A 775-acre Berkeley Township tract rich with natural areas will remain undeveloped, Ocean County officials announced.
The site, commonly referred to as the New Jersey Pulverizing property, is located on Hickory Lane and extends north to the Beachwood border.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the recommendation of the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Advisory Committee to purchase the sprawling property with funds from the Natural Lands Trust Fund for $11,225,000 earlier this week, according to a county release.
“This is one of the largest tracts to be added to our natural lands program,” said Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the natural lands program. “The landscape of the site varies greatly with parts that haven’t been touched, lakes and an area where the Barnegat Branch Rail Trail can work its way through.”
The site is adjacent to an area in the township that has recently seen substantial residential growth, officials said.
“To say we’re ecstatic… would be an understatement,” Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen Amato told the Board of Freeholders during a public hearing on the purchase, adding that the property could have been developed due to its location.
Bartlett said that while the site had been formally mined for sand, the site has been untouched for years.
“There is no mining going on at the site,” he said. “The previously disturbed areas of the property have become varied habitats which also include grassland and pinelands vegetation. This is a serene and peaceful site.”
Officials said that the acquisition will allow for a vital linkage that will facilitate the completion of the Barnegat Branch Trail, a 15-mile linear park that begins in Barnegat Township and will eventually reach Toms River.
Throughout the county, nearly 60 percent of the total 408,000 acres land area will remain natural.
“Half of Ocean County is preserved forever from development,” said Freeholder Gerry P. Little.
See photos of the site at Riverside Signal.