CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia, 908-527-4419
Tina Casey, 908-527-4346
UNION COUNTY AWARDED $2.975 MILLION IN STATE GREEN ACRES FUNDS
Elizabeth, NJ – Union County has received two grants totaling $2.975 million from the Green Acres fund, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection program designed to preserve natural open space and improve recreation in communities. The monies will supplement funds from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
“On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I would like to thank the voters of Union County for their foresight,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “By voting to establish the Trust Fund several years ago, Union County residents provided the required platform for receiving these significant additional funds,”
Green Acres funding is available to local governments that have an open space and recreation trust fund. The Union County Trust Fund was established by popular referendum in 2000, with overwhelming support from County voters.
Part of the Green Acres funding consists of an acquisition grant of $1.5 million, which will go toward Trust Fund purchases. The other part is a development grant of $1.475 million. This award is designated to help with the construction of Stanford Drive Park in Berkeley Heights.
Stanford Drive Park is an example of county-local cooperation through the Trust Fund. The 17-acre property formerly housed an oil depot and plastics factory. A developer had proposed to build high-density housing on the site. Instead, the township was able to partner with the Trust Fund to purchase the land for a total of $13 million.
The Trust Fund provided $8 million and Berkeley Heights provided $5 million. Under the purchase agreement, the County will own 13 acres and Berkeley Heights will own 4 acres.
Along with the Green Acres grant, the Trust Fund will also provide funds to build recreational facilities and rehabilitate a large part of the property for nature conservation and walking trails. The New York Jets also donated $10,000 toward the construction of a sprinkler playground.
The Trust Fund has far exceeded its original goal of preserving 100 acres in ten years. More than 300 acres have been preserved in less than nine years. The Trust Fund has also contributed to local historic preservation projects, and to local children’s recreation programs including equipment, participation scholarships, and field improvements.