Middlesex County to acquire 18.7 acres of open space located in Metuchen

Land will become part of Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve

Middlesex County officials recently announced their intention to acquire 18.7 acres of land in Metuchen — and plans to eventually make it part of the Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve.

In addition to the 18.7 acres being acquired from the Metuchen Realty Association, the county said it will enter into a conservation management agreement with the borough of Metuchen to manage an additional 12 acres of open space located adjacent to the newly purchased land, which will provide the opportunity for possible future acquisitions.

Board of county commissioners Director Ronald Rios broke down the deal.

“On behalf of the Middlesex County board of county commissioners, I want to express my gratitude to our partners in Metuchen both for their vision and for all of their hard work that helped make this acquisition a reality,” he said. “This land will ultimately become part of the Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve — formerly known as the Dismal Swamp — and will serve as a gateway to this unique area of Middlesex County.

“The strong working relationship between the county and the borough helps to make projects like this possible — and successful.”

This new addition to the Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve will provide many benefits of open space, including the preservation of essential habitats for plants and wildlife, the capture and storage of rainfall, and the protection of underground water sources.

Among the planned improvements for public access are trails, boardwalks, a footbridge, interpretive signage and convenient parking for visitors.

County Commissioner Charles Tomaro said the purchase is part of a bigger play.

“Open space is a priority here in Middlesex County, and the acquisition of these 18.7 acres aligns with our Destination 2040 Open Space and Recreation Plan,” he said. “Ultimately, we envision this space as not only an area dedicated to the preservation of this important ecosystem and wildlife, but an excellent place for members of the public to enjoy passive forms of recreation such as birding, photography, walking and simply taking in the natural wonders of the Dismal Swamp.

“Together in partnership with the borough of Metuchen, we will ensure that this area of the Dismal Brook Preserve is a space that can be enjoyed by generations to come.”

Metuchen Mayor Jonathan Busch was thrilled by the move.

“This land the county intents to acquire is a vital wetland ecosystem that is home to a number of wildlife species, including an estimated 165 different species of birds.,” he said. “On behalf of all the residents in Metuchen, I would like to thank the county for their help in protecting this land for all those creatures — and our community.”