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  • Karen Edmond

Protected open space forestry threatened by rich property developers!

By Karen Brittingham-Edmond July 28, 2020

In Ocean Township, NJ on the corner of Hwy 35 and Deal Road lays an untouched parsonage of land down the street from the preserved Eden Woolley Plantation House. The historic area dates back to when Lenni Lenape Nations existed freely in areas along the east coast. Unique artifacts plus reports confirm the existence of 1st nation people circa 1500s in said area. Over the years, this area of 4,000 trees has provided life-saving environmental attributes to Ocean Township and the surrounding area. Per a report by of Union County Tree experts website shared that trees

● "Absorbs carbon dioxide as they grow.

● Stores carbon dioxide safely.

● Help slow the rate of global warming.

● Help to prevent flooding and soil erosion by absorbing thousands of liters of storm water.

● Plus, trees provide a peaceful aesthetical positive environment that supports the life of both human beings and wildlife."

With all that said, why do property developers want to chop down all 4,000 trees and put up a Chick-fillet, another gas station, plus a plethora of low-income jobs?

I had an opportunity to speak to Lana Leonard, resident of Ocean Township and Lead-Organizer & Social Media Coordinator. Leonard said, "racism, the continued pilfering of indigenous land, plus a good old boys club mentality" is the "culprit" behind Ocean Township lousy decision-making regarding open space reserve once named Terner Tract in the 1820s. Leonard repeatedly stated that the tree area of natural open space provides essential environmental resources for both humans and local wildlife." For these reasons, Leonard has decided to stand with Save32

I asked Leonard, "how did you get involved with Save32" Leonard became aware of the crisis while driving to school. Leonard couldn't help but notice the signs pleading for the community of Ocean Township plus anybody who likes trees to come to take a stand for threatened open space cause.

Save32 is a unique organization made up of concerned citizens of Ocean Township. Leonard said, "the reason why the group formed was because of Mayor of Ocean Township Chris Siciliano blatant disregard to the law in regards to open space land sites in Ocean Township, NJ." Leonard further stated that "They refuse to follow the rules laid out per Ocean Township's Master Plan by trying to allow land development on 32-acre tracts at route 35 and Deal Road." 2

Leonard spoke on Siciliano's rude behavior and his cohort city council and planning board members "snubbing behavior towards Save leaders Peter Jungkunst and his wife, Jacqui Wenzel's at city meetings." This behavior left a bad taste in both the Jungkunst and Leonard's mouths. In return, the Jungkunsts’ had no choice but to file a formal complaint charging city administration for their illegal actions. The claim goes as followed: "Ocean Township, through its Mayor, City Council, and Planning Board, has been rezoning the remaining 32 acres of the Terner Tract for over two decades with perfunctory regard for the procedural requirements of the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) and minimal regard for the desires of the residents living adjacent to the site and within the broader community."

Per The Coaster article by Don Stine on July 18, 2018. is working vigilantly on the issue but wished that local politicians would lend a hand. Leonard shared that they are working with Senator Vin Gopal but need more political muscle to make a difference. In the meantime, Leonard's making a clarion call to get residents of Monmouth County to support Save 32's efforts by writing to the Director of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Diane Dow at 501 E. State St Trenton NJ 08625-0420 Phone# 609-984-3444 to advocate on behalf of complaint.

On a side note, this unique opportunity can allow people who are the direct descendants of 1st Nation tribes that once existed abundantly in the area to exercise their right to protect said remnant piece of land located in Ocean Township. Land that their ancestors lived on for over 3,000 years. We all have a right and responsibility to block land grabbers from running rampage through our towns. Less than we forget what happened to Reevey Town, and how land grabbers destroy pristine farmland once owned & cared for by Black businessmen & women. unty-dump/3499976002/

Thank you for reading, and please share your feedback on the article.

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