Mt. Laurel Township to acquire 20 acres of open space land to expand Laurel Acres Park

The township is already considering plans for the land, including one potential idea to install new walking paths.

Open space is once again the name of the game in Mt. Laurel Township.

Mt. Laurel Township manager Meredith Tomczyk announced this week the township signed an agreement of sale on Oct. 25 to purchase 20 acres of open space land next to Laurel Acres Park along Union Mill Road.

According to township officials, the township has agreed to pay $885,000 for the land, which is divided into two parcels measuring 12 acres and eight acres respectively.

The land is located beyond the northeastern side of the park, past the baseball diamonds. The official addresses of the two parcels are 1015 Union Mill Road and 1029 Union Mill Road. On the township’s tax map, the land is block 1003, lot 12 and lot 13.

According to Tomczyk, the recent agreement between the township and the seller was not the first instance in which the township had inquired about purchasing the land.

Tomczyk said the township had previously submitted a bid on the land during the summer months, but ultimately the seller turned down the township’s offer.

That is, however, until Tomczyk said the seller approached the township about two weeks ago to inquire if the township was still interested in purchasing the 20 acres.

According to Tomczyk, from there the process moved “very quickly.”

“The township was very fortunate to be able to acquire this land,” Tomczyk said.

According to Tomczyk, the township is already considering plans for the land, including one potential idea to install new walking paths.

According to township officials, the township’s purchase of the 20 acres is another step in Mt. Laurel Township’s 20-year plan to acquire open space and make recreational improvements to open space already owned by the township.

Mt. Laurel’s voters made the plan possible in November of last year when residents approved a referendum to alter the rules of how the township was able to spend money reserved by the township’s Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Previously, the township could only use funds collected from its open space tax to purchase new properties. Yet for the township to make any future improvements to those properties, the township was forced to rely on grants or general funds from the township’s annual budget.

However, with the voter-approved change, the township can now purchase and improve open space lands using the same trust fund.

For open space improvements and acquisitions from just this year, township officials point to improvements to the playground equipment at Laurel Acres Park, a new and refurbished turf fields at Memorial Park and the purchase of the 71 acres commonly known as the St. John Neumann property.