The former Maple Ridge Golf Course, closed since 2006, will be bought from a developer that acquired its 112 acres and designated for passive recreation.
A six-year fight to preserve the 112 acres of the former Maple Ridge Golf Course in Sewell, N.J. is about to end, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, as the state of New Jersey appears poised to sign a contract with a developer that bought the land to create Gloucester County’s first state park.
New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials are using the working name “Tall Pines State Preserve,” the Inquirer reported, as a nod to one of the former names of the golf course (it then became Ron Jaworski’s Eagles Nest and then Maple Ridge). No final name for the park has been officially selected yet, it was noted.
The site will join 35 other golf courses in the state preserved as open space, the Inquirer reported. Some, such as the Pitman Golf Course, also in Sewell, remain operational for play.
Maple Ridge will be used for passive recreation, a DEP spokesman said, with no camping, athletic fields, or picnic huts, the Inquirer reported.
That’s just fine with Rich Dilks, 66, of Wenonah, N.J. who has helped to lead a grassroots preservation effort for the course. Dilks told the Inquirer that the space will give people a chance to learn about the natural world.
“It’s really an oasis right in the middle of all of this heavy development,” he said, noting that the property is home to 70 species of birds, including bald eagles and a very rare albino red-tailed hawk.
Dilks, Chairman of the Wenonah Environmental Commission, and the Friends of Maple Ridge have raised nearly $150,000 to help fund the project, expected to cost more than $3 million.
The city Mantua, N.J., which along with Deptford, N.J. shares a border with the Maple Ridge property is kicking in $100,000. That amount represents a “good deal” of what’s left in a tree trust fund generated by developers who razed trees for projects, Mayor Pete Scirrotto told the Inquirer.
The Frank H. Stewart Trust, which assists South Jersey counties in acquiring land for wildlife protection, awarded a $250,000 grant.
IBG Partners, which bought the property when the course closed in 2006, agreed to sell it after a downturn in the housing market and conflicting opinions with the city of Deptford about a planned 140-house development, Executive Vice President Scott Fuller told the Inquirer. Fuller called the new plan for Maple Ridge an “aligning of the stars.”
Under a proposed management plan, Gloucester County would oversee the site, but the city of Mantua would be charged with maintaining the property, the Inquirer reported.
Scirrotto said cutting grass and tidying up the former course wouldn’t be a big deal, noting that housing would have added a burden to services such as trash collection and schools.
“It’s a small price to pay for having that ground preserved,” he said.
Freeholder Director Robert Damminger told the Inquirer that the county still requires a public hearing before the purchase, and land surveys and environmental tests will be conducted before settlement, which he said could happen by late summer or early fall.
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