Parkland sits for years due to open space funding

Guttenberg residents are blaming bureaucratic bungling for almost three years of delays on a waterfront park project.

The town was given a "Green Acres" grant from the state to buy a tract of land for Guttenberg's first park. Guttenberg then had to wait for two years for grant money to develop the land.

"After two and a half years, after a $1.2 million purchase, this should be a nice area," says resident Jamie Witcher. "This should be something we can smile about."

Councilman Gerald Drasheff says Guttenberg's target date to open the park is early this fall. He says they could have moved forward with the project sooner, but it would have seriously drained town coffers.

"Could we have built it a year and a half ago? Sure," he says. "But instead of paying 20 percent out of town funds, we would have paid 50 percent."

Environmentalists say the state has a habit of spending the money to start park projects without providing the funds to finish them. They fear more projects could face similar indefinite stalls due to the rough shape of the economy.

State lawmakers and the governor did not include open space funding in this year's budget and the state's funds are almost wiped out. Politicians hope to come up with a new funding plan in the fall, but environmentalists like Jeff Tittle are worried.

"We're concerned that not only will it hurt towns because they won't have the money to buy open space, but it's going to mean more sprawl and more overdevelopment and less places for our children to play," says Tittle.

NJDEP Green Acres Program

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