Hackensack Riverkeeper today joined NJ Keep It Green at Overpeck County Park in Bergen County in urging voters to Vote Yes on Public Question 2 to dedicate state funds for open space, parks, farmland and historic preservation.
“A yes vote on Question 2 is a yes vote for clean water,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper. “Human beings, in fact all living creatures, have an inherent right to clean water. Conserving our open space protects our drinking water supply, which is not only what people want, it is what they deserve.”
Public Question 2 asks voters to dedicate existing state funds to protect clean water and ensure that future generations continue to have access to parks, open spaces, farmland and historic treasures. The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and support environmental programs that improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
“Future generations deserve access to clean drinking water, safe places to play and locally-grown nutritious food,”
said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “Voting yes on Public Question 2 protects the quality of life we value in New Jersey and ensures our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same parks, open spaces, and rivers, lakes and streams that we enjoy today.”
Also in attendance for today’s news conference were Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, Bergen County Parks Department Director Ronald Kirstner, Haworth Mayor John Dean DeRienzo, Teaneck Creek Conservancy President Adam Strobel, and Bergen County Rowing Academy Coach Clemens Reinke.
Overpeck County Park is Bergen County’s largest recreational venue, covering 805 acres and spanning five municipalities surrounding Overpeck Creek. Once a landfill and a brownfields site, the park now attracts thousands of visitors each year thanks in large part to the state Green Acres program, which has provided more than $1.5 million in funding for the park.
Between 2000 and 2013, the Green Acres program helped preserve over 1,400 acres of land in Bergen County, and provided over $20 million in grants to the county, municipalities and non-profits for park development projects.
Public Question 2 ensures stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas by reallocating 4 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019 and dedicating an additional 2 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward.
Open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust. Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually the first four years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding without raising taxes. In addition, approximately $30 million annually will be provided for programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak, and clean up polluted sites.
Additionally, for the first time ever, a provision for stewardship is included that will require some funds to go toward helping take better care of the parks and natural areas New Jersey already has. It will fund critical repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey – making it easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.
According to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, more than 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect natural and water resources and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities to a growing population. At least an additional 350,000 acres of farmland must be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
“The Teaneck Creek Conservancy strongly urges voters to vote Yes on Public Question 2,” said Strobel. “If we are going to make sure that our families have access to clean water, parks and green spaces, we need the dedicated source of funding that Public Question 2 provides.”
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.
About Hackensack Riverkeeper Founded in 1997 by Captain Bill Sheehan, Hackensack Riverkeeper is the leading environmental organization working on Hackensack River issues. Their mission is to protect, preserve and restore the river and its 210 square-mile watershed for the benefit of the people and wildlife that depend on it; and to secure the promises made by the Clean Water Act for a fishable and swimmable waterway.