February 15, 2014:
With the creation of the State Nature Preserve, the Friends of Maple Ridge have done what we set out to do. We are now taking up a new mission- to become a permanent Friends organization for the new State Nature Preserve and to provide a means and opportunity for all of us to work together with park officials for the benefit and improvement of the new park. We will be formally announcing the details of the new Friends organization at the appropriate time a little later this year.
It has been said that every place that has been saved, every parcel of land that has been preserved, has a story behind it. The story behind Maple Ridge is a remarkable one and you have all helped write it. With your contributions, fundraisers, lawn signs, donation cans and a spirit of never quitting, never giving up, you made the new park possible. Now government working together on the state, county and local levels is making the new park a reality. We thank everyone who has supported and contributed to this effort and we look forward to a great new State Nature Preserve for all to enjoy for many years to come.
Over the past 6 months since our last preservation update, the Friends of Maple Ridge and the South Jersey Land & Water Trust have been working quietly with public officials to remove the last obstacles to the preservation of Maple Ridge as a State Nature Preserve. We are pleased to report that very substantial progress has been made and the way will soon be clear for the creation of a park at Maple Ridge.
For nearly a year the establishment of the State Nature Preserve at Maple Ridge has been held up pending resolution of the issue of the COAH (affordable housing) units included in the proposed residential development on the Deptford portion of Maple Ridge. These proposed units had been included in Deptford’s Master Plan and Fair Share Housing Plan and the State of New Jersey will not purchase for preservation any property on which COAH units have been allocated. A positive solution to this dilemma has been agreed to and is being implemented by Deptford Township. On 4/3/13 the Deptford Planning Board voted unanimously to amend the Plan and remove the proposed COAH units to a two acre parcel of what is currently an unneeded, paved parking area fronting Rt. 553. On 4/15/13 Deptford Council formally endorsed this action. The Friends of Maple Ridge and the SJL&WT fully support Deptford Township in these actions and thank them for taking these steps which are essential to the success of the preservation effort.
By law there is a 45 day public comment period before this action by Deptford Twp. becomes final. Once that has occurred, the State is free to conclude negotiations for the purchase and preservation of Maple Ridge. The future for a park looks very bright. The acquisition costs are fully funded. The municipalities of Mantua, Deptford and Wenonah, as well as Gloucester County, are committed to working with the State to acquire and manage the new park. Elected officials on the local, county and state levels have voiced strong support for the park at Maple Ridge. But in large measure it has also been the people of our communities whose support and many generous contributions over the years that have brought this project so close to success. The Friends of Maple Ridge and the SJL&WT thank you all. We will keep you informed as the last elements of this effort fall into place and a new and beautiful park is born.
The Friends of Maple Ridge
Gala Event Raises $11,698 for Maple Ridge Preservation. On Saturday, June 16, 2012, the largest and most successful fundraising event in the history of the Maple Ridge preservation effort took place. The Save Maple Ridge fundraiser was planned, presented and hosted by Delor Cornell and her daughter Happy McInnes at the beautiful Cornell home in Wenonah. Elegant and stylish in every detail, the event was held under a great white tent on the Cornell grounds. The fundraiser included a demonstration with live birds of prey from the Freedom Center for Wildlife, a silent auction of artwork and other valuable items (every one of which was sold), great food and an open bar. The coming together of so many people (145 supporters attended) to contribute to and show their support for Maple Ridge was truly the most inspiring part of an unforgettable afternoon and evening. The Friends of Maple Ridge extend our warmest and most sincere thanks to Delor Cornell and Happy McInnes for this amazing event and for all you have done to make a park at Maple Ridge a reality in the near future.
The Final Push. Despite the great success of our recent fundraising efforts, we are not yet at our goal. Earlier this year we had set a goal of $125,000 for public fundraising campaign. This figure is the minimum the Friends of Maple Ridge need to bring to the table when the offer to purchase Maple Ridge is made. To date we have raised $121,850. We are almost at our goal and with the help of the many good people who care about saving the this beautiful and ecologically important place we call Maple Ridge, we need meet that goal by our deadline of June 30, 2012.
The current owners of Maple Ridge have told us that because their DEP permits for water and sewer will expire in July 2012 unless they begin construction, that if an agreement to purchase Maple Ridge for preservation is not reached by the beginning of July, they will proceed immediately with that construction. The State of New Jersey is genuinely interested in making Maple Ridge a State Nature Preserve. However significant portions of the acquisition funding and the responsibility for park maintenance will come from non-state sources. In addition to the public fundraising campaign, there have been generous pledges of acquisition funds from Gloucester County, Mantua Twp. and the Frank H. Stewart Estate. To date, the amount of NJ State direct acquisition funds and Green Acres funds for Maple Ridge is still being worked out. The level of state financial commitment to this project will be crucial to its success. The South Jersey Land and Water Trust has been invaluable in moving the preservation effort to this final stage and they are working diligently with state and other officials to overcome the final hurtles, get an agreement for adequate state funding and have a offer for purchase presented to the current owners of Maple Ridge in the very near future.
South Jersey Land & Water Trust has worked tirelessly to overcome every hurdle to preservation. The contributions of individuals and organizations over the past years have brought us close to the financial goals that need to be achieved. But we are not there yet and the monies we have raised, and the monies will still need to raise, are absolutely crucial to the success of the preservation effort. The time has come for the Friends of Maple Ridge to announce the final push for the public fundraising campaign for Maple Ridge.
Generous donors have come forward and laid down to everyone who cares about saving Maple Ridge a $10,000 Donation Challenge. Between May 5, 2012 and June 30, 2012 every donation, whether it is the nickels and dimes of school children or the substantial donations of individuals , groups or organizations, up to a total of $10,000 will be matched 100%. This doubles the power of every donation to make a park at Maple Ridge a reality. The time is short but our opportunities are great, and our goal is in sight. When Maple Ridge is preserved, it will be because the people insisted it be preserved and cared enough to give their time, efforts and dollars to make that happen.
Friends of Maple Ridge gratefully offers its thanks to the individuals that came forward with the $10,000 Donation Challenge. Donations, large or small, to meet that challenge can be made by check or online.
In May 2011, The Friends of Maple Ridge marks its first anniversary. In this past year the proposal to save Maple Ridge has transformed from a hope to a movement. When that land is finally saved, it truly will be as a people's park for it will have been the people of our communities that insisted on it. Support for a nature park at Maple Ridge has grown and continues to grow. The mayors and township committees/ borough council of Mantua, Deptford and Wenonah have unanimously passed resolutions in support of preserving Maple Ridge. The Friends of Maple Ridge met with Senator (and State Senate President) Stephen Sweeney on 2/26/11. Sen. Sweeney endorses and fully supports a park at Maple Ridge. Kenneth Atkinson, Dir. of the Gloucester County Office of Land Preservation, supports preserving Maple Ridge. Two of our region's most important conservation organizations, The South Jersey Land & Water Trust and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation not only support the preservation of Maple Ridge but are actively working to achieve that goal. Ron Jaworski, a former owner of Maple Ridge (then known as Ron Jaworski's Eagles Nest), enthusiastically endorses creating a park at Maple Ridge. The following organizations have passed formal resolutions calling for a park at Maple Ridge:
The best hope for creating a park is for local public ownership, management and maintenance with acquisition being funded in part by state Green Acres funds, and matched by local money from both public and private sources. In addition, the potential ownership of the park and responsibility for policing, management and maintenance are elements that must be put in place if a park is to be created at Maple Ridge. These are the challenges we are working to meet and we have made progress.
Ownership, Maintenance and Policing. On March 7, 2011, Mantua Township unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the township to assume ownership and full responsibilities for policing and maintenance of the Mantua portion of a park at Maple Ridge. The current owner, GIBG, has made a commitment that, should Maple Ridge be sold for preservation, they would establish over a ten year period, a fund of $100,000 for the costs of park maintenance at Maple Ridge. This ensures the park can be maintained without cost to taxpayers. We are hopeful that an agreement for ownership, policing and maintenance of the Deptford portion of Maple Ridge can be worked out in the near future. Acquisition Funds. A state Green Acres grant for a local land acquisition project is normally 50% of acquisition costs. For Maple Ridge the other 50% will have to come from sources other than Green Acres. We are committed to finding those funds and bringing together assets from all available sources to meet this goal. We are researching foundations and grant opportunities, the availability of any local public funding and will be seeking the assistance of Gloucester County. The County has an excellent record in land preservation and their assistance in this instance could prove pivotal.
The Maple Ridge Park Preservation Drive. Our most important resources in the fight to save Maple Ridge are the people of Gloucester County. If, in the end, we are to have a park to preserve this beautiful place, it will be because the people have done what needs to be done to make this happen. We need to raise sufficient funds to match the monies from Green Acres. The grants and local public funding we are seeking will likely not be enough to finish the job. The Friends of Maple Ridge has therefore established the Maple Ridge Park Preservation Drive, a fundraising campaign that will seek to raise contributions from citizens, organizations and the business community. It will be the commitment and generosity of the people, businesses and organizations of Gloucester County that will make a park at Maple Ridge a reality.
The state, county and municipalities all want to see Maple Ridge saved and will assist where they can, but it will take the commitment and determination of all of us to assure that the meadows, woods, streams and wildlife of Maple Ridge will remain a part of our natural heritage rather than become just a memory.
Everyone can help. If you know of a school, scout or community group that would like to help with fund raising, let us know. The Maple Ridge Preservation Fund is held by the Gloucester County Nature Club, a 501c3 non-profit. All contributions are tax deductible. Contributions can be made online at our web site or by check made out to GCNC (write Maple Ridge on the memo line) and mailed to GCNC, P.O. Box 563, Sewell, NJ 08080.Rich Dilks
The Friends of Maple Ridge
GIBG, the owner of the Maple Ridge property, appeared before the Deptford Township Planning Board on Dec. 8 to request the 94 unit housing development they are proposing for the Deptford portion of Maple Ridge be changed from age-restricted to no restrictions. The meeting was adjourned for time and the issue will again be taken up at the Feb. meeting of the Deptford Township Planning Board. The meeting will take place on Wed. Feb. 9, 2011 at 7PM in the Deptford Municipal Building at 1011 Cooper St., Deptford NJ.
Friends of Maple Ridge members and supporters of Maple Ridge preservation are urged to attend and let our voices be heard. After GIBG finishes its presentation, there will be an opportunity for public comment. The public comments need to be directed at the issue of conversion before the board, not simply arguments for preservation. You can always identify yourself as a supporter of preserving Maple Ridge then go on to make a point relevant to the conversion issue. There are numerous legitimate points we can make such as:
The Friends of Maple Ridge
Club house fire. In the early morning of Sunday, 11/21 the Maple Ridge club house adjacent to the parking lot was gutted by fire. The blaze was brought under control quickly by area firefighters. The building was completely destroyed but the fire did not spread beyond the structure. Authorities consider the fire to be arson.
IBG drops age restriction for housing plan. IBG (the developer that owns Maple Ridge) had formerly sought approval to build 94 age restricted units of affordable housing on the Deptford Township portion of Maple Ridge. IBG's revised plan calls for the same 94 units of affordable housing but they would no longer be age restricted (55+). IBG had indicated their intention to do so some time ago based largely on the over abundance of age restricted housing already on the market. The site plan indicates this would be high density development with structures covering much of the buildable area of Maple Ridge on the Deptford side. Representatives of IBG will be formally requesting approval for this change at a meeting of the Deptford Township Planning Board. The meeting will take place on December 8, 2010 at 7PM in the Deptford Twp Planning Board at the Municipal Building, 1011 Cooper St Deptford NJ.
IBG considering application for state purchase. This is a very positive turn of events. While IBG is going ahead with plans for development, they have also indicated they are willing to sell Maple Ridge for preservation. IBG is currently looking into filing an application with the State of New Jersey for direct purchase of Maple Ridge through the Green Acres program. We strongly and enthusiastically support their doing this but it must be kept in mind that there is no guarantee that the state would have the interest or funds to purchase Maple Ridge. Nevertheless, Gloucester County is the only one of NJ's 21 counties without a state park, state historic site or state marina. This would be a great opportunity.
Friends of Maple Ridge Activities. The FMR has been busy this fall getting out the story of Maple Ridge and building public support for saving that land. Many of you, I'm sure, have seen (or are displaying) the Save Maple Ridge lawn signs. We have been doing a petition drive as well. The petition and our color brochure can be downloaded from our web site. If you haven't signed the petition yet, you can download it, sign and circulate it and mail it in. We may soon have a version of the petition that can be signed on line as well. We will be contacting civic and community groups in the near future to help build a coalition of organizations united in support for preserving Maple Ridge as a nature park.
We will keep everyone informed as events move along and will let you know how you can help. It is only with the broad and committed support of the people of our communities that Maple Ridge can be preserved. Thank you for joining with us to save Maple Ridge.
The Friends of Maple Ridge