HOWELL – Township officials recently announced that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Preservation Trust Fund approved a $750,000 grant to purchase open space under the Green Acres program.
According to a statement from the governing body, the funds will be used to acquire the Pierce property, a 123-acre former farm site located along Maxim Road. A meeting and public hearing was held in February on the topic, where officials made it clear they intended to preserve the land from future development.
Kelsey Howard from Maser Consulting was at that meeting and said she was working with the township to submit the grant application through the Green Acres program in order acquire the Pierce property, which at that time was listed for sale commercially at $1.2 million dollars. The application process, which she said included site inspections, multiple appraisals and price negotiations, could take six to eight months to complete.
Officials said that because Howell has an Open Space Recreation Plan and Open Space Tax Program in place, it was eligible for a 50 percent matching grant and a 50 percent low interest loan to fund the purchase of the land.
In the statement, Councilwoman Pauline Smith said, “The $750,000 in grant funds will be used by the Township to acquire additional open space listed in the Howell Township Open Space and Recreation Plan. We are very anxious to acquire the Pierce property consisting of 116+ acres which has been identified as environmentally sensitive and is near the South branch of the Squankum Brook which is now a pristine brook that provides drinking water for many people. In addition, this property is across from Bear Swamp Natural Preserve and will expand this area.”