Canfield property preservation now sealed

Date Published: 
Fri, 06/09/2006

MINE HILL TWP. - Years of fears of development of more than 200 acres with hundreds of new homes off Canfield Avenue were officially ended on Wednesday, May 31. Officials from the township and Morris Land Conservancy met at the conservancy office in Morris Township and signed an agreement to preserve 200 acres that had previously been targeted for high-density development.

Under the agreement, Mine Hill will take ownership of more than 180 acres of the old Dickerson Mine site plus 17 acres adjacent to the elementary school on Canfield Avenue.

Township Administrator Barry Lewis said the cost of the purchase is $12.4 million, with all of the funds coming from federal, state and county grants.

The agreement avoids proposed development of more than 700 townhouse units on the site. Groups which participated in the plan to save the land include the Morris County Open Space Trust, Morris County Park Commission, and Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority; the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy program, New Jersey's Green Acres program; and the Morris Land Conservancy.

Mayor Richard Leary praised all those involved in helping Mine Hill. He said the deal was, "forever protecting the character of our community and ensuring that the township will not be overrun by development and increased school enrollments."

The proposed high-density development would have nearly doubled the number of homes in the small, approximately two-square mile community.

Leary also thanked Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11, and former Senator and now Gov. Jon Corzine for their help in obtaining the federal funding.

"Today is the culmination of four years of work that the Conservancy and others have put into coordinating the negotiation and funding of this project," Morris Land Conservancy Vice President Gray Rogers said in a statement. "We are very pleased it is coming to a happy ending."

"It is remarkable that a tiny town like Mine Hill with 3,700 residents and an open space trust fund that generates less than $15,000 per year could be the leader in such a significant acquisition project," Rogers said. "This project highlights the regional value of continued funding from the Morris County Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, as well as county open space monies dedicated to the park commission and the MUA."

The Canfield Avenue property lies within the heart of the Highlands in Morris County and is considered a regionally significant water resource for the Raritan River basin. Preserving the land will help protect the headwaters of the Lamington River, a category one stream that runs through it. The land is also considered critical to several underground aquifers including the Alamatong Wellfield, the largest source of drinking water for Morris County residents.

The property contains mature forests, exceptional wetlands, endangered species, and historic remains including remnants of past mining operations and the railroads that were used to carry the ore to the Morris Canal.

From the 1700s through the early 1900s Mine Hill Township was the site of extensive iron ore mining operations. The property is filled with mines - including Lower Baker Mine, Canfield Mine, Dickerson Mine and Black Hills Mine.

"Preservation of this property ensures the stability of the landscape and topography for the township," the Conservancy statement said.

The Conservancy also said preservation of the property will provide a critical link in county and municipal trails, connecting Mine Hill Township with the West Morris Greenway into neighboring Randolph and Roxbury townships.

The property was owned by Canfield Business, a division of the Florham Park-based Kushner Companies. The agreement allows Canfield Business Associates to retain approximately 50 acres adjacent to the Randolph Township border where they plan to build 275 age-restricted townhouses or condos.

The Randolph Reporter
Canfield property preservation now sealed