New Jersey’s streams and rivers are the source of our drinking water, scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. Stream systems, generally referred to as stream corridors, extend beyond the water flowing in the channel to include the stream banks (or riparian area), adjacent wetlands, the floodplain and ecosystems of important biological diversity. Protecting the entire stream corridor is the best way to protect the health of the stream.
Regulatory programs have focused on solving specific problems like flood control and wastewater discharge, but generally don’t address the stream system as a whole. Effective stream corridor management requires addressing the entire system – the stream’s hydrology and ecology – to solve problems of surface water pollution, loss of groundwater recharge and decline in animal and plant habitats.
The New Jersey Field Office of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) published the first edition of the Handbook for Public Financing of Open Space in New Jersey in 1994, at a time when reduced and inconsistent federal and state open space funding was sparking an increased demand for local governments to step up their open space preservation efforts. TPL created the Handbook to provide local officials and leaders of nonprofit environmental and land trust organizations with an overview of basic techniques for financing open space preservation at the county and municipal levels. At that time, only a few counties and municipalities had established local open space taxes and trust funds pursuant to the New Jersey enabling legislation enacted in 1989.
The Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) updated the publication and reprinted it as this edition. We hope that this Handbook will continue to generate the interest of local government agencies and nonprofit open space organizations in expanding their programs to preserve additional open space. In every part of the state the need is clear and urgent, and the opportunities are present but rapidly disappearing to preserve permanently open lands that the public relies on for recreation and for quality-of life, environmental and natural resource functions.
Pathways for the Garden State is a practical handbook about how to plan bikeways and walkways. It’s intended not only for environmental commissions but also for other local groups, including park and recreation departments, planning boards and citizen associations.
The planning process often begins with drawing lines on a map, planning routes over existing streets and sidewalks to connect community focal points. Sometimes this means designing new walking paths or bicycle routes. Frequently it means retrofitting existing paths, sidewalks and roadways to make them safer and more attractive for walkers and bikers.
Greenways—linear corridors of preserved undeveloped land, and the trails they encompass— can be prime locations for recreational walking or biking in a community. In 1989, ANJEC published Keeping Our Garden State Green: A Local Government Guide for Greenway and Open Space Planning. As a reference and guide for making communities more “walkable” and “bikeable,” Pathways is an adaptive reuse of techniques and resources found in that earlier publication.
Many New Jersey communities have been able to plan and begin implementing new greenways, often using funds from special local municipal open space tax levies. Municipalities have created some of these greenways to protect sensitive environmental areas, but in most cases, these linear parks can incorporate opportunities for active recreation.
To ease traffic congestion, combat air pollution and improve public health, New Jersey needs more people to walk and ride bicycles more regularly. People can walk and bike not only on recreational greenways but also on roads and streets that will take them to work, school, the library, the market, the post office, or town hall. To accomplish this, we need to find ways to make our communities friendlier to walkers and bikers and to improve safety. We can start by renovating or modifying the existing infrastructure, such as altering roadways to slow and even diminish the volume of traffic, and to accommodate bicycle lanes. We can begin with simple steps: providing bike racks, benches, better lighting and signage and pedestrian-oriented plazas.
As pioneers and veterans of the greenway movement, environmental commissions are well positioned to take the initiative to restore safe streets and create walk/bike opportunities in their communities.
An open space plan in a comprehensive document that serves as a guide for open space protection and preservation in a municipality, a county or some other defined region like a watershed. The plan tells why and how open space will be protected there. Because open space preservation is generally pursued over a long period of time, though many successive administrations, it is imperative that a comprehensive plan be in place to assure continuity and policy consistency.
The Financial Argument for Open Space Preservation
In New Jersey, open space can be a breathtaking view from a mountaintop in Sussex County, an urban park in Newark, a suburban walking path in Morris County, rolling farmland in Hunterdon County, a wildlife observation center in Gloucester County, a quiet garden in Trenton, or a sea of saltwater marshland in Cumberland County. Whatever form it takes, open space provides sustenance for humanity and all living things.
The Environmental Resource Inventory (ERI), or Index of Natural Resources, is a compilation of text, tables, maps and other visual information about the natural resource characteristics and environmentally significant features of an area. Traditionally called “Natural Resources Inventory,” the title “Environmental Resources Inventory” is now commonly used, reflecting the addition of manmade features to the inventory, such as historic sites, brownfields and contaminated sites.
An ERI provides baseline documentation for measuring and evaluating resource protection issues. It is an objective index and description of features and their functions, rather than an interpretation or recommendation. Identifying significant environmental resources is the first step in their protection and preservation and in assuring that future development or redevelopment protects public health, safety and welfare.
The ERI is an important tool for governing bodies, environmental commissions, open space committees, planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment. The planning board should adopt the ERI as part of the municipal master plan, either as an appendix or as a part of a master plan conservation element. As part of the master plan, the ERI can provide the foundation and documentation for master plan updates, ordinances, legal defense, open space or agricultural protection plans, protection of water resources, and many other municipal functions.
ANJEC originally developed this booklet in 1998 in an effort to establish sound public policy guidelines for land use decisions and to educate local officials and citizens on the benefits of protecting coastal migratory bird habitat. Today, with growing concerns about the impacts of sea level change due to global warming, the importance of sustainable land use decisions has become even more
critical, particularly in coastal areas. We hope this booklet will offer local environmental commissions and planning boards an arsenal of practical tools and techniques they can use, not only to protect bird habitat but to mitigate and adapt to the changes ahead.
Remediating and Redeveloping Brownfields in New Jersey
A Guide for Municipalities and Community Organizations
Brownfields are found across the Garden State in urban, suburban and rural communities. Many of us drive or walk past them every day. Like many unoccupied properties, brownfields may contain deteriorating buildings with broken glass and litter, becoming unsafe places for children to congregate or an eyesore for the neighborhood. This guide will examine the activities and laws that are involved in transforming brownfields into productive neighborhood assets.
A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. (Note:
Brownfields are a large class of properties, not to be confused with Superfund/National Priority List sites. Superfund sites generally have more complex or dangerous contamination problems and are overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The 220+ Superfund sites in New Jersey, in various stages of assessment, cleanup, delisting or monitoring, are listed on the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/.)
Common examples of brownfield properties are former manufacturing, processing or transportation facilities, dumps, gas stations, dry cleaners, and many others. The possible or actual contamination complicates the brownfield property owner’s ability to expand, redevelop, or reuse the site. The unknown extent of the contamination, and therefore the liability and cleanup costs, make the property unattractive to potential buyers and redevelopers.
ANJEC offers scholarships for trainings and the Environmental Congress, contact ANJEC for details. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANJEC also awards a small scholarship every other year to a student entering their junior or senior year who attends a NJ University and majors in a field relating to environmental protection. The most recent Lechner Scholarship was awarded in 2022.