The Union County Board of Chose Freeholders has authorized the purchase of a .59 acre parcel of land at 112 Park Drive, adjacent to the county's Nomahegan Park in Cranford. The $495,000 price is funded through the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
"This was an extremely rare chance to preserve more open space in a highly developed area," said Union County Freeholder Vice Chairman Deborah P. Scanlon. "This acquisition demonstrates that Union County can still increase parklands that contribute to the attractiveness of our neighborhoods, the well-being of our residents, and the health of the environment."
Scanlon also chairs the Freeholder Board's Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Committee.
Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski, who is a resident of Cranford, noted that the property was of particular value to the Open Space program because it occupies an elbow of land that intrudes into the southern end of Nomahegan Park.
"Had the site been sold to a private developer, based on recent trends the existing home would most likely have been replaced with a much larger structure," said Kowalski. "This purchase will help prevent encroachment, so that residents from Cranford and throughout Union County can continue to enjoy peaceful natural surroundings when using the park."
The Park Drive site is currently occupied by a vacant house in disrepair. The structure will be demolished in order to reclaim the property as parkland.
Other Trust Fund grants in Cranford include $200,000 in 2007 toward repair of the river wall in Sperry Park along the Rahway River, along with recreation grants totaling almost $400,000 over the past ten years since the fund was established by popular referendum. All together, Cranford has received approximately $1.4 million in Trust Fund monies.
Union County voters overwhelmingly approved the Trust Fund by popular referendum in 2000, with the initial goal of preserving 100 acres in ten years. Through careful management the Fund has far exceeded its original goal. So far more than 300 acres have been preserved, including a unique urban reservoir in Clark and some of the last remaining urban farms in the region.
In a partnership with Berkeley Heights, the Trust Fund has enabled Union County to reclaim a former industrial site for use as a public park, recreation facility and nature preserve.
The Trust Fund has also distributed millions in matching grants to communities throughout Union County for improvements to local athletic fields and playgrounds, and to help fund children's recreation programs and historic preservation projects.