Old Bridge officials moving forward with preserving Cottrell Farm property as a passive and active park


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OLD BRIDGE — Township officials are in the process of moving forward with plans to develop the Cottrell Farm property, known for its apple orchards, at the intersection of Cottrell Road (Route 687) and Route 516, as a passive and active park.

“Our goals and objectives are to make this a jewel of the town, a centerpiece where people want to enjoy life,” Mayor Owen Henry said, noting approximately $8 million of taxpayer money has already been invested into the property.

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In 2010, Cottrell Farm, which spans approximately 21.5 acres, was acquired by Middlesex County in accordance with the Open Space Recreation, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Act and the Middlesex County Open Space Plan. Additionally, the site is subject to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program restrictions.

The Cottrell Farm, owned by the Cottrell family, had been in the township for more than 200 years. John Hauser had been preserving and maintaining the buildings for 30 years up until the county acquired the land in 2010.

The Township of Old Bridge entered into a Conservation Management Agreement with Middlesex County on April 6, 2017, where the township has accepted responsibility for security, liability, management and enforcement of the Green Acres Restrictions and enforcement of Middlesex County Park rules and regulations not inconsistent with the deed restrictions.

The county acquisition and conservation management agreement was the result of the foresight of former Mayor James Phillips and his administration, who wanted to see the area preserved and did not want to see the area developed into high-density multi-family units and commercial space.

“Mayor Henry is carrying the torch,” township Engineer Nicole Shapiro said. “We are implementing the initiative.”

As part of the plan, township officials are working with French and Parrello Associates, an engineering firm based in Wall Township, and EI Associates, of Cedar Knolls, on design and preservation of the farm.

The five buildings on the farm will be maintained and preserved. The Cottrell Farm House, which is 3,469 square feet, is proposed as a meeting hall, lecture hall, warming kitchen and administrative offices. The barn, which is 1,375 square feet, is proposed as a large event space with option for a mezzanine. The stone garage, which is 947 square feet, is proposed as event space. The CMU shop garage, which is 1,890 square feet, is proposed for medium size events, community/meeting rooms, and overflow space for large events in conjunction with large events in the barn. The pool cottage, which is 720 square feet, will be used as a storage building.

Ruben Garrido, manager of EI Associates Architectural Department, said the farmhouse dates back to around 1850 during the Greek Revival period.

Michael Piga, of French and Parrello Associates, said throughout the farm property, it is envisioned to have a great lawn area parallel to Route 516, an amphitheater for small bands and Shakespeare in the Park, a pavilion, and a small playground and splash pad for children. Walking and trail paths are proposed throughout the park with an area for a memorial with brick pavers and historic signage along the paths.

The main parking lot along Cottrell Road is envisioned to serve the farmers market, community/butterfly garden area and event parking. Two to three other small parking lots are also proposed in the park.

Shapiro said the existing apple orchard will be preserved and maintained.

Township officials held a public information meeting in October. Residents, who attended the meeting, shared traffic concerns. Shapiro said she looked at traffic patterns from Geick Park and near the Old Bridge YMCA, which went into the proposed concept plan.

Shapiro has since presented the proposed plan to the Township Council and Planning Board. Officials are continuing to pursue additional means of funding for the project.

“This will not happen all in one shot, it will take several years,” she said.

Once the entire project cost is determined, Shapiro said officials can prepare phased contract plans and specifications and start Phase 1 as early as next spring. She said Phase 1 may include the rehabilitation of the Cottrell Farm House and some site work.

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