Original article appeared here.
By Colleen O'Dea
At their meeting Wednesday night, the Morris County Freeholders presented a ceremonial check for $1.95 million to The Trust for Public Land, which closed April 30 on the property adjacent to the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area. The total cost for the project was $2.15 million, with the remaining $200,000 coming from the state Green Acres program. The Morris County Preservation Trust approved the county funding portion last November.
"Morris County is a great place to live, and conservation areas such as Wildcat Ridge, Dixon's Pond, and Pyramid Mountain play a large part in the quality of life here," said Anthony Cucchi, The Trust for Public Land's New Jersey director. "The county's commitment to link these natural areas only strengthens the value of these areas, and the Copper Beech property will be a keystone for that effort."
Known as Copper Beech for the beech trees on the property, the land contains both water protection and forest resources according to the Highlands regional master plan and because it is in the planning area of the region, it was open for development. Johanson Holding Company owned the property.
"This is another exceptional example of our long commitment to protect our county's natural areas, especially those with this level of environmental significance," said Morris County Freeholder Jack Schrier, who is currently serving as acting chairman of the New Jersey Highlands Council and is the liaison to the county's open space program.
The land was a priority for protection for many years, and in 2005 the township open space committee asked the The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, to help preserve it. In 2008, with real estate values dropping due to the economic downturn, the trust and New Jersey Conservation Foundation worked together for a solution that included the foundation agreeing to manage the land.
"We are very excited to work with The Trust for Public Land in preserving this property," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "This property provides another link in a network of preserved lands, which will ultimately lead to more trails for the public to enjoy."
Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi said township officials are grateful that the land is now protected: "I applaud and appreciate that in these difficult economic times, our county and The Trust for Public Land continue to recognize the paramount wisdom in preserving and protecting critical watershed property and our supply of clean water."
Colleen O'Dea: 973-428-6655, firstname.lastname@example.org.