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Fair Haven joins Sustainable Jersey program

Staff Writer

FAIR HAVEN — As part of efforts to optimize quality of life for residents and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come, the Borough Council has unanimously approved the borough’s participation in the Sustainable Jersey program.

The decision to join the program was approved at the governing body’s May 23 meeting.

“It is a very sensible program,” said Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr., chairman of the borough’s Environmental Commission. “It doesn’t reach beyond what is doable and yet it gets municipalities to think about and basically provides them with a list of things they can do to make their communities more livable.

“I’m very optimistic about this and am absolutely delighted and thrilled that the council passed this.”

The history of the program goes back long before the borough decided to join it.

According to the Sustainable Jersey website, The College of New Jersey was funded in 2006 to create a “Sustainable Communities Leadership Network” to support municipal progress toward sustainable development in areas such as identifying best practices and developing avenues to judge performance.

It was around the same time when a group of mayors at the New Jersey League of Municipalities came together to form a “green mayors” group to support similar initiatives.

According to the website, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities were also working on sustainable community-related initiatives, and the four parties came together to collaborate on the program that would become Sustainable Jersey.

“Basically, they were concerned that New Jersey is a highly industrialized state, a very compact state, a state that has high-population density and thought it should be a candidate for being looked at carefully to make sure we are doing all the sensible things we can do to make it more livable and to save money in the long run,” Wyndrum said.

Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009, works to empower municipalities throughout the state through tools, training and financial incentives to support, develop and pursue sustainability programs aimed at building a better world for future generations.

Fair Haven joins hundreds of municipalities throughout the state already participating in the program.

“We realized we were not on it and brought the attention of the council to this,” Wyndrum said. “Our current mayor Ben Lucarelli is a very savvy guy, very smart, very knowledgeable … and has a good, solid understanding of what can be done reasonably and what can’t be done.”

Under the Sustainable Jersey program, there are two levels of certification a municipality can receive — bronze and silver. Through different actions under categories such as energy management and resiliency, community partnership and outreach, land use and transportation and green design, municipalities work to gain points towards their certification — 150 for bronze and 350 for silver.

“We have a set in Fair Haven of best practices, and these are things that have been tested out for several years,” Wyndrum said. “We can measure ourselves against them, and we have already done probably a majority of actions already … and that which we haven’t done sort of focuses our attention on them so we can be even better in this program.

“I will predict that we will quickly work to get our bronze certification and then work hard to get the silver.”

Along with establishing a green team, Wyndrum said there are a number of items the borough is currently looking at or aiming to look at through the Sustainable Jersey program to make the borough a better place.

“We’ve been very concerned with our town for years and the sustainability of our town,” he said. “We’re right on the water, and right now we are working hard on cleaning up our stormwater, we are working hard on cleaning up McCarter Pond … we have to do what we can, what we can afford and spend the least money on getting the most results.”

Wyndrum said officials are also looking at land use in Fair Haven.

“We are creating waterfront parks, and these will be passive parks and will have benches where people can sit and enjoy the water, enjoy one another’s company and they will also serve an ecological purpose in being green areas that essentially take care of some of the pollution issues,” he said. “We also have to look at our Master Plan again and see how it can be improved.”

Wyndrum said the borough is also doing an Environmental Resource Inventory (ERI) right now.

“We haven’t done [an ERI] in town … in a fair period of time, and there is a lot that we can improve there and that ERI will be aligned perfectly with the sustainability criteria,” he said.

“I think that when you look at what we have done — our grounds policy, our open lands policy, our fertilizer policy — we are compliant with best practices, and I think all of that bodes well and I wouldn’t be surprised when we go through this that we’ll be eligible for bronze this coming year, and we’ll strive hard to obtain silver and do more.”

Wyndrum said with the borough joining the state program, he hopes more individuals will be encouraged to get involved to help make their community a more sustainable place for generations to come.

“Now we got some good guidelines and we can point to them and we can talk to people and say these are the best practices and they aren’t arduous, they aren’t unreasonable, they’re just what needs to be done at the lowest cost, and I think it’ll make it a lot more sellable to the citizens,” he said. “They’ll begin to see exactly what we can do and why we want to do it.”

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