44-acre forest preserved in Byram Township

Dec 18, 2018

Cranberry Overlook Greenway

BYRAM TWP. – From the Sparta Mountain ridges, the views of the surrounding forests and lakes in Sussex County are spectacular.

Hikers and nature enthusiasts have more hills to climb and views to admire, now that 44 forested acres have been preserved by a public-private partnership and added to the township’s Cranberry Overlook Greenway.

Byram Township purchased the land on Oct. 30 for $460,000 from Carole Johnson, wife of the late Carl Johnson. The property is located south of Tamarack Road, between Cranberry and Johnson Lakes, and adjacent to a 47-acre property preserved in 2005 to become the first phase of the Cranberry Overlook Greenway.

Funding came from the township’s New Jersey Green Acres Program grant, a grant to New Jersey Conservation Foundation from the Open Space Institute, and funds from the New Jersey Highlands Council.

Characterized by steep hills and rocky outcrops, the newly-preserved property is now open to the public for passive recreation. Plans call for extending existing trail networks onto the property.

“Byram Township is known as the ‘Township of Lakes,’ and it’s also a place with significant open space and trails,” said Ray Bonker, Byram Township’s Open Space Committee chairman. “Preserving the Johnson property will allow us to add to our trail network, which includes the Cranberry Overlook Trail and Tamarack Park Trail.”

“This is an incredibly beautiful part of the state, with its mountains, lakes and wildlife,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.  “We’re thrilled to be part of the public-private partnership that made this acquisition possible, and we deeply thank all our partners.”

The newly preserved land is located within the Highlands Special Environmental Zone, the highest rank for preservation. With a mix of oak and sugar maple trees and vernal wetlands, the property provides habitat for rare species, including bobcats, barred owls, broad winged and red-shouldered hawks, hooded and worm-eating warblers, veerys, wood thrushes and least flycatchers.

“We are especially excited to help preserve property in the Highlands Special Environmental Zone,” said Lisa J. Plevin, Highlands Council Executive Director. “Not only are we able to permanently protect some very important habitat and watershed lands from future development, but the public will be able to enjoy this richly forested land that really showcases all the Highlands has to offer.”

Because the Highlands region provides drinking water for 70 percent of New Jersey residents, the benefits of preserving this property reach well beyond the local community.

The project was supported by a $115,000 grant from the Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund to New Jersey Conservation Foundation, made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation for its Delaware River Watershed Initiative, which seeks to protect drinking water quality in the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River supplies drinking water to the cities of Philadelphia, Trenton and Wilmington, Del.

This forested area, atop a mountain ridge, protects wetlands that filter and purify the headwaters of the Musconetcong River, a major tributary of the Delaware River.

“The successful protection of this land is an amazing win for the people of Byram Township, and for the millions of people who depend on unspoiled forests to protect their drinking water,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president of the Open Space Institute. “We applaud the vision and determination of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in protecting a true natural gem.”

The land is near other preserved parks and open space, including Allamuchy State Park, Tamarack Park, C.O. Johnson Park and the Sussex Branch Trail, a 20-mile rail trail connecting Waterloo Village to Branchville. New Jersey Conservation Foundation also owns a nearby 153-acre preserve, which includes Johnson Lake.

“With the preservation of the Johnson property, Byram Township continues its great track record of preserving open space with the assistance of Green Acres funding to expand its parks and trails,” said Green Acres Program Administrator Martha Sapp. “We congratulate the township on this terrific acquisition.”

“Byram Township has very ambitious open space preservation goals, and we’re very appreciative of the help of our partners at Green Acres, the Highlands Council, Open Space Institute and New Jersey Conservation Foundation in meeting those goals,” said Township Councilman Scott Olson.

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By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director