Jackson Township Parkland Diversion
The taxpayers of New Jersey have purchased 115 acres of land on Jackson Mills Road for $8.5 million dollars, but Jackson Township has gated and locked the site. Why? Because they have already diverted our recreational open space to a compost facility and parked equipment onsite they say needs to be protected.
[+ ZOOM] Jackson Mills Road Park entranceway ©PPA
In 2003, Jackson Township purchased the site on Jackson Mills Road to establish a recreational soccer complex. A portion of the acquisition funding was obtained from the NJ DEP Green Acres program. Because public funding was used for the purchase the site must be placed on Jackson Township’s Recreation Open Space and Inventory (ROSI) and a conservation easement be placed on the entire 115 acres.
Several soccer fields were established on site but on March 10, 2009, Jackson Township sent Green Acres a request to use a portion of the Jackson Mills Road site to establish a temporary composting facility and to use the composted materials to improve the soil conditions on the cleared areas of the site prior to establishing more soccer fields.
Under NJ Green Acres rules, N.J.A.C. 7:36-25.14, a municipality is allowed to temporarily use parkland for purposes other than outdoor recreation if the municipality obtains department approval. In April 2009 Jackson Township did receive approval (letter) to use a few acres of the site for a period of no more than two years to establish and complete the composting soil enrichment project.
But because of the ongoing composting facility, Jackson Township made a decision that the entire park must be closed to normal public access due to the fact that equipment is housed at the site. This closure is contrary to the NJ Green Acres regulations. Under N.J.A.C. section 7:36-25.10 a municipality has to ensure that funded parkland is open and that reasonable public access is afforded to all New Jersey residents. The public has spent $8.5 million dollars on this open space and Jackson Township should immediately remove the locked gates and allow the pubic to use the site for any recreational activity.
In 2012 Jackson Township submitted an appplication to NJ Green Acres to make the Jackson Mills Soccer Complex site the permanent location for the composting operation. the original appliaction was to divert 3 acres on land so that the composting facility can remain on site. The acres to be diverted are located in the center of the Jackson Mills Road parkland.
When a municipality wants to use funded parkland for something other than recreation they are required to submit a diversion application under N.J.A.C. 7:36-25. A copy of the rules can be found at http://www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres/pdf/regs.pdf
Jackson Township Council approved the attached Resolution 296R-12, which has a Schedule A and Schedule B. The schedules outline a process for the new applications that they will be submitting for a 7 acre compost site not the 2 acres that Jackson Township originally sent to the NJ Green Acres Program. These schedules outline the process that Jackson Township will be following for this new application. In 2015, the application has now been submitted for 8.5 acres of land. (click here to view map)
[+ ZOOM] Jackson compost area beyond the planned diverted area.
A visit to the park on October 11, 2015 revealed restrictions for the public who wish to use the site for recreation. Jackson Township Public Works has expanded beyond the composting site and is storing equipment, vehicles, asphalt millings and stone. The have also in the northeast corner of the compost area expanded beyond the marked area that they plan to divert.
NJ Green Acres sent Jackson Township a letter on October 15, 2015 describing the ongoing problems with the site and giving them a deadline of January 15, 2016 to complete an application to resolve the ongoing issues.
Requirements under the Green Acres regulations are that the 1) diversion fulfill a compelling public need by mitigating a hazard to the public health, safety or welfare or 2) yield a significant public benefit by improving the delivery by the local government of essential services to the public or 3) provide an exceptional recreation and/or conservation benefit in Jackson or a watershed within the township.
Under the N.J. Green Acres rules Jackson Township is required to submit with the application replacement land for the area being diverted. PPA is unsure at this time where the compensation land is located.
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance does not feel that an application for diversion of this parkland site could meet any of the requirements under the NJ Green Acres rules and that our open space should not be locked or restricted by other Township operations.
Jackson Township will be submitting a new application and PPA will be monitoring and will post a copy when it has been submitted to NJ Green Acres. (If you would like a copies of documents submitted by Jackson Township email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments about this application can be sent to:
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Green Acres Program
Bureau of Legal Services and Stewardship
PO Box 412
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0412
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