If you are a Mercer County voter wondering about the Mercer County question on the ballot for the Nov. 2 General Election, let’s take a quick expedition together.
Hop on a bike and join us as we ride north from Brandon Farms, the largest neighborhood in Hopewell Township. In a couple of minutes, we’ll pass through the Twin Pines athletic fields, a joint project of the Lawrence and Hopewell Valley municipalities and Mercer County, then pedal around to the entrance of Mercer Meadows Park.
In the park, we can follow the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, stroll around the Pole Farm historic exhibit, join our friends and family at the Rosedale Park picnic venue, fish for trout in the lake, or watch the dogs play in their park. A little bit further along, we’ll pass the county equestrian stables and the educational gardens kept by Mercer Master Gardeners.
On the other side of Mercer County, we could start at the West Windsor Community Farmers Market to pick up locally-grown produce, then head east to 2,500-acre Mercer County Park covering parts of West Windsor, Hamilton and Lawrence. Nearby we can find preserved farmland and protected municipal open space
From the Lee Turkey Farm in East Windsor to South Riverwalk Park in Trenton and from Baldpate Mountain in Hopewell Township to over a dozen preserved farms in Robbinsville, thousands of acres have been protected by the Mercer County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund Tax. Along with other programs, over one acre of every four in Mercer County has been preserved.
Leveraged over the years through partnerships with state and local governments, private landowners, and non-profit land conservancies, proceeds from the voter-approved county open space tax have been used to preserve open space, farmland, and recreational areas across Mercer County.
But even preserved land sometimes needs help. Destructive insects like the emerald ash borer and the spotted lanternfly ravage trees and crops and invasive plants like phragmites overwhelm native species to tip the natural environment out of balance. Extreme weather events damage structures like footbridges, trails and even natural waterways.
Under the current open space tax allocation formula, 70% of receipts are dedicated to land acquisition, 20% to develop park amenities and historic preservation, and 10% to stewardship activities such as habitat protection and forest management.
The Mercer County question on the General Election ballot asks voters to approve a change in the allocation formula to make more funds available for park amenities and preservation (30%) and increase funding for stewardship activities (20%). Fifty percent (50%) of new proceeds would be dedicated to continued land acquisition. Following the change in the allocation formula, there will continue to be adequate funding for County land preservation efforts and acquisition grants to towns and local land conservancies.
We enthusiastically support the Mercer County question and encourage all Mercer County voters to support it as well. Vote “yes” on the Mercer County question to continue land preservation, protect our preserved lands, and make preserved lands more accessible to all of our residents. It is a gift to ourselves and all our future generations.
Former Deputy Mayor