Ocean County Acquires Headwaters of Toms River for Open Space

Mar 06, 2014

Through the New Jersey Trust for Public Land, the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust and the Pinelands Commission have brokered a deal to purchase 195 acres in the Barnegat Bay watershed in Jackson, Manchester and Toms River townships that includes 1,500 linear feet of shoreline along the Toms River and extensive wetlands. The acquisition price is $2 million.

The TPL generally acts as the land “broker,” purchasing the land to temporarily hold while another entity – in this case, Ocean County – gathers funds for acquisition.

The land was owned by a subsidiary of the Clayton sand mining and concrete companies. It is considered crucial habitat for the state threatened Northern pine snake, and for the rare sickle-leafed aster, among other unique Pinelands species.

The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust paid $1,703,708, said Dave McKeon, planning director of the trust. The Pinelands Commission chipped in $266,292 from its grant program.

“We will preserve the land in its natural state as part of our open space program,” said McKeon on Tuesday. The parcel is along County Route 547, near the Joint McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst Military Base.

“The Toms River Corridor is a priority acquisition area,” Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett, liaison to the OCNLT, said in a press release. “To date we have acquired 17 properties totaling 3,000 acres along this branch of the Toms River. This latest purchase with the Trust for Public Land reflects our continuing efforts to work with partners on protecting the vital river corridors of Ocean County.”

Nancy Wittenberg, executive director of the Pinelands Commission, added, “The commission has long focused its efforts to protect the land in the Toms River Corridor.”

As part of the sale, Clayton Companies completed a habitat restoration plan on the property to further improve habitat for threatened species.

“The Trust for Public Land is dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy,” said Greg Socha, senior project manager at TPL. “There are plenty of residential areas, and big box stores in the area. People want to protect the Toms River and save this land for hiking, biking, canoeing and experiencing nature. We are glad we could make that happen.”

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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