Byram receives open space donation

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    BYRAM—Byram officials have received the first donation to the township's open space trust fund. The $25,000 contribution comes from an anonymous source who has also offered another $75,000 if the township can find other matching donors, said Greg Poff, Byram township manager, at a recent council meeting. Poff said the township has also closed on the purchase of a second property and is close to completing a deal on another parcel of open space, both totaling roughly 88 acres. "We've got a bunch of irons in the fire," he said. "We're constantly looking and contacting owners to determine a level of interest." The township has almost $2.4 million in state open space grant funding available for its preservation efforts, but must match that money with cash from other sources, said Poff. "The purpose of the program is not only to preserve open space, but to create recreational opportunities for residents," said Poff. "A number of trails cross through town and the hope is to create a network system of trails for people to get outside and enjoy these open areas." The township open space trust fund generates about $100,000 per year from a small tax levy, approximately 2 cents per $100 of accessed valuation, said Margaret McGarrity, Byram Open Space Committee secretary. "Our master plan emphasizes protecting the future of the town, its character, its environment; all of those things point toward limited sprawl because it preserves a way of life that people come to Byram for," she said. The Open Space Committee has also been granted matching funds from the Sussex County Open Space Trust Fund totaling $220,000 thus far and has partnered with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on another acquisition. "There are enormous reasons to do this," said McGarrity. "It's a good ratable. The preservation of open space can help a town manage its financial obligations. Preserved land has a more positive impact on the future of a town as compared to many types of development that push tax rates upward." Under the township ordinance establishing Byram's open space trust fund in 2000, the township may accept cash donations. McGarrity said the money is used to purchase privately owned land or easements to properties. Money in the trust fund can be also used for environmental analysis, legal searches and fees, and surveys.