Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gloucester County to Expand Scotland Run Park

Originally appeared on

As part of a move to preserve open space in Gloucester County, the Board of Chosen Freeholders plans to acquire land in Clayton and Monroe Township. The property, which is currently approved for development, would be used as an addition to Scotland Run Park. The decision comes at the same time as the county announced plans to set aside space in Swedesboro and Greenwich Township as well.
Officials were especially eager to acquire the land, which consists of 39 contiguous acres in Monroe Township and Clayton, because adding property to parks is no easy task.
“Any opportunities the county has to expand our parks—they’re very rare,” said Ken Atkinson, Director of the Gloucester County Office of Land Preservation.
“When those opportunities come along we’re very careful to exert our efforts to secure those lands.”
The Scotland Run purchase will be made directly by the county, and remain county property after the purchase is made. It differs from the other preservation work, including that of Swedesboro, in how the the land is being acquired.
In Swedesboro, the open spaces being set aside will be owned by the municipality, not the county, under the auspices of the Gloucester County Open Space Program. After settlement is made on the parcel of land, jurisdiction over the property will belong to Swedesboro.
The land in East Greenwich is being set aside with not just help from the state, but from the federal government as well. Gloucester County is eligible for reimbursement from the US Department of Agriculture of nearly half the cost of 114 acres of farmland in the township—a total of about $1 million in aid. Because the land in East Greenwich is being preserved under the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, preservation is more complicated than a simple purchase.
“When the county identifies a property that we hope to preserve through farmland preservation, the county doesn’t buy the property outright,” Atkinson said.
Instead, the county simply purchases easement rights to the property, which place a deed restriction on how the land can be used. The original owner will retain the right to use and sell the property, but when it is sold, it can only be used for farming.
Some of the land in Clayton was originally approved for residential development. The building of 23 homes had been approved for the spot by local government. However, Debra Sellitto, director of communications for Gloucester County, explained that this approval did not mean any plans for building had been made.
“If it’s approved for construction, that only means it’s allowed to happen,” she said.
“It still means that anyone can acquire it. The county and municipality came together to purchase it from the property owner, then set it aside as open space.”
The new land dedicated to Scotland Run would bring the total area of the park to 993 acres.
Because the land Gloucester County is purchasing to add to Scotland Run costs more than $100,000, the Board of Freeholders must hold a public hearing to allow residents to voice their concerns, if any. The meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 5.

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