RANDOLPH, NJ- Several residents have asked me recently about Randolph’s Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund. Assuming that others have the same questions, I thought I would provide a general overview in this column.
In the 1990s, many New Jersey towns became increasingly aware of how population growth was affecting them, particularly how development was leading to a loss of open space in their communities. State, county and municipal governments responded by establishing new funding programs designed to preserve open space. At that time, voters in Randolph Township approved two cutting-edge referendums. The initial referendum established an Open Space Trust Fund, dedicating 2 cents per $100 of assessed value to support the purchase of open space. The second referendum initiated the Parks Trust Fund, dedicating 1 cent per $100 of assessed value to support the building and on-going maintenance and improvements to our park system. A third referendum in 2009 facilitated the combination of the two trust funds into a single trust - the Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund - supported by a 3 cent per $100 of assessed value tax.
Municipal open space acquisition programs such as ours in Randolph are important in assisting communities protect the environment and natural green infrastructure, provide places for recreation, preserve important environmental and ecological functions, and enhance residents’ quality of life. Open space taxes and trust funds are used to acquire parcels of land that will remain undeveloped to benefit the community.
Once the property has been acquired, open space maintenance and park development is paramount to ensure proper stewardship of the public lands and to promote community use of the open space. Randolph’s referendums allowed for funding for these purposes and the flexibility to focus the trust dollars on both acquisition and recreational development in future years.
Since the Randolph Township Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund was established, over 1300 acres of land throughout the township have been acquired and preserved to maintain the rural character of the Township. The fund has also supported the building and on-going improvements to our 600 acres of parks, including the development of Freedom Park and our extensive 16-mile trail network. All of this adds to the beauty of Randolph and residents’ quality of life. Currently, the open space and recreation tax impact on the average assessed home in Randolph Township is approximately $102 annually.
In addition to funds acquired through the local tax assessment, Randolph Township has applied for and received open space funding from both the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund and the New Jersey State Green Acres Program.
Please always feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-985-2623.