West Milford establishes open space committee

Date Published: 
Sun, 10/24/2010

For 2011, the township's application to the Passaic County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and other open space planning efforts will be managed by a new dedicated committee.

To avoid almost missing out on grant funding, local officials, including Mayor Bettina Bieri, said that the local government needs to be more organized when it comes to identifying potential acquisitions, submitting grant applications and opening negotiations with property owners. So, from now on, members of the staff, the administration and the Environmental Commission will be meeting regularly with a consultant from The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, Matthew Dank, to plan for open space projects and purchases. The municipality's Open Space Committee will host its inaugural meeting on Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

While the township Environmental Commission was traditionally charged with open space planning, the lack of a staff member to assist them – following the suspension of Geographic Information Systems Specialist Robert Sparkes – disrupted the line of communication between the commission and the governing body. And despite the commission's hesitance in relinquishing its open space responsibilities, conflicting goals between the recreation-first council majority and the pro-conservation Environmental Commission added to the need to create a dedicated, joint committee, as noted by Township Administrator Kevin Boyle.

Last year, the commission and the council were briefly at odds, after the council decided to pursue the purchase of the former CYO property and Random Woods for their recreational value. Members of the advisory board said they were disappointed that their recommendation to expand one of two several-hundred-acre-long greenways was apparently ignored and hoped for more cooperation going forward.

Environmental Commission Chairman Stephen Sangle, who will sit on the Open Space Committee, said at a recent meeting that the new arrangement, and the negotiations leading up to it, have already improved the local government's awareness of the Environmental Commission and its goals. In turn, this should improve the collaboration between the entities going forward, he said.

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