WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The deer population scattered around areas of Garret Mountain Reservation will likely become more contained and have a safer haven to live in thanks to a planned fencing project.
The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Friends of Passaic County Parks, Inc., were recently informed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, that a grant in the amount of $88,500 will be offered for the purpose of installing a deer fence at Garret Mountain Reservation.
A non-profit corporation, created by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Friends of Passaic County Parks, Inc. aims to secure funding for improvements within the Passaic County Park System and run programming in the parks, among which include the annual Passaic County Fair.
For the first time since its creation in 2009, the Friends of Passaic County Parks, Inc., was successful in securing grant funding from Green Acres for the Goffle Brook Park and Garret Mountain Reservation projects.
The funding stems from over $1 million in Green Acres Grants secured by Passaic County for its parks.
According to Passaic County Freeholder Director Sandi Lazarra, the burgeoning deer population among towns in the county has been a big issue for some time. One of the problems is the impact to the ecosystem in the region.
"The idea of putting up this fence is to protect specific areas of the park where deer can't get to the vegetation, where they eat and destroy brush," she said. "A lot of birds rely on their habitat as well. The goal is to stop erosion because a lot of invasive plants have taken over, where the native plants used to be. The goal is to bring them back again and help the underbrush grow."
The construction for the fence is being planned for next spring. Other locations in the county that have received deer fencing installation include Apshawa Preserve in West Milford, installed last year, and Flat Rock Brook Nature Center in Englewood, which was recently placed. Officials are still analyzing results from those locations.
The size of the fence and specific location is still being determined, including the exact material for the fencing planned for Garret Mountain Reservation.
"The county's forester went in those areas and designated where fencing would be placed," Lazarra added. "The same thing will be done for Garret Mountain Reservation. The idea is for deer to be kept out of specific areas and allowed free to roam."
Additionally, Lazarra said that the $88,500 grant amount will be matched by the county. A total approximation dedicated for the purpose of conservation will be roughly $160,000 to $170,000.
According to reports, the deer population spike in recent years has resulted in thousands being struck and killed by motorists on roadways, as well as causing drivers and passengers to sustain injuries, and vehicles sustaining damage. Many animal rights activists have charged that the rise in development within their habitat is to blame for the problem. Passaic County conducted a deer culling at Garret Mountain Reservation that was met with protest by many residents and animal rights activists back in 2009.
"I'm a big animal lover and hate to see anything happen to any of them," noted Lazarra, adding that the county has been looking for ways to avoid a culling for some time. "This is meant to keep them safe, residents and motorists safe, as well as bringing back the ecosystem."
A meeting between the county and the Audubon Society of New Jersey is planned next month in order to discuss the ongoing deer issue and plans for the fence.