07/16/2021 10:02 AM
TRENTON – A resolution introduced by Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes calling for a voter referendum in November to allow reallocation of the County’s Open Space Trust Fund – putting an emphasis greater on the management, development of the park and historical preservation – was approved. by the Board of Commissioners on July 15.
The new Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund allocation, which was recommended by the County Planning Department and the Parks Commission, will increase the amount for managing parks and open spaces on properties of the County from 10 percent to 20 percent, and will increase. the amount for park development and historic preservation from 20 percent to 30 percent, with 50 percent earmarked for open space acquisition.
Mr Hughes stressed that approving the referendum would only be a reallocation of the Trust Fund – not a tax increase. It would not change the levy of up to 3 cents per $100 of equalized assessment that Mercer County voters approved in 2004 to fund the Trust Fund. The County’s open space tax rate, which is determined annually by the Board of Commissioners as part of the budget process, is currently 2.5 cents per $100 of equalized assessment.
“By using the authorized allocation of the Trust Fund, the County could continue its acquisition program and continue to provide land acquisition grants to municipalities and non-profit land conservation, while investing more to provide access to our parks and expand the recreational offer”, Mr. Hughes said. “This, along with increased management efforts, will ensure the ecological health of the lands entrusted to us, while providing expanded and appropriate nature-based recreational and natural activities for our residents”
Over the past three decades, Mercer County has used Trust Fund assets to purchase and preserve thousands of acres of farmland and open space for future generations to use and enjoy, and has improved public access and the recreational opportunities at the parks preserved by the County.
Photos: Village Green is a 7 acre open space property in Hamilton Township. Historically it was cultivated, but it fell when the farm lease expired. The Mercer County Park Commission’s management team recognized its potential to be transformed into an important grassland habitat for native bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. The project was funded by the County Open Space Trust Fund, which from 2018 supports the seeding of 44.5 hectares of native grass and wildflower meadows. This includes County-owned land in Hamilton, Lawrence and Hopewell, as well as 1.5 acres of municipal land in Ewing Township. (Photo courtesy of Mercer County Park Commission)