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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 12

Additional  Strong Communities, Culture & Recreation Indicators

10 - Newspaper Circulation

11 - Crime Rate

Open Space Available for Public Enjoyment

Acres of open space preserved for public enjoyment: Increasing 

  Things to think about 

Despite the fact that the amount of open space available for public use has increased, the view from the road - seemingly endless strip malls and subdivisions - continues to show that we are losing our forests and farms at an alarming rate.

Most of the acres preserved since 1970 have been acquired through the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program. In 1998, New Jersey voters voted to establish the Garden State Preservation Trust, which builds on the efforts of the Green Acres Program. In particular, it provides a stable source of funding for the next ten years to preserve one million acres of the state’s remaining open space and farmland.


* While all open space funding will be allocated by 2009, given the lag time between appropriation of funds and actual closings, acquisitions and easement purchases are not expected to be finalized until 2010. See the Technical Appendix for a more detailed explanation.


Both children and adults need places to congregate and play. These simple pleasures are fundamental to the quality of life in New Jersey. As of 1999, more than 938,000 acres of open space had been permanently preserved, much of which is available for public recreation. Unfortunately, the remaining unpreserved land is being rapidly consumed by development. We benefit from public land in many ways. Homes and businesses near parks are worth more than those in other places. We strengthen our communities when we socialize in these places; plants and animals have places to thrive; and green spaces promote tourism and clean our air and water.


New Jersey’s second largest industry is tourism - a measure, in part, of the state’s natural charm and attraction. Other industries understand the importance of open space and recreational opportunities to the quality of life enjoyed by their employees and consider this when deciding where to locate or expand. One Colorado study found that the market value of properties adjacent to greenways was 32 percent higher than the value of those only half a mile away.


We think of parks and open spaces as places to play, relax, and enjoy the beauty of nature. But to the state’s flora and fauna they are home. This double utility of parks allows us to have fun while protecting species. Natural areas also absorb some of the pollution from our cars and factories, and filter our water. Parks and open spaces are a triple play.


Green spaces are part of our identity . When we think of our nicest neighborhoods, we see tree-lined streets, baseball diamonds, and benches in the grass. When we think of our nicest vacations, we see ocean beaches, the Appalachian Mountains, the Pine Barrens, and the outdoors. We can gather in green spaces and socialize. They are part of who we are.

Knowledge Gaps

We still do not have consistent data on the total amount of open space lost annually in New Jersey. The data we have do not tell us whether our open lands have been logged recently, whether they suffer from pollution or other degradation, or about the general quality of nature there. These data also do not say how accessible these places are to our people, especially to those without cars.

Note: See the Technical Appendix for information about the adjustment in the data and a change in the description of this indicator since the 1999 Sustainable State Project Report.

Data Source: NJ Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 26, 2007

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