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Regional partners band together to preserve Heritage Greenspace in New Jersey

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – December 23, 2014 – The Open Space Institute (OSI), Chatham Township and Morris County today announced the preservation of the 136-acre Giralda Farms property. The acquisition preserves one of the largest undeveloped tracks of land in the heart of eastern Morris County and greatly enhances recreational opportunities for area residents. The transaction is the result of months of collaborative efforts led by OSI and Chatham Township.

Already park-like, Giralda Farms consists of footpaths through gently rolling, maintained fields and forested areas as well as a network of streams and wetlands. Chatham Township and the Morris County Park Commission will share ownership of the property, which will add 2.3 miles of pedestrian trails to the adjacent to the 744-acre Loantaka Brook Reservation.    

“This transaction is a model for smart and effective land conservation through a mix of public and private efforts.  We thank our many dedicated partners—each of which was critical to bringing this project to fruition,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. He also noted that although this is OSI’s first direct transaction in New Jersey, the organization has provided support for the Garden State’s conservation community for over a decade.

“I want to thank all of our partners who helped turn the dream of protecting this historic property, Giralda Farms, into a reality,” said Chatham Township Mayor Kevin Sullivan. “This is a wonderful resource for Chatham Township as well as all of Southeastern Morris County, which will be forever protected and open to the public.”

After the property was put up for sale earlier this year, OSI led a collaborative effort to assemble a proposal to buy the property and expand Loantaka Brook Reservation. OSI partnered with Normandy Real Estate Partners in the winning bid to preserve the land for public use.

Several public and private sources leveraged $14.1 million in funding to secure the Giralda Farms tract, a remnant of the legendary Geraldine R. Dodge estate. Funding was provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, Chatham Township, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, Normandy Real Estate Partners, the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, Morris County Park Commission  and the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant from the Morris County Preservation Trust, which awarded its largest grant in the program's history to the project in the amount of $10 million.

“The Green Acres Program is very happy to play a role in the preservation of Giralda Farms, which will benefit residents in Morris County and beyond,” said Richard Boornazian, Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a project which demonstrates the power of public/private partnerships in protecting land.”

"Given the legacy of Geraldine R. Dodge and her many contributions to the Borough of Madison, Chatham Township, and the larger Morris County community, we are thrilled to support the purchase of this land for the public's use and enjoyment," said Chris Daggett, Dodge Foundation President and CEO.

“The Morris County Freeholders and the county's Open Space Trust Fund Committee recognized the significance of this acquisition,” said Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo. “Adding this property to the county’s Loantaka Brook Reservation will expand the network of protected parklands that are open to the public in this section of the county.”

“The Morris County Park Commission’s role as a partner on this project reinforces our commitment to protect Loantaka Brook and provide for recreational opportunities in the region,” said Dave Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission. “The Park Commission and Chatham Township have worked collaboratively on a number of significant open space preservation projects over the years and this project is another example of the importance of teamwork when it comes to protecting our environmental, cultural and recreational resources for now and for future generations.”

Located near downtown Madison and its train station and close to Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson universities, the property will continue to be the home of the Giralda Music & Arts Festival, a much-loved outdoor concert event that has been running at the site for 31 years. 

Because the land is within the watershed of the federally protected Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, its protection will also benefit an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds. Sally Rubin, Executive Director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, called the preservation “remarkable.”

“A true public-private endeavor, this property preserves the largest remaining open space tract available for development in southeast Morris County. It also provides an important wildlife corridor and opportunity for passive recreation while helping to protect water quality in the region leading into the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge,” Ms. Rubin said. “We are pleased to have been able to play even a small role in advocating for this valuable acquisition.”

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