New open space rules could mean $8M for county

Governor seeking to increase money for parks in urban areas

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Monmouth County towns will be among those that get increased open space funds if the Legislature acts this week on recommendations made by Gov. James McGreevey.

In a policy directive issued in July, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a new "Parks for People" initiative, to substantially increase Green Acres funding to local and county governments, as well as nonprofit groups, for park improvements and acquisitions in cities and the older, densely developed suburbs of the state.

The directive established a new Densely Populated Municipalities category, based on a population of at least 35,000 or a density greater than 5,000 people per square mile.

The DEP recently recommended the Garden State Preservation Trust make some $94 million in matching grants and low- or no-interest loans to fund acquisition and development of park land.

If approved by the trust, the grant recommendations would be forwarded to the Legislature for approval, and the funds would become available after the governor signs the grants into law.

Monmouth County would receive $6.7 million of the total proposed in parks funding, and non-profit groups in the county would get $1.3 million of a total $16.4 million proposed to go to nonprofits for public land acquisition.

Voters will have an opportunity to approve an additional $150 million for park improvements and open space purchases on Election Day, Nov. 4, when they weigh in on Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment that proposes to increase the bonding capacity of the Garden State Preservation Trust to $1.15 billion, an increase of $150 million from the $1 billion voters approved in 1998.

Projects recommended for funding in Monmouth County include:

Rumson — $250,000 low-interest loan for park improvements to Riverside Park for installation of two baseball fields, and the rehabilitation and expansion of soccer fields and the parking area, and construction of a new tot lot.

Oceanport — $282,500 low interest loan for multiple parks improvement for Blackberry and Somers Point parks, including reconstruction of baseball, soccer and tennis fields, and maintenance of an irrigation well and system.

In addition, $1 million in planning incentive grants for open space planning and acquisition in Monmouth County is being proposed.

Shrewsbury is recommended to receive a $400,000 planning incentive grant.

Also, the YMCA of Western Monmouth and the Community YMCA would receive a $400,000 matching grant for acquisition of an additional 40-acre tract at Camp Zehnder in Wall with local and state partners. The two YMCA affiliates jointly own 97 acres at the camp.