New Jersey announced Tuesday that it plans to dedicate $123 million in Green Acres funding to open space and recreational projects throughout the state, including $3 million along Barnegat Bay and $2 million in Cape May County.
The money represents the last round of funding approved by voters in the 2009 Bond Act that supplied $400 million to support the state Green Acres Program. The Legislature must enact an appropriations bill to be signed by Gov. Chris Christie before the money can be spent.
“This funding helps preserve open space, helps protect clean water and helps improve the quality of life in our communities,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society. “Of course, it underscores the fact that we need a more reliable source of funding.”
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel also called for a new plan to restore Green Acres funding to previous levels, which he said are about half what they were in years past.
“We are glad they approved the funding, but we are running out of money and this may be one of the last big appropriations for a long time,” Tittel said in a statement.
A total of $66 million will go to local and county governments and nonprofits to acquire land and develop parks, while the state will use another $57 million for its own acquisitions.
DEP spokesman Bob Considine said he could not detail what specific projects are being targeted along Barnegat Bay, on the Cape May peninsula or in the Pinelands, where $8 million will be used to protect natural lands.
“The funding targets urban and other waterfronts, greenway development and athletic fields, and adds to state lands that will preserve wildlife habitats and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation,” Bob Martin, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said in a news release.
One of the specific projects named in southern New Jersey includes $650,000 for the acquisition of 132 acres of recreational space in Hopewell Township, which will include open space, woodlands and a stream corridor.
Cape May County has formerly resisted accepting Green Acres money because of stipulations that come along with using it, but Freeholder Director Gerry Thorton said they have now encouraged municipalities and nonprofits to use it.
He said the county is thankful for the funding the state will dedicate to acquisitions on the peninsula.
The Green Acres program was created in 1961 through a bond referendum. It has since protected more than 650,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of recreational opportunities by creating natural areas, city parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, boat ramps, fishing piers and educational areas.
Many of the other specific projects included in Tuesday’s announcement are in northern New Jersey. Other projects in South Jersey include $600,000 for a waterfront park in Brick Township and $750,000 for the development of a continuous public waterfront and greenway trail along the 2.8-mile North Camden Waterfront in Camden.
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