- Legislative Priority: Rein in rapidly expanding and unsystematic warehouse sprawl to prioritize responsible development and protect intact open spaces and surrounding communities.
- Budget Priority: Increase staffing at the Green Acres program within the DEP and ensure sufficient funding for trail monitoring, maintenance and general upkeep.
Why is this on New Jersey LCV’s Common Agenda?
Parks and open space improve physical and psychological health, strengthen communities, serve as resources and habitat for wildlife, provide environmental and economic benefits to area residents and make neighborhoods and cities more attractive places to live and work. New Jersey is the most densely populated state, which is why it is so important to protect and invest in new and existing green spaces. Over the past few years, significant work has been done to dedicate funding for open space preservation, however, funding still is limited for maintenance. Additionally, many residents, predominantly Black and Brown communities lack adequate access to well-designed, funded, and maintained parks, playgrounds or green spaces within a 10-minute walk from their home or place of work. Green and open spaces are crucial to the wellbeing of a community and can be used for collaborative projects like community gardens, which can revitalize communities and provide access to fresh produce. There is a recognized need in the state for additional park maintenance funding and staff at the DEP to maintain and operate state parks and open spaces to make sure that everyone has equitable access to them, no matter their zip code, language, or physical ability. The state should also explore opportunities for further non-profit collaboration.
Moreover, one major threat to New Jersey’s open and green spaces is the rapid and unsystematic expansion of warehouses. Warehouse sprawl has become a real threat to the quality of life in communities throughout the state. Due to the e-commerce boom and further facilitated by the COVID pandemic, as well as, New Jersey’s strategic location between two massive domestic and international markets, comprehensive highway networks, New Jersey has become a hub for warehouse sprawl. The rapid surge of large-sized warehouses has catalyzed significant issues that cross municipal boundaries such as increases in diesel-fueled heavy-duty trucking traffic and resulting air pollution and loss of open spaces. Additionally, the construction and operation of warehouses can also have severe economic consequences, forcing local businesses to close their doors with a resulting loss of jobs and economic activity in downtown communities. In addition, thousands of New Jersey's undeveloped greenfield acres can be lost without a coordinated regional approach to warehouse development. In many cases, open spaces have been haphazardly developed without consideration of the impacts had on neighboring municipalities. As a result, surrounding towns are left grappling with increased traffic and tractor-trailers on their local roadways. The State needs to find a solution to this rapidly escalating issue without placing the burden on environmental justice communities.