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2/5/2016 - Somerset County Announces Open-Space Acquisition in Southern Franklin Township

FRANKLIN – A Dec. 21, 2015 closing was held on 149 acres of land being deeded to the Somerset County Open Space program by land owners William H. Stavola and Trap Rock Industries Inc.

Franklin Township has agreed to contribute 10 percent of the $4.25-million purchase price to the county. The property will remain in its natural state, with possible future trails being the only development.

“This was our most significant open-space acquisition in 2015,” said Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh. “With the assistance of Franklin Township in the preservation of this property, we have more than doubled the acreage in our South County Initiative.”

“This portion of Franklin Township is one of the largest contiguous land areas remaining in the township,” said Freeholder Mark Caliguire, open space liaison. “It is critical that we continue our preservation efforts in this area to retain its current pristine and scenic condition.”

“This is a wonderful acquisition for the township as it adds 149 acres to our 9,000-plus acres of preserved land and it shows what can happen when different levels of government work together,” said Franklin Mayor Phillip Kramer.

The property is bordered by County Route 518, Canal Road and Old Georgetown Road. The land is part of the South County Initiative, which currently consists of 95 acres. Referred to as the Millstone River Valley Initiative in the 2000 Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan Update, it is part of a long-term goal of 2,000 acres to be preserved in this area.

Preservation of this land will achieve a major goal of the master plan to preserve lands of countywide geological, botanic, cultural and historic significance. The Millstone River Valley presents an attractive assemblage of historic homes, farmscapes and the historic Delaware & Raritan Canal along Canal Road, which is designated as a Scenic Byway by America’s Byways.

The property is located within the Millstone River Watershed, which drains approximately 184,300 acres, or 288 square miles. The watershed includes portions of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset counties. The topography of the property is rolling to hilly with areas of steep-sided rock formations as well as forested wetlands.

Because this area of Somerset County has been heavily impacted by suburban sprawl, preservation of the property is critical in order to maintain a habitat for animal species. The Carolina chickadee, Eastern box turtle and Cooper’s hawk are some of the species found in forested wetlands within this area.

Preservation of the Stavola/Trap Rock property brings the county’s total preserved open space to over 14,300 acres, moving closer to achieving its 2000 Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan goal of preserving 20,500 acres.