Progress made on swamp preservation


EDISON – Preservation efforts for the Dismal Swamp, a 1,000-acre wetland with parts in Edison, Metuchen and South Plainfield, have received the support of both Middlesex County as well as the state Legislature in a pair of separate but complementary actions over this past month.

The Dismal Swamp, which environmentalists say is the home of more than 175 bird species, 25 kinds of mammals, and 12 reptile and amphibian species, has been the setting for a number of confrontations between environmental groups and builders through the years over developments that would be placed in or near the area. This has prompted local activists and politicians to press for stepped-up preservation efforts from the community. This pressure has recently led to action on the part of the state and county governments.

At the Trenton level, a resolution recognizing an overall desire to protect and preserve the wetland was recently adopted and filed toward the end of June. The measure, introduced by Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), was unanimously approved by the Senate Environmental Committee. Meanwhile, another plan currently being promoted by Assemblyman Peter Barnes III (D-Middlesex), calls for a $95,000 regional Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission that would oversee and regulate development in the area. The assemblyman has been urging all the towns connected to the wetland to support the measure.

More recently, on July 1, the county Open Space Committee unanimously voted to make moves toward acquiring the 12.6-acre Adams Farm property in South Plainfield, where there are currently plans to put 15 single-family homes, and the 13.9-acre Visco tract in Edison, where the builder proposes to construct singlefamily homes as well as a house of worship.

With the committee’s vote, the matter is now in the hands of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, which will appraise the land and negotiate with the property owners in an effort to work out a purchase price. Once this is done, the county freeholders will vote on the final arrangement, including price.

Bob Spiegel, of the Edison Wetlands Association, a local environmental group heavily involved with preservation efforts at the Dismal Swamp, said the county will need to move quickly, since the Adams Farm and Visco projects are still going through their respective development processes and can build out their properties if the preservation process takes too long. Still, overall, he praised the county’s decision.

“I commend the county freeholders for recognizing the unique significance of the Adams Farm and Visco sites and understanding the need for a long-term vision for the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area,” said Spiegel “Thanks to the county’s decision, this natural oasis in the midst of suburbia can be enjoyed as the last local wildlife refuge by future generations, rather than being paved over to build more condos on a flood plain.”