Two large swaths of land were preserved this week in deals that will add nearly 200 acres to public lands. Both deals — 129 acres bordering Rockaway and Boonton townships, and 46-acres bordering Chester and Mendham townships — were brokered by the Trust for Public Land and announced Wednesday.
More than 129 acres south of Decker Road in Rockaway and Boonton townships were preserved and will be managed by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The purchase extends the Johanson tract, a 62-acre property managed by the nonprofit land group that is adjacent to Wildcat Ridge Management Area.
About $1.2 million of the $1.74 million purchase price came from the Morris County open space trust fund.
The property supports critical water resources, including a tributary of the Stony Brook, a Rockaway River watershed stream and Dixon’s Pond, according to a prepared statement that said the pond will not be open to the public, but future trails will offer hikers lake views.
Michele S. Byers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, called it a “Highlands gem.”
“It contains valuable wetlands, as well as rocky outcrops with wonderful views of the water,” Byers said. “We are pleased to work with The Trust for Public Land, Morris County, and the state to permanently protect this beautiful wooded property and expand the area’s network of preserved lands.”
In Chester and Mendham townships, the 46-acre Shale Valley property consists of mature upland woodlands and wetlands that connect the Morris County-owned Mount Paul County Park and the Mendham Township-owned Burnett Brook Natural Area.
Funding for the $1,697,500 purchase was provided by a $1,188,250 grant from the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund.
The property was transferred to the Schiff Natural Lands Trust, which owns the nearby 423-acre Schiff Nature Preserve. The organization intends to conduct a large-scale ecological restoration on a portion of the property that was mined for shale. It is envisioned that the restoration would convert 9 acres of the former mining area into a functioning, emergent wetland and upland habitat.
“Preserving and restoring this critical link in the Schiff to Mount Paul Greenway is a key goal identified in our new strategic plan, as well as a natural extension of our community-based conservation efforts in this area over the last decade,” said Marissa Hartzler, executive director of the Schiff Natural Lands Trust.