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Judge's land donation helps protect Maurice River watershed in Cumberland County


New Jersey Conservation Foundation

MILLVILLE – Two properties totaling 6.5 acres in Cumberland County’s environmentally-sensitive Maurice River watershed have been permanently preserved, thanks to a donation from a retired Superior Court judge.


Paul Porrecca purchased the properties at a tax sale last year and recently turned them over to the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which preserves natural areas and farmland throughout the state.


Porreca, a lifelong Millville resident, said the city foreclosed on the properties several years ago after previous owners failed to pay taxes. When they came up for tax sale in 2010, he decided to take action to keep them undeveloped.


“They looked to me like properties that should be preserved, so I bought them,” explained Porreca. And when deciding on a permanent steward to care for the properties, he added, he thought of his former law clerk, Greg Romano, who now serves as assistant director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.


Romano said the Foundation is grateful to Porreca for the donation. “These are our first two acquisitions in the Maurice River watershed project area, so we’re very excited,” he said.


“These donations, along with our new partnership with Cumberland County to preserve farmland, demonstrate our commitment to the county,” added Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.


The newly-preserved properties will be open to the public for passive recreation, such as hiking and nature observation. Their preservation will help protect water quality in the pristine Maurice River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic river.


The first donated property, a 3.1-acre parcel off Nabb Avenue, is located along the Chatfield Branch of the Maurice. The second, a 3.4-acre parcel off Fairton Road, is adjacent to preserved land owned by the Nature Conservancy. “It would have been a shame to have someone buy it and try to build on it,” Porreca commented.


The Maurice River serves as the western boundary of the Pine Barrens, and is a critical link between the Pinelands National Preserve and the Delaware Estuary.  The Maurice and its tributaries meander though several Cumberland County municipalities before meeting with the Delaware River. In Millville the river widens to become Union Lake, then narrows again before merging with other tributaries, including the Menantico, Manumuskin and Muskee rivers.


Located along the Atlantic flyway, the Maurice River’s clean waters and habitats are vitally important to the migration of shorebirds, songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, rails, and fish.The river has an extensive maritime history centering around oystering and fishing. This rich cultural background, along with numerous threatened and endangered species, led to the inclusion of the river system in the federal Wild and Scenic program in 1993.


New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private, member-supported nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, it has protected more than 120,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.orgor call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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