WENONAH, N.J. -- For more than two years, residents and local officials have been trying to preserve the former Maple Ridge golf course as a nature park but have encountered problems finding funding and an entity to take responsibility for its management.
A meeting will be held Wednesday at the Wenonah Train Station community center to give residents and local organizations a chance to share new ideas for preservation of the site.
"The former golf course is a 112-acre tract of land slated for development," said Rich Dilks, chairman of the Wenonah Environmental Commission. "The movement began more than two years ago to preserve it as public open space, green space and a nature park. We got a lot of support but it's a difficult thing to do so we're trying to bring everyone together to see what we can do. It would be a win/win situation for everybody because it would be an asset to the quality of life and there are so many good reasons for preservation."
In 2008, the idea received support from the mayors and planning board chairmen of Wenonah, Deptford and Mantua as well as each town's environmental commission. In both 2008 and 2009, Mantua Township sought an open space tax increase to preserve the site with an added stipulation that the tax was temporary in 2009 but these were voted down.
"We're hoping to have representatives at this meeting from South Jersey Land and Water Trust and the New Jersey Conservation Association here in an advisory capacity to give advice and pointers on what we can do to save Maple Ridge," said Dilks. "We've also invited local officials and people from the Green Acres program as well as any organization or citizen who wants to put their ideas before us."
Dilks said the developer, from Washington D.C., was open to selling the property but that if the land was not sold for preservation he would proceed.
"It's a very rich area with several habitats going on," said Dilks. "Topographically, it features valleys created by flowing water and rolling, undulating hills which is quite beautiful. The Mantua Creek flows through it, there is a hardwood forest and the fairways are turning into meadows. It's a remarkably good habitat for bird life with bluebirds in the meadows, bald eagles that have been seen there and a very rare white hawk. We have seen more than 70 species of birds nest in or pass through Maple Ridge and there is already an arboretum of trees, plants and shrubs."
Dilks said such biological diversity is worth preserving.
"It's a really nice place and it has all the makings of a park that people could come to and enjoy for years to come," said Dilks. "We have the chance now to save this beautiful place."
The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the historic train station at 2 N. East Ave.
It's out there, even if it's not always so easy to spot.
Born and raised in New Jersey, having spent some time elsewhere, including western New York and South Korea, the author has always come back to the place of his birth, the place he loves, the Garden State. There is a lot to love about New Jersey, not least of which is some of the most beautiful, plentiful, awe-inspiring farmland and open space. But, being the most densely populated state in the nation, some of that space can be hard to find. So, he takes great pride in finding it and thus sharing the knowledge of its existence with others.
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