Ocean County to Preserve Nearly 8,000 Acres of Land

Sep 19, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill “On a clear day, from this site you can also see historic Navy Lakehurst’s Hangar One on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the lighthouse at Barnegat Light,” Little noted.

Ocean County officials are moving ahead with plans to purchase a 7,860-acre tract tract of land, often referred to as the site of the Forked River Mountains, to ensure its preservation. The property, owned by John J. Brunetti of Old Bridge Township, is surrounded by publicly owned land and straddles Lacey and Ocean townships. According to the Ocean County freeholders, the land will be purchased for $15,450,000, covered by revenues from the county’s dedicated open space tax.

“This acquisition, recommended by the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, is the largest tract and one of the most environmentally sensitive that we have purchased since the county’s open space program first began in 1997,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said in presenting the purchase at the Sept. 12 preboard meeting of the board of freeholders. “By adding this to what we have already preserved, Ocean County will have saved almost 30,000 acres of open space and farmland under its Natural Lands program.”

The board has scheduled a public hearing on the purchase during its Sept. 19 meeting. Once the land is acquired, the county will develop a management plan for the property.

The site was identified by the Trust for Public Lands in its “Century Plan,” and the 7,860-acre piece is the last significant tract left of the 21,000-acre Forked River Mountains Century Plan Site.

“The property is in a very environmentally sensitive and unique area of the county,” said Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the county’s open space program. “It is surrounded by thousands of acres of state, county and nonprofit preserved lands.

“It meets the many requirements of our open space program and ensures this property will never be considered for anything but open space,” he added. “This purchase protects our watershed; it protects our endangered species. Its benefits are numerous.”

According to the TPL Century Plan, “There are two mounts, side by side, with the western ridge at an elevation of 184 feet and the eastern ridge attaining 176 feet. While most northern New Jersey residents may laugh at such low elevations, here in the Pine Barrens such heights truly represent ‘mountains.’”

“On a clear day, from this site you can also see historic Navy Lakehurst’s Hangar One on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the lighthouse at Barnegat Light,” Little noted.

A portion of the old Tuckerton Railroad line, which is currently owned by JCP&L, also runs through the property.

As Bartlett noted, “With all its amenities and its environmental significance, all the endangered species and the wildlife habitats, all the streams, this property is truly an asset to our open space program.”

“We are pleased,” said Little, “to place this last tract of the 21,000 acres into public ownership, protecting it forever.” —J.K.-H.

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