Morris County Park Expanded With Acquisition of Weber Tract
162 acres of land preserved in Kinnelon.
After a decade of efforts made by the borough council, residents and land preservationists, the Borough of Kinnelon announced the acquisition of the 162-acre Weber Tract this month, turning 62 acres of the property over to the Morris County Park Commission to be used as an extension of Silas Condict Park.
"I'm sure that these additional 62 acres only compliment what's already in place," Mayor Bob Collins said Thursday during an event to celebrate the closing at Silas Condict Park.
"As I prepared my comments for today's celebration for the Weber Tract acquisition, I thought about how lengthy and difficult the process of purchasing this property was. But I also thought about how rewarding and remarkable it is, and forever will be, for countless future generations," he said.
Collins thanked the Weber family for being patient throughout what he described as an "arduous" process for the borough to acquire the land.
Morris County Freeholders Tom Mastrangelo, Gene Feyl and Ann Grossi presented the borough with a big check for $2.2 million during the event. Also present at the event was Cindy Randazzo from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Program, Glenn Schweizer from the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, Morris County Park Commissioners David Helmer and John Sette and many others involved with the project.
"On behalf of the rest of the board, with Gene and Ann, we're very happy to be part of this celebration regarding the acquisition of the Weber Tract," Mastrangelo said.
"The purchase of these 162 acres was truly a collaborative effort and I'm proud to say that Morris County was one of the funding partners in this project, along with the Morris County Park Commission and the county's Municipal Utilities Authority."
The borough received more than $2.5 million in grants for the acquisition of the land, Collins said. The Morris County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund contributed $1.4 million; $500,000 was provided by the Morris County Park Commission; $300,000 was contributed by the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority; $300,000 from the New Jersey Green Acres Program; $10,000 was provided by the Land Conservancy of New Jersey; and the borough put in $286,250 from its own Open Space Trust Fund, in addition to $3,750 being raised by Kinnelon residents.
The 62 acres of land transferred to the Morris County Park Commission will be used as an extension of Silas Condict Park while the remaining land will be available to residents for passive recreation, including hiking, snow shoeing and horseback riding.
Since 2005, the Land Conservancy of New Jersey has helped Kinnelon preserve 1,592 acres of land and has contributed $1,324,551 to help with preservation projects. The group serves as open space advisors for more than 30 municipalities statewide, according to President David Epstein.
Epstein said Thursday that the portion of money the Land Conservancy of New Jersey raised for this project was the result of a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) program that helps fund watershed protection projects using money from environmental settlements.
"It was an expensive project and it needed all the dollars it could get," he said.
According to Epstein, before a group of about 50 Kinnelon residents approached the borough about acquiring the land, a development project including more than 140 condominiums was being considered for the site. Epstein said the Land Conservancy of New Jersey got then-mayor Glenn Sisco and Collins involved and on board with the preservation project.
The Land Conservancy of New Jersey's goal, he said, is to have adjoining parcels of preserved open space and to develop maps so that hikers can go from a trail in one park and end up on a trail in another. The group displayed such a map during Thursday's event.
President of the Morris County Park Commission John Sette said, "It's nice when this stuff comes to fruition."
"Morris County's been ahead of this for many, many years and we'll stay ahead of it," he said of the commission acquiring open space and building on the county's park system.
"Come back," Collins said at the conclusion of his remarks. "We have a great town, we have a great park system and we have a great county."