By Jay Cook |
HOLMDEL – One of Monmouth County’s most lush, beautiful and expansive parks is about to grow even larger.
Thanks to a gift by a landowner, about 71 acres of woods, farmland, and a pond situated between Route 34 and Holmdel Road will be added to the Monmouth County Park System (MCPS) to become a new section of the 566-acre Holmdel Park.
“It is a magnificent piece of land,” said Michael Ventura, an attorney for property owner HMF Associates, comprised of a group of doctors, lawyers, and architects who purchased it 45 years ago, as part of a larger 211-acre tract.
The irregularly shaped property would have frontage along both Route 34 and Holmdel Road, with access to the Ramenessin section of Holmdel Park right across the road. The nearly 88-acre Vonage campus is to the southeast.
The gift now means it will soon be possible to walk from Route 34 to Crawfords Corner Road, and never leave Holmdel Park.
Andy Coeyman, supervisor of land preservation services with the MCPS, called it a valuable addition that makes sense for the park system. “That’s what we’re trying to get to – an open space system with natural areas and recreational features,” he said.
The donation will be granted in two phases by the end of 2018. The first portion is approximately 50 acres, which Coeyman anticipates the park system would control by the end of this year. The remaining 20 acres or so will come later in 2018, once subdivision guidelines for a nearby 10-lot development are approved.
The 71 acres are part of a 127-acre open space requirement agreed to back in June, 2007 when it received approval to build 42 single family homes on the land. Holmdel stipulated that at least 60 percent of the 211 acres had to be set aside for open space.
When High Point Development and RDG Contractors broke ground recently to build the 19-single family home Estates at Holmdel Fields development along Holmdel Road, the open space requirement was triggered.
While the open space could have remained in HMF’s possession, Michael Ventura said it was a goal of his late father, August Ventura, to hand the land over to the MCPS. In a July 21 letter to the park system, Michael asked the board to rename the donated acreage after his dad.
“It was something he was very enthusiastic about,” said Michael Ventura.
Under the supervision of the Park Service, Coeyman said a number of recreational possibilities can be developed, such as the creation of running, biking, or hiking trails. With the pond on site, it could also be used for fishing and camp programs.
“We’re very excited to continue to preserve strategic properties within Holmdel,” said Holmdel Township Committeeman Eric Hinds. “It not only holds the beauty of the town, but it also protects us economically so you can’t develop every piece of open land.”
Besides abutting the Vonage campus, portions of the 71-acre addition would be in proximity to a regulator station project proposed by New Jersey Natural Gas.
The proposal, a three-stack gas regulator used for reducing gas pressure, is planned for an easement at the Cornerstone Power Holmdel solar farm, located at 970 Holmdel Road.
It was denied by the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment after nearly a year-long application in 2016, and has irked homeowners and local environmentalists about its impact on the Swimming River Reservoir watershed and nearby homes.
The application is now before the Office of Administrative Law, and evidentiary hearings on the case are still pending after being cancelled in July.
Hinds declined to comment about whether or not the regulator station would have an impact on the new county park addition, considering Holmdel Township is an intervenor in the litigation against the regulator station project.
The property was not always guaranteed to be set aside for passive recreation; at one point it could have been the site of a vast office park.
In 1991, HMF received approval for a 900,000-square-foot office campus, according to Michael Ventura. But softness in the office market halted plans for commercial development, and it was abandoned.
This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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