TRENTON, N.J. – Today, a news conference presented by NJ Keep It Green that highlighted one of over 1,100 parks made possible by New Jersey’s Green Acres program was held at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex. Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., Governor Richard J. Codey, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblyman John McKeon, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and other leaders were on hand for the event, which also urged voters to Vote, “Yes,” on Public Question 2 on Election Day.
Public Question 2 asks voters to dedicate existing state funds to protect clean water and ensure that future generations continue to have access to parks, open spaces, farmland and historic treasures. The funding requested will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
It also ensures stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas by reallocating four percent of existing corporate business tax revenues, which are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019, and dedicating an additional two percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward.
This event was the last in a series highlighting parks, waterways, farms and open spaces around the state that have been protected thanks to state preservation programs. According to the Keep it Green Campaign, support for Question 2 has been in an upswing as Election Day draws near, with recent endorsements from Govs. Thomas Kean, Brendan Byrne, and Christine Todd Whitman; Newark Mayor Ras Baraka; Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop; Jersey City Council; The New York Times; The Star-Ledger; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Asbury Park Press; Courier-Post; The Times of Trenton; Burlington County Times, Hunterdon County Democrat and other leading media outlets.
“A Yes vote on Public Question 2 is a Yes vote for clean water,” said McKeon, co-sponsor of legislation to refer the measure to the ballot. “Not only do our parks, farms and open spaces add to the quality of life we value in New Jersey, but they also contribute billions of dollars to our local and regional economies. Public Question 2 dedicates funding to protect our land, air and water without raising taxes. It’s a win all around.”
According to a press release from the Keep it Green Campaign, open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust. Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually the first four years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding without raising taxes. In addition, it provides for approximately $30 million annually to go toward providing programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak, and clean up polluted sites.
And for the first time ever, there is a provision for stewardship requiring some funds to go toward helping take better care of the parks and natural areas New Jersey already has. It will also fund critical repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey, which will make easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.
In addition according to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, more than 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect natural and water resources and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities to a growing population. Also, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, at least an additional 350,000 acres of farmland must be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry.
“I am voting Yes on Public Question 2 for the future of our children and grandchildren,” said Codey. “Without the basic funding Public Question 2 provides, our water, parks, farms, open spaces and historic treasures are at risk, and make no mistake, once they are gone, they are gone. We can never get them back.”
So far, the Green Acres program has funded at least 200 open space acquisitions and park projects throughout Essex County including improvements to the South Mountain Recreation Complex, as well as Essex County Veterans Memorial Park, Essex County Kip’s Castle Park and the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.
“Essex County should be commended for its commitment to ensuring children and families have access to parks and a wide range of recreational opportunities that Green Acres supports,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “New Jersey residents have an opportunity to make their voices heard by going out to the polls and voting Yes on Public Question 2 to protect our drinking water, support our parks, preserve our farms and safeguard our historic treasures.”
“Every one of our parks in Essex County has been renovated or redone over the past 12 years with the help of the state Green Acres program,” said DiVincenzo. “The only way that we will be able to continue the good things we are doing with our park system, protect the quality of life we enjoy and preserve our natural resources and open spaces is if people in Essex County, and across New Jersey, vote Yes on Public Question 2 on Election Day.”
NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.