Skip to comments.Worried Wood Turtles Win
Posted on 12/30/2005 6:38:01 AM PST by GreenFreeper
Madison: The shy, retiring, and threatened Wood Turtle [Glyptemys insculpta], easily overlooked and facing an uncertain future as its habitat is developed, appears to have driven a stake into the heart of plans by Chatham Borough and Chatham Township to develop two playing fields on the Woodland Park property off Woodland Road, adjacent to the Independence Court neighborhood in Madison.
In a long-awaited decision released Monday, December 12th, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) classified a portion of the site as "exceptional" wetlands for their habitat value, requiring a 150-foot buffer from any development, and effectively blocking the plan to install two playing fields on the 6.6-acre site.
Officials in the Chathams indicated Wood Turtle sightings filed by a consultant for Madison neighbors prompted the DEPs decision, and the wider wetlands buffer would make it impractical to develop more than one playing field on the property.
In a letter to the engineering consultant for the Chathams, Mark Godfrey, supervisor for the Bureau of Inland Regulation, said information submitted to the DEP on behalf of Chatham Borough and Chatham Township by Joseph Koelher of the engineering firm Hatch, Mott, MacDonald, was accurate in its delineation of the wetlands area on the wooded property.
Then, in fateful words Chatham officials had been anticipating for months, Godfrey went on: "The department has determined that the wetlands designated as C and CA are of exceptional resource value and require a 150-foot transition area or buffer."
He added, "All other wetlands on site are of intermediate resource value and require a 50-foot transition area or buffer."
Thomas Ciccarone, the Chatham Township administrator, said two reported sightings of a Wood Turtle, one near the tract in a utility right-of-way, and the other on the Woodland Park property itself, convinced the state to designate the wetlands as "exceptional," requiring a much wider buffer from disturbance. The Wood Turtle is considered threatened in New Jersey.
Chatham Township and Chatham Borough, which jointly own the tract, had planned to develop two recreation playing fields on the site, but the required-150-foot-wide buffer zone renders that plan impossible, local officials said.
"We could put one field in there," Chatham Borough Mayor Richard Plambeck reacted after reviewing Godfreys letter.
"Well have to look at it," Plambeck said, adding, "The whole issue is related to Lum Avenue," a reference to a private group, the Chatham Athletics Foundation, that is pursuing a partnership with residents and officials to develop an artificial turf field in Chatham Borough, relieving the wear and tear on the playing field and enabling greater use.
The proposal to install artificial turf on the Lum Avenue field in Chatham Borough, however, is encountering opposition from that neighborhood over concerns about year-round use and traffic. "We are definitely stretched for field space," remarked Mayor Plambeck. "The question is, which projects are we going to first. We are about 25 percent below what we need."
Township Administrator Ciccarone noted the Chatham Township Committee and the Chatham Borough Council "can petition to have that (wetlands classification) changed."
But informally, officials conceded it was unlikely the DEP would change the classification following biologist Blaine Rothausers filing of reports of two Wood Turtle sightings, one in the vicinity of Woodland Park and the second on the property itself.
"It was in October," Rothauser said of the second sighting. "It was traveling up a rivulet on the property."
Rothauser, a Florham Park resident and an employee of Thonet Associates, environmental consultants in Pittstown, undertook a site assessment on behalf of Madison residents whose back yards are adjacent to the Woodland Park tract.
For nearly two years, the Madison residents have argued the Chathams did not appreciate the extent of wetlands on the tract when they jointly purchased the property in 2002, and altered their original plans to push the proposed location of the playing fields to just 40 feet from back yards on Independence Court in Madison. The residents said that was too close to shield their homes from the fields and associated lights and parking lot and protested the loss of a quiet woodland. "This is a victory for the environment," Rothauser said Tuesday, December 13th, on learning of the DEPs response to the municipalities.
The biologist said he believes the preservation of areas like Woodland Park is important because they serve as travel-ways for wildlife between larger wetlands resources, such as the Passaic River floodplain and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
Rothauser said the future of the states wildlife habitat hinges on such connecting points -- "greenways as well as flyways."
The Chathams jointly purchased the former residential property off Woodland Road in 2002, splitting the $1.6 million cost equally, with the help of a $250,000 open space grant from Morris County, state Green Acres funds and the open space funds of the two municipalities.
How about if they let the turtles have a turn at bat? ;) I agree. Don't want to see wetland destroyed, but really...two "sightings" by everyday people? Come on.
I saw the biggest turtle on television last night, a 'leatherback' turtle. HUGE.
Ah yes...insects over kids any day, right GF. How do we know the turtles weren't planted? This is just another case of NIMBY.
Are wood turtles good for soup?
Not sure what that is supposed to mean. First of all, a wetland that supports wood turtles is not likely to be a reservoir for insects. Why exactly is it insects against kids? A bit sensational?
How do we know the turtles weren't planted?
How do we know the turtles are even there? Reported sightings don't mean much especially when there is property at stake.
"Ah yes...insects over kids any day, right GF. How do we know the turtles weren't planted? This is just another case of NIMBY."
A. Turtles aren't insects.
B. There have to be some abandoned/condemned property somewhere nearby they can use for recreation. It is New Jersey, after all. No need to continue further destruction of sensitive areas when other options are present.
If no one is willing to do this with their own money, how do the expect the property owner to do so with his?
Well the idea is good in theory but it's not that simple when we are talking about infringing on others property. It's not about altering the actual wetland, its about influencing someone else's property (the wetland) from adjacent property. Thats where buffer areas come in. Really, I don't think this issue has anything to do with turtles. Some want to block development and the wetland/turtle issue is the loophole they need.
Why don't they just dynamite and bulldoze all human structures in the area, create a huge wetland and dump a few dozen of these little guys into the ponds etc.. Problem solved. Turtles live happily ever after.
Yep...common practice, NIBYs. :^/
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