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OSI Delaware Watershed Fund helps Pine Barrens' Franklin Parker Preserve reach major milestone

WOODLAND TOWNSHIP, NJ—July 8, 2015—A key New Jersey Pinelands preserve has expanded to more than 10,000 acres, protecting more land for wildlife and for drinking water.

The Franklin Parker Preserve, which connects four state forests in the Pinelands National Reserve, swelled to 10,243 acres after the acquisition of the adjacent 473-acre “Zemel Woodland North” property. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation acquired the land for approximately $418,000, with support from public and private partners.

OSI’s contribution to the Zemel Woodland North Project came from its Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund, which is made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation. The Delaware River Watershed Protection Program seeks to ensure abundant, clean water within the 13,000 square mile drainage of the Delaware River, by conserving tracts of forest along the Delaware River Basin which drain into the aquifer under the New Jersey Pinelands. When kept intact, forests play a critical role in recharging and filtering groundwater and maintaining sensitive ecosystems.

For its part, the Preserve encompasses wetlands habitat and upland pine-oak forest, as well as 14 tributary streams that eventually unite in the Wading River. Water filtered through Zemel North flows into the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, a shallow treasure trove of 17 trillion gallons of freshwater that is the lifeblood of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

“This is a milestone for the one million people whose tap water flows from the Kirkwood-Cohansey, and for the many who come again and again to enjoy the Pine Barrens,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Capital & Research Programs, which contributed more than $75,000 for the project. “It is gratifying to realize the decades-old vision of protecting the aquifer through conservation of this important forestland.” 

The newly-acquired parcel is dominated by pitch pine uplands and is traversed by old sand roads that could potentially be converted to trails for hiking and biking.

“This is the first major expansion of the Franklin Parker Preserve since it was established in 2003,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director. “We’re extremely grateful to the public-private partnership of funders that made it possible.”

Other funding for the purchase came from the state Green Acres Program, the Victoria Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, the Helen & William Mazer Foundation and the state Pinelands Commission, and private funds raised by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, including a lead gift from Nora Hayes.

“Located in the core of the Pinelands National Reserve, the Franklin Parker Preserve is noteworthy for its former cranberry  bogs that now provide ecologically important wetlands habitat,” said Richard Boornazian, Department of Environmental Protection Assistant Commissioner for  Natural and Historic Resources. “We are proud to have played a big role in the conservation of this truly remarkable place and in helping the New Jersey Conservation Foundation reach this milestone.”

Named for the first chairman of the Pinelands Commission, the Franklin Parker Preserve connects Wharton State Forest, Brendan Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest and Penn State Forest. It contains habitat for several New Jersey endangered and threatened species, including the bobcat, bald eagle, barred owl, Northern pine snake and Pine Barrens tree frog. In addition, dozens of rare plant species have been discovered there, including Pine Barrens gentian, Bog asphodel, curly grass fern, yellow-fringed orchid, little ladies’-tresses orchid and pencil flower.

It has 28 miles of blazed trails, including a section of the Batona Trail, a 53-mile trail connecting many significant recreational and historic sites in the Pine Barrens.

To learn more about the Franklin Parker Preserve’s trail system and a forest stewardship plan to protect its ecology and the surrounding community, go to: www.njconservation.org/franklinparkerpreserve.htm

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