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Open Space Institute helps to finance protection of 430 acres of land in central and southern New Jersey

NEW YORK, NY - June 23, 2004 - The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today that it had recently made two low-interest loans totaling $1.06 million to support the purchase and permanent protection of 430 acres of land in central and southern New Jersey. 

With an OSI loan of $806,250, the Delaware and Raritan Greenway (D&R Greenway) helped to acquire a 30-acre parcel for a municipal park in Upper Freehold Township, Mercer County, and secured an easement that will protect from development another 50 acres in nearby Washington Township, also in Mercer County. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation utilized a $200,000 OSI loan to purchase 350 acres in Woodland Township, Burlington County that will become a nature preserve. 

“We are pleased to support these two leading New Jersey conservation organizations,” said Kim Elliman, chief executive officer of the Open Space Institute. “In addition to acquiring important lands in New York, OSI helps to facilitate the efforts of other conservation nonprofit groups in selected landscapes of the east to protect critical landscapes.” 

D&R Greenway acquired a 30-acre parcel from Stuart Reed that will become the first municipal park in Upper Freehold Township. D&R Greenway had obtained the property through a tax-free exchange for 50 acres in Washington Township, Mercer County, previously owned by Mr. Reed's sister, Ellen Powner. In January D&R Greenway purchased Mrs. Powner's property and placed a state farmland preservation easement on the parcel to ensure that it would forever be preserved for agricultural use. 

“This is the first and only parcel of land that Upper Freehold Township owns for recreational use,” said Mayor John A. Mele. “Unless we continue to aggressively pursue opportunities like this, we will risk rapid over-development of our community at a great cost to our citizens.” 

“Two wonderful properties in two communities have been protected from development by this unique combination of several sales and an exchange,” explained Linda Mead, Executive Director of the D&R Greenway. She recognized Dennis Davidson, former Deputy Director for the NJ Green Acres Program and now Director of Land Preservation for D&R Greenway, for helping to structure this innovative transaction. 

Mr. Reed will operate the Washington Township acreage as a sod farm. For the next two years he will continue the sod farm operation on the 30 acres just sold to Upper Freehold Township. The first year's production will be a sod crop. In the second year an athletic grade sod will be planted for use by the local community. 

To close the Powner-Reed project, D&R secured full funding from the State Agricultural Development Committee. Monies tied up in the appropriation process were bridged by OSI's low-interest loan until the grant funds were made available. Mercer County and Washington Township also contributed by each purchasing a 25% interest in the easement from D&R. 

In southern New Jersey, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) borrowed $200,000 from OSI to purchase the 350-acre Havey Farm in Woodland Township, Burlington County. The tract, which abuts Fort Dix and is nestled within a network of conserved agricultural lands near the border of the Pinelands, contains habitat of numerous endangered species and was threatened by accelerating development in the surrounding area. 

NJCF worked with the National Biodiversity Project (NBP) to acquire the land, and the two groups will jointly manage the property as a nature preserve. NJCF and NBP will restore its wetlands and habitat, renovate a preexisting building into an interpretative educational center, and assure public recreational opportunities. 

NJCF negotiated a contract to purchase the property for $780,000 for which NBP secured a $500,000 non-profit grant from the Green Acres Program, as well as a $75,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

“OSI was instrumental in preserving these 340 acres of imperiled Pine Barrens wetlands habitat,” said Michele Byers, NJCF's Executive Director. “This property was threatened because it lies outside of the Pinelands National Reserve and therefore was subject to less stringent natural resource protections. We look forward to working with our partner, National Biodiversity Parks, Inc., to create and implement a management plan for public wildlife viewing, use and enjoyment.” 

OSI's New Jersey Conservation Loan Fund is an arm of the organization's Conservation Finance Program, which provides low-cost financing for land transactions in selected regions of the eastern United States. Launched in January 2003, the New Jersey Conservation Loan Fund has awarded six loans to land trusts in New Jersey, for a total of $3.5 million. Collectively, these transactions have supported the permanent protection of over 10,000 acres of land in New Jersey. The Fund is operated with the generous support of the Geraldine R. Dodge and William Penn Foundations. 

Founded in 1963, the Open Space Institute, Inc. is a nonprofit land conservation organization that works to permanently protect from development landscapes of significant environmental, historical and agricultural value. OSI has protected almost 100,000 acres of land through direct acquisition and easement in New York State. Through its Conservation Finance Program, OSI has provided grants and loans that have helped to protect almost a million acres of land in NY and northern New England, and will launch soon a loan program in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, including parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

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