Gloucester County gets $1 million grant for its open-space plan

Funds will also pay for farmland preservation programs

Gloucester County Commissioner Director Robert M. Damminger has announced a $1 million Green Acres matching grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection and Garden State Preservation to fund the county’s open-space and farmland-preservation programs.

“Preserving land, improving parks and preserving our natural resources are critical components to ensure high-quality, close-to-home recreation and open space for all residents,” Damminger said in a press release.

“We are committed to preserving farmland for our local farmers and expanding our parks across all municipalities so we can continue to get the most out of living in Gloucester County,” he added.

The open-space program’s mission is to expand and preserve farmland and municipal park systems throughout the county. Because of guidance the program provides, the county has been able to expand all three county parks: Red Bank Battlefield, James G. Atkinson Park and Scotland Run Park.

Along with the state green acres program, Mantua Township and the South Jersey Land and Water Trust, the office of land preservation was able in 2015 to preserve the former Maple Ridge Golf Course in Mantua and Deptford townships to develop the Tall Pines State Preserve, the first state park in Gloucester County.

Damminger has worked closely with the farmland preservation program, whose purpose is to purchase “development rights” on farms in order to ensure the land is preserved and only used as it was intended originally. He and the board of commissioners have preserved more than 21,000 acres of farmland since Demminger’s involvement with the project, starting with the establishment of the Office of Farmland Preservation in 1999.

Both the farmland and open-space preservation programs are mostly funded through state grants from the state’s agriculture development committee and the New Jersey Green Acres Program.

In past years, Gloucester County has used a voter-supported, county open-space tax for land preservation acquisitions. Local voters have approved a $0.04 supplement to the fund.

More information on land preservation is available on the Gloucester County website.