The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders will be adding to their open space inventory by preserving land in Berkeley, Manchester and Ocean Gate.

It starts with The Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee's recommendation for the acquisition of 4.7 acres of riverfront property on Chelsea Avenue in Ocean Gate.

The unique oversized lot includes a beach, lagoon, and bulkheading, which provide opportunities for public access to the water.

The property is situated at the mouth of Jeffries Creek where it flows into the Toms River.

The purchase price for the property is $1,600,000.00 and Ocean Gate officials have reportedly given their support to the acquisition, according to the Ocean County Freeholders Office.

Ocean County would remove the various structures that are in disrepair from the property once the acquisition is complete.

“This is our first open space acquisition in this small borough that borders Barnegat Bay and sits on the Toms River,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia Haines said. “This purchase will help us in our ongoing work to protect and preserve our waterways now and into the future.”

The Natural Lands Advisory Committee has also recommended the acquisition of 5.68 acres in the Roosevelt City section of Manchester Township.

This property consists of multiple scattered lots, which are adjacent to or are surrounded by the 1,700-acre Natural Land Trust Fund site known as the Structural Management tract, which was purchased in 2014.

The purchase price for the 5.68 acres is $40,000.00.

“This acquisition will allow for the vacation of unimproved paper streets and enable better security and management of the existing natural lands property,” Haines said. “We estimate this natural lands property will grow by about 100 acres if the streets are vacated. Buying these smaller lots that are near or adjacent to already preserved open space helps us with maintaining the property by creating one contiguous open space parcel."

The County also expects to use funds from the Natural Lands Trust Fund to provide a local match for properties acquired in the Good Luck Point section of Berkeley Township under a Hazard Mitigation Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and in partnership with the State and Berkeley Township.

“In early 2017, Ocean County submitted an application for a Hazard Mitigation Grant from FEMA for an acquisition and demolition project,” Haines said. “The project includes 19 individual properties in and around the Good Luck Point section of Berkeley Township.”

FEMA has approved the application and is providing a federal cost share of about $4.2 million.

An additional grant was received from the state Department of Environmental Protection totaling $923,805.00.

Due to the location of the properties and the intent to return them to their natural state, the County Natural Lands Trust Fund will provide $416,994.00 or about eight percent of the cost.

“We are working in partnership with FEMA, the state DEP and Office of Emergency Management and Berkeley Township to acquire these properties which were impacted by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 resulting in the homes being demolished,” Haines said. “When we began to see an increase in the number of requests we were receiving for potential acquisitions in the area of Good Luck Point it was clear that there was a need for a larger acquisition project.”

Following a special request made in 2015 from Ocean County, the DEP provided a special grant for this project.

The following year the County entered into discussions with the NJ-OEM and began work on the Hazard Mitigation Grant application.

Outreach to landowners in the area resulted in more than 20 initial responses.

To date, 10 offers have been accepted totaling $2.4 million.

“These properties expand on existing natural lands open space and provide additional public access to the waterfront,” Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department, which oversees the county’s Natural Lands Trust Fund, said.

Haines said the acquisition improves resiliency to the neighborhood and provides several benefits to Berkeley Township, Ocean County and the public.

“This was one of the areas of our County devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” Haines said. “By acquiring these properties we are hopeful it helps the property owners who sustained a great loss. It also allows the township to receive additional points under the Community Rating System, which gives residents discounts on their flood insurance.
“By working together with the local, state and federal agencies, we are also preserving our shoreline and protecting it for the future,” Haines said.

Public hearings on the recommended land acquisitions will be held during the February 6 meeting of the Board of Freeholders.

The meeting starts at 4:00 p.m. in the Ocean County Administration Building.

“Adding to our open space inventory is a benefit to all of our residents,” Haines, who also serves as liaison to the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee, said. “These three recommendations provide environmental benefits that are easily lost should the land not be preserved.”

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