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Freeholders Acquire 170 Acres in West Brook Preserve to Protect Drinking Water and Open Space

WEST MILFORD – Today, the Land Conservancy of New Jersey completed the purchase of a 170-acre property in West Milford known as the West Brook Preserve. The West Brook Preserve is one of the most important watershed properties remaining in the State of New Jersey and contains the source of the West Brook, one of the primary sources of water for the Wanaque Reservoir, which provides two million New Jersey residents drinking water. The Preserve contains a valley with steep rocky hillsides, vast wetlands, and a Category One trout production stream, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection designation indicating clean, high quality water. 

“The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is grateful to each of our partners and private donors who banded together to protect the West Brook Preserve and clean drinking water for two million New Jersey residents,” stated The Land Conservancy of New Jersey President David Epstein. “This is one of the most important remaining unprotected watershed properties remaining in the State, and by permanently preserving it, we are securing clean water, open space, and new recreational opportunities for future residents of West Milford, Passaic County, and New Jersey.” 

The Land Conservancy purchased the West Brook Preserve for $975,000, with funding being provided by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Passaic River Coalition, the Green Acres Program, the New Jersey Highlands Council, the Victoria Foundation, the PSE&G Foundation, the Union Foundation, the E.J. Grassman Trust, and twenty five individual donors who provided $266,000 in private contributions. The Land Conservancy will remove a house from the property, create a parking lot, and develop hiking trails within the Preserve. Additionally, studies will continue to restore the natural hydrology of the Preserve, which has been damaged by past construction. 

“The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders remain committed to protecting our resident’s drinking water, preserving open space, and continually improving access to recreational opportunities for our residents,” stated Passaic County Freeholder Board Director Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara. “This Board remains committed to protecting our natural environment and are thankful to The Land Conservancy of New Jersey for organizing this effort across a spectrum of stakeholders to protect clean drinking water for generations to come. It is a great day for our environment and for Passaic County residents.” 

In conjunction with this acquisition, the Passaic River Coalition is donating an adjacent 28-acre property to The Land Conservancy that will be incorporated within the new West Brook the Preserve. The 200 acre West Brook Preserve will be managed by The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and further the PRC’s mission of protecting waterways in Passaic County and New Jersey. 

“The Passaic River Coalition’s partnership with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey and the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders is critical to protecting New Jersey’s water supply and fulfilling our environmental mission to safeguard waterways throughout New Jersey,” stated Passaic River Coalition Chairwoman Laurie Howard. “The West Brook Preserve is now in the hands of capable stewards, and I am confident The Land Conservancy of New Jersey will continue the important work of restoring its natural ecology and transforming it into a hiking destination for the tri-state area.”

Over the past decade, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has helped to purchase and permanently preserve seven properties totaling 443 acres throughout Ringwood and West Milford in Passaic County. All of the properties contain small streams that directly feed into the Wanaque Reservoir. Acquiring the West Brook Preserve is a critical first phase in a multi-year, multi-property acquisition project to protect and preserve the Wanaque Reservoir watershed. 

For more information on the West Brook Preserve, please visit The Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s website.