Tag Archives: open space

Fair Haven Set to Spruce Up Waterfront Spots

By Elaine Van Develde

It wasn’t long after Fair Haven acquired the long-sought-after Robards/Williams waterfront estate for passive recreation that the borough got another grant to upgrade more pocket spots along the Navesink River.

The 2014 Monmouth County Open Space Grant of up to $250,000 in matching funds was awarded only a few weeks ago.

What it’s been designated to do is to “polish the diamond” that is the Fair Haven open space on the waterfront, Mayor Ben Lucarelli said.

“Now that we’ve acquired DeNormandie, cleaning up and maintaining the rest of the open waterfront spaces we have is the next logical step. If we don’t do it now, we’ll have real headaches down the road.”

The “polishing” the mayor referred to is, more specifically, “resloping  of two riverbank pocket parks at the end of Hance Road and Grange Avenue, so that people can access them easier and enjoy them more” and the refurbishment of bulkheads and passive recreation enhancements, such as benches.

Similar work, without resloping, is planned for the swath of land known as the home of the River Rats at the foot of Battin Road.

“It will make all those areas more user friendly,” he added. “The focus on these areas, I think, is a good use of this grant money. People I’ve spoken with who live on the west side of town have felt as if they haven’t gotten the total benefit of these projects. Now they’ll have it and the feedback I’ve gotten is that they’re very happy about that.”

The process for implementation of the county open space grant will soon begin.

Lucarelli said that the design drawings will first be completed. Then the project will be put out to bid; and “we’ll see where the cost comes in.”

Up to $250,000 will or can be funded by the matching grant money. In other words, if the cost of the project comes in at $300,000, then the county will pay $150,000 and the borough will pay the other half, and so on.

Sometimes bonding is necessary, or as a show of good faith to the funding entity, to fund such a matching grant project and set it in motion and pay contractors while waiting for the funded portion of the money to come in. In those instances, with such grants, the town bonds for the entire projected cost of the project and is then reimbursed by the county, or whichever agency is allocating the funding.

However, the mayor doesn’t think this project will require bonding. More likely, he said, “we’ll just bid and, if there’s enough (allocated) in the (capital improvements section of the) budget, pay as we go.”

All 53 municipalities in the county are eligible for the annual open space grant, which is designed to encourage open space acquisition and preservation as well as park enhancements and facilities by offsetting costs of such purchases.

What the ‘Yes’ to the Open Space Ballot Question Means


By Elaine Van Develde

Voters said “yes” to the state open space funding question on the 2014 ballot.

But what does that really mean?

It’s one of those questions on the ballot that many don’t understand oftentimes bypass for that reason or another — more often than not because it seems too convoluted to process while voting.

This election what was Question #2 did not elude voters. The majority, 79,605, or an overwhelming 62 percent, said “yes” to a measure will put in place a mechanism to permanently fund open space acquisitions.

In years past, voters have been asked to OK local taxes of anywhere from a penny to a few cents per $100 of assessed property value to put funds in a trust dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of swaths of land seen as prime for forever passive or active recreation.

But, such land has become more and more expensive, as a valued diminishing asset. And, as many municipalities rely on state and county grant funds to supplement their acquisitions — taking a percentage of the purchase burden off taxpayers — funds have been exhausted while towns’ acquisition “wish lists” have dwindled due to economics.

So, the state came up with a way to take a percentage of a tax already brought in and dedicate it to open space.

It’s a permanent mechanism. And, in accordance with the regulations that accompany any grant for such space preservation, once the land is preserved, it can never again be used for any commercial or private development purpose  — only passive and/or active recreation.

By the same token, environmentalists and preservationists have touted for years, once land is lost to development, it’s lost forever.

In this case, now 4 percent of corporate business tax revenue will be automatically put in the open space piggy bank from 2016 to 2019. Then, from 2019 on, 6 percent will go into the preservation coffers.

While this money has already been helping with the proliferation of environmental programs, it will now also cover land preservation in several ways: open space/passive and active recreation land acquisition, agricultural (farmland) help, and flood buyout assistance.

On the Friday before the election, now re-elected Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry was on hand to congratulate Fair Haven officials on the acquisition of the historic Williams/Robards property at the foot of DeNormandie Avenue.

Burry called the closing on the property a prime example of how the “yes” to the #2 ballot question would benefit the public and future generations.

Saying that she had been supporting the question on the campaign trail, she called attention to the fact that the long-time-coming acquisition of the DeNormandie property involved state funds that would get a big boost from the new measure that the question proposed, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Blue Acres and Green Acres programs.

“It’s exciting to be part of such a wonderful occasion and to think about how wonderful it is that all these entities working together were able to come to this wonderful conclusion and that is to save this piece of property,” Burry said. “You can’t do better than this. I’ve been on projects that take longer than 10 years. I always say, ‘In my lifetime, please.’ This was well worth waiting for.”

Yet another portion, or $100,000, of the funding for DeNormandie came from the non-profit Monmouth Conservation Foundation.

The organization’s executive director, Bill Kastning, also a major proponent of Question #2, called DeNormandie an example of a quality acquisition, more of which he’d like to see come to fruition.

“The Monmouth Conservation Foundation saw a need here to assist Fair Haven with the acquisition of this all important piece of property,” Kastning said.  “In it’s 37 years, the foundation has helped with the preservation of about 6,500 acres. Quantity counts and  quality counts. While we’re talking here of only 6.9 acres, it’s 6.9 acres of waterfront property, a portion of the waterfront, a fantastic view, and a walkable park for a community that certainly needs access to the waterfront. Saving this property … You can’t do better than this.”


Park to Keep Riverfront Space Open in Fair Haven

By Elaine Van Develde

“It’s been a long, arduous process,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, “but sooner than later locals will have a park on the riverfront to call their own.”

The mayor and other local, county and non-profit officials brought the decade-long concept one step closer to fruition on Friday when they gathered to commemorate Fair Haven’s acquisition of the property on the Navesink River at the end of DeNormandie Avenue.

Officials have eyed the 6.9-acre $1.2 million swath of land as future passive recreation facility for years now, since the tenure of former Mayor Michael Halfacre. However, for one red-tape reason or another, it’s taken a persistent fight and many avenues of grant acquisition to keep the land that was intended by its owners to remain in the public trust just that — and at the right price.

In the end, taxpayers are contributing $200,750 for the property, “most of which has already been budgeted for,” the mayor added.

The remainder of the funding was allocated as follows: NJ Blue Acres Grant Program paid for the bulk, or $608,750 of it; the Monmouth County Open Space Grant Program kicked in $250,000; and, most recently,  the non-profit Monmouth Conservation Foundation contributed $100,000.

In order to procure the grant money, the borough needed to commit to certain conditions: the home is to be demolished; a passive park with riverfront access must replace the home; there are to be no impervious surfaces; and the park is to be named after the property’s founding family, the Robards with a plaque anchored on the site giving a brief history of the family. The timetable, starting with the demolition, for all of this is slated for the spring of 2015.

This way, it’s guaranteed to be the borough’s “to enjoy for future generations going forward,” Lucarelli said. Once property is acquired as open space, using state, county and non-profit funding, it must stay just conserved as such.

That was the aim of local officials and the property’s original owners from the onset — to keep riverfront access open so that future generations can enjoy growing up Fair Haven style.

Frequently, the mayor has talked about how he grew up in Rumson with “sand between my toes.” The riverfront has been a mainstay for most who have grown up in the area, though the price and taxes of owning property on the riverfront is staggering for those of modest means — as were the Williams and Robards families, whose relatives had made the property their home since the 1850s.

For that reason, Lucarelli said, the descendants of Charles Williams — the free black man of his time who built his home and settled his family at foot-of-DeNormandie spot — felt that if they must sell the property, it would be their wish to preserve it as open space for all to enjoy rather than cloister it as an elite private property.

The most recent owners, the Robards descendants, whose family had lived in the spot since 1855, knew that as well and, for that reason, wanted to keep it open to the public.

“Winifred Robards (who lived there since 1855, when she was 3) was known to invite kids onto the property to play and enjoy it all the time,” Lucarelli said.

Soon enough, they and future generations will.

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