October 27, 2021

Offering Enthusiastic Support for Mercer County Question on Ballot

To the Editor:

If you are a Mercer County voter wondering about the Mercer County Question on the ballot, let’s take a quick expedition together.

Hop on a bike and join us as we ride north from Brandon Farms, our largest neighborhood. We’ll pass through the Twin Pines athletic fields, jointly developed by the Lawrence and Hopewell Valley municipalities and Mercer County, then pedal to the entrance of Mercer Meadows Park.

We can then follow the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, tour the Pole Farm historic exhibit, join friends and family at the Rosedale Park picnic venue, fish for trout in the lake, or watch the dogs play in their park. We’ll soon 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 for some locally-grown produce, heading 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 (mercercounty.org).

Leveraged over the years through partnerships with state and local governments, private landowners, and nonprofit land conservancies, proceeds from the voter-approved 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 percent of receipts are dedicated to land acquisition, 20 percent to develop park amenities and historic preservation, and 10 percent to stewardship activities such as habitat protection and forest management.

The Mercer County Question on the General Election Ballot asks voters to make more funds available for park amenities and preservation (30 percent) and increase funding for stewardship activities (20 percent).  Fifty percent of new proceeds would be dedicated to continued land acquisition. With the change, 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.

Vanessa Sandom
Former Mayor, Hopewell Township
Harbourton Ridge Drive, Pennington

David Sandahl
Former Deputy Mayor, Hopewell Township
Dublin Road, Pennington