Creation of passive park in the works for former Sheft parcel

Lawrence Township purchased the property near Colonial Lake Park in 2020

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Plans are in the works to create a passive park area that would lead to the new trail around Colonial Lake and Colonial Lake Park, adjacent to the Colonial Bowling and Entertainment Center, according to Lawrence Township officials.

The township is working on design plans to improve the area on the former Sheft Associates Inc. property at 2420 Brunswick Pike, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said. The township purchased the land in 2020.

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Conceptual plans call for most of the asphalt parking lot to be removed and for the creation of the passive park leading to the trail, Nerwinski said. The shore line area also will be landscaped.

The township received grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for the improvements. A public meeting to review the conceptual plans, prior to full design, will be held.

Lawrence Township paid $3.6 million to buy the property to prevent the construction of an extended-stay hotel proposed by Sheft Associates Inc. The land borders Colonial Lake.

With grants from Mercer County and state Green Acres Program, $1.47 million and $1.48 million respectively to offset the purchase, the final total cost to buy the property was $723,000 in taxpayer dollars – not $3.6 million, Nerwinski said.

Township officials had anticipated using money from the Lawrence Township Open Space fund, but applied for county and state grants to reduce its costs, Nerwinski said.

“We are expanding and increasing our grant game to offset costs for infrastructure and various projects that aim to improve the quality of life for our residents,” he said.

By reducing the use of its own Open Space funds to acquire the Sheft property, the township has more money available to improve Colonial Park and other parks, Nerwinski said.

Sheft Associates Inc. agreed to sell the land after being approached by Lawrence Township officials. The sale effectively ended Sheft Associates Inc.’s proposal to build a 123-room extended-stay hotel on the property.

The proposal to build the hotel drew fierce opposition from residents in the Colonial Lakelands neighborhood, across the lake from the proposed hotel. Construction of the hotel would have meant cutting down the wooded area on the Sheft property.

The residents formed a group – “Save Colonial Lake” – and advocated for the township to buy the land to preserve it. They pointed to the wildlife, including an American bald eagle, that called it home. The township stepped in and bought the land.

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