New residential and warehouse construction is occurring all over the area and Howell Township is no exception. Despite this, new parks and park additions are on the rise in Howell Township. On March 18, 2021, Howell Township purchased a 35-acre property on Fort Plains Road through a partnership among the township, Monmouth Conservation Foundation (“MCF”), and the New Jersey Green Acres Program. This accomplishment comes amidst climbing real estate values in Monmouth County as families from New York City and northern New Jersey have increased demand for housing. As a result, developers are seeking to build on the remaining undeveloped land in the area.
“Development pressure in Howell has been intense for decades, the pandemic only intensified the trend,” explained Councilwomen Evelyn O’Donnell and Pamela Richmond “as our community grows, we recognized the need for a plan to ensure we have adequate parks, trails, and farms in Howell. After all, it’s the reason so many people decided to live here in the first place and we want to ensure it remains a sought-after place to live.”
In this competitive development market, land preservation doesn’t happen by accident, it often takes years of planning and partnerships to locate suitable properties and to obtain the funds to purchase the land. For over 20 years, Howell Township has teamed up with MCF, a nonprofit land trust, founded in 1977, dedicated to strategically create and expand parks, preserve farms, and protect natural resources throughout the township. Howell Township contributed $525,000, MCF $50,000, and Green Acres $575,000 to permanently protect the wooded Fort Plains Road tract of land that could have been developed into a large-scale residential development, increased traffic and congestion significantly on the now rural road.
“It takes a winning team of players dedicated to open space success to make these projects happen. We are happy to be a part of the winning partnership with Howell Township to preserve yet another property for the community to enjoy,” remarked William D. Kastning, Executive Director of Monmouth Conservation Foundation.
Over the past year, Howell Township has preserved three different properties in partnership with MCF and other partners. In addition to this 35-acre parcel on Fort Plains Road just acquired, other recent projects include the preservation of a 9.5-acre property on Lakewood Allenwood Road in December 2020 to expand Deerwood Park, and a 4-acre addition to Bear Swamp Natural Area, located on Maxim Road, preserved in October 2020.
But the progress doesn’t stop there! MCF and Howell Township continue to work together to create more parkland and preserve additional farms through projects currently in the pipeline. A partnership with the Department of Defense is also in the works to protect land around Naval Weapons Station Earle. MCF continues to raise private funds from donors in the community, which in combination with state and local government funding, are leveraged to purchase and protect parks, open spaces, and farmland.
“We are dedicated to ensuring Howell remains a wonderful community for its residents and we must continue to find opportunities to protect our remaining natural areas and ensure residents continue to have access to safe outdoor places to enjoy,” remarked Pamela Richmond, township council member, confirming Howell’s ongoing dedication to protecting open space and farmland in the township.
Monmouth Conservation Foundation partners with municipalities throughout the county to increase access to parks, open space, and farmland. For more information about Monmouth Conservation Foundation and how they can help in your community, please visit www.monmouthconservation.org.