Friday, August 13, 2010

Apples and Oranges

Not All Open Space is the Same

This week's South Brunswick Post has an article about a moratorium on Open Space purchases in South Brunswick.  Once the Dog Park land deal is closed, Mayor Gambatese says the Township will have to evaluate the Open Space Trust Fund to determine what purchases can be made in the future.

The Mayor mentions the Pulda purchase and the Dog Park in one breath as the last two acquisitions.

Apples and oranges.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, working farmland adjacent to the 1200 acre Pigeon Swamp State Park,  had the potential to be developed as a huge housing complex--some 60 or more homes.  The Dog Park, in a best case scenario, might have been able to accommodate three houses.

The Pulda Farm/Van Dyke has no improvements requiring any kind of maintenance from the Township.  The Dog Park is going to require groundskeeping, electric bills, costs for the PortaJohn and other expenses estimated by the Township to be about $43,000 per year.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, like State Park next door, is currently free for all residents to enjoy for passive recreation--hiking, bike/horseback riding.  Residents who want to use the Dog Park will have to pay $20/ month or $100/year to use the facility.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, if it remains farmland, promises a fair rental income every year, at no cost to taxpayers or at any strain on Township staff.  The Dog Park may make some money for the Township--although, according to the Mayor "not this  year"--or it may fail to pay for itself.  There is no way to know how many dog owners will decide to join, or how much revenue that will actually generate.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm is 188 or so acres of relatively flat farmland. The Dog Park is just under 6 acres of driveway, parking lot, hills, rocks, and trees

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm's preservation took nearly six years of dedicated effort by dozens of South Brunswick residents with support from Township and County Open Space Committees, Preservation New Jersey, The Sierra Club, The County Agricultural Board, Raritan Baykeeper, The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, and many other preservation groups and agencies.  The Dog Park took a matter of months and seems to have been primarily a decision made by Township officials without even a formal approval by the Open Space Advisory Committee.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm includes an historic farmhouse and two cemeteries dating back to the 1700's.  The Dog Park business has been in operation since 2001.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, at 188 acres, cost the Township $2.5 million which is an investment of about $14,000 an acre. (The rest of the cost was paid for by State and County Preservation funds.)   The Dog Park cost the Township $360,000 for about 6 acres, and investment of  approximately $60,000 an acre

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm is the first Township Open Space purchase in the Eastern portion of South Brunswick. (Please note: The Pigeon Swamp State Park was a State Green Acres purchase back in the 1970's, well before South Brunswick even had an Open Space ordinance. Other parkland was purchased by Middlesex County.)   The Dog Park? Suffice it to say it is not the first purchase in the Western portion of the Township.

Apples and oranges? Indeed. I guess it just depends on which fruit you prefer as food for thought.

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