded is extremely important. This money will help put funding into our park system so we can continue to grow and improve the open space that belongs to all of us.”