The Watershed Institute celebrates Princeton’s recently announced agreement to acquire 153 acres of mature forest, the largest remaining tract of undeveloped land in the municipality, for conservation and passive recreational use. The Watershed Institute is proud to partner in the preservation of this land in the northwest corner of the town as a part of our core mission of protecting clean water.
“This beautiful and important tract of undeveloped land will be an outstanding, permanent natural asset for the town of Princeton and a critical link in a regional complex of preserved open space,” said Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute. “Preserving this property will have many benefits, from protecting fragile wetlands and streams, to conserving habitats for imperiled wildlife, to sustaining mature forests that help soak up precipitation and mitigate flooding.”
An ordinance was introduced by the Princeton Council on Oct. 25 and a vote on the ordinance is expected in two weeks. Passage of the ordinance would enable the town to take the necessary financial steps so that the full purchase price is available at closing. All municipal costs, including debt service, related to the acquisition, will be covered by Princeton’s open space tax trust fund, a dedicated fund approved by Princeton’s voters on two separate occasions.
A development consisting of large homes had been approved on the land despite active opposition from The Watershed Institute, Princeton Environmental Commission, and others, and would have resulted in significant deforestation – the loss of approximately 4,000 trees that form part of a mature forest on this site. The $8.775 million cost of acquisition will be paid for with $3 million in private donations, including a leadership gift from the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation, grants to the municipality and non-profit partners from the State Green Acres program, and Mercer County’s Open Space program, and monies from the municipal open space tax trust fund.
The acquisition is part of an initiative called “Princeton’s Emerald Necklace” that aims to connect open spaces throughout the town. The goal is to give more community members, diverse populations, walkers, bikers, and others greater access to the open space.