Largest open space deal made

Date Published: 
Wed, 01/27/2010

In the largest pay out for open space by a single municipality in the state, Mine Hill signed a contract last week for $12.4 million to acquire 200 acres of forest and wetlands, an area where iron deposits were discovered within the ridgeline that runs through the center of the town today.

Acquiring the acreage, formerly occupied by Dickerson Mine, one of the most prosperous mines in the nation, is the conclusion of more than three decades of effort by public and private organizations which worked together in holding off extreme land development pressure to build more than 800 units. This would have nearly doubled the town's population.

"Had the developers proceeded as planned, it would have devastated the character of Mine Hill because we would have experienced a major increase in people, traffic and the destruction of natural resources and history," said Barry Lewis, the township's administrator. "It was clear to us that the preservation of this open space was our number-one priority."

Mine Hill's Mayor Richard Leary echoed Lewis' remarks. "The fact that we are preserving these acres in the heart of Morris County is remarkable because you don't see land tracts like this available anymore in the county."

The bulk of the land acquired is bordered from Canfield Avenue to Green Road and extends from Route 46 to the city limits of Randolph Township, near route 10. In addition, a triangular-shaped piece of land was purchased adjacent to Canfield Avenue School.

The land was bought from Canfield Building Associates, a subsidiary of Westminster Realty. Funding partners who are providing the township with grants include a coalition of organizations consisting of the Morris County Open Space Trust, United States forest Legacies, Mine Hill's green acres and open space funds, Morris County Municipal Utilities authority, Morris County Park Commission and Morris Land Conservancy.

The 200-acre Dickerson property is occupied by thick forest, deep mine shafts and dense wetlands that support drinking water resources as well as a wide variety of wildlife, including the state-threatened wood turtle.

The acquisition of Dickerson Mine area is part of the New Jersey highland initiative, a designated preservation area that spans across Northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and up to New York. The property is the cornerstone in the greenbelt system that links neighboring Roxbury Township's Triple Lakes greenway with Mine Hill's municipal greenway and Morris County's Hedden Park.

Mayor Leary said that future land-use plans include the addition of a recreational field on the property purchased adjacent to Canfield School and the development of recreational trails that will open the forest to public use.

the Dickerson Mine became active in the early 1700s when iron deposits were discovered. The mine produced iron ore that was used by American forces from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.