Passaic County NJ rejects grant for Laurelwood Arboretum deer fence

2022-07-05 08:17:04 By : Ms. Sara Hsu

WAYNE — A grant application that asked for $99,000 to help pay for a deer fence around Laurelwood Arboretum has been rejected by Passaic County, about four months after the plan touched off a debate over how to properly handle the animals.

The nonprofit that manages the 30-acre park needs the fence, its representatives say, because the population of white-tailed deer is practically out of control, and they are devouring everything in sight. Other methods to deal with the issue, such as selective slaughter and surgical sterilization of does, were ruled out.

Linda Ransom, the president of the nonprofit, Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, would not comment on Friday. She declined to say how the county's decision would affect the project.

Mayor Christopher Vergano, who supported the arboretum's grant application, did not return a call.

The Township Council approved sending the Friends' aid request to the county in March, even as residents of the Pines Lake neighborhood tried to derail the project.

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The total estimated price to erect the 8-foot fence was $252,700. The arboretum planned to spend local open space dollars, plus money from its own savings account, to cover the remaining cost.

Bruce James, the director of the Board of County Commissioners, said the decision to not give aid to the arboretum for the deer fence was based on a list of recommended grants prepared by the Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Advisory Committee.

"Rarely — and I mean rarely — do we ever not go along with the recommendations that they put to us," said James, of Clifton. "Why would we? Why would we do that?"

The 13-member committee, composed of civilians and county staff, deliberated over grant applications in April and made site visits in May. Arboretum representatives then gave a presentation at a meeting last month.

The county received more than $4.8 million in requests for open space grants this year, but the funding available for those projects is $2.5 million.

Officials are careful in "making sure there's equity in all of this," James said. What the committee recommended was a "fair amount," he said, "spread out over various towns."

On Tuesday, commissioners passed a resolution to provide 11 historic preservation and park development grants for a total of $756,000.

Among the awards were $50,000 to replace rain gutters and the original slate roof atop the old municipal building on Stevens Avenue in Little Falls, and $99,000 to replace metal-halide lamps with modern lights at a youth football field on Franklin Avenue in Hawthorne. Wayne Little League received $99,000 to install artificial turf on the infield of one of its baseball diamonds.

Besides the grant proposal for the deer fence, the county denied an aid request by Wayne of $99,000 to replace the playground at Lance Cpl. Ralph Valt Memorial Park. The township has a second application pending for $250,000 to construct four pickleball courts at Dave Waks Memorial Park.

That request may be approved in October when commissioners award the bulk of the grants, those exceeding $100,000.

Staff Writer David M. Zimmer contributed to this article.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.