This week, Real Progress Montclair, headed by mayoral candidate Karen Turner, released a statement outlining its ideas for Montclair in the environmental arena:
The Real Progress Montclair team knows that clean public parks, recreational areas and conservation of our community’s precious natural resources, such as undeveloped open spaces, are essential to maintaining Montclair’s unique character, and preserving its environment and quality of life for future generations. However, several recent decisions, including cutbacks to shade tree funding, indefinite postponement of Edgemont Pond dredging and the current council’s decision to sell and develop the Wildwood Avenue parcels, are threatening to erode adequate access to quality parks and open areas while also diminishing the town’s available natural resources and even property values.
The RPM slate believes that, despite the economic downturn, Montclair residents living in the nation’s most densely populated state should remain enthusiastic about and committed to land preservation.
“We are in difficult economic times but I don’t believe, and I don’t believe voters do either, that preserving open space and maintaining our parks should be sacrificed in favor of short-sighted development projects,” said RPM mayoral candidate Karen Turner. “In acting boldly and decisively to preserve open land areas, the Township would be satisfying the mandate of its own Master Plan to protect open space, nature and wildlife against suburban sprawl for the benefit of current residents and future generations.”
RPM believes that while there are many cogent arguments for possible alternative, developmental uses of Montclair’s open spaces, such as housing on the Wildwood property, there are also many other options that should be considered which would have the greatest overall positive benefit to greatest number of people in the community, such as community gardens. RPM At-Large candidate LeeAnn Carlson said, “Friends of Wildwoods community group is comprised of energetic and committed residents who have suggested a clean-up effort funded by a combination of Green Acres funding, environmental grants, and private donations. Montclair can realize long-lasting benefits from both conservation and thoughtful use of our open space. Some in the Friends of Wildwoods have suggested that the preserved Wildwoods space could include a community garden component that could be enjoyed by residents from all areas in town who don’t have space for their own gardens.”
“Outdoor recreation is a huge growth industry in New Jersey right now, so it makes both environmental and economic sense to support Montclair’s precious public lands and provide access to them for our residents,” said RPM At-Large candidate Peter Zorich. “Open spaces are a vital part of what makes Montclair attractive to residents and businesses and it’s an important part of the legacy that we leave for our children and grandchildren.”
“As a longtime advocate of athletics and outdoor recreations, I have always applauded setting aside any available land or open space for use by Montclair’s children,” said RPM Third Ward candidate Chris Swenson. “The health benefits of sports and other organized outdoor recreational activities are well documented, and the more land areas that can be utilized and made accessible for this purpose, the better.”
Roger Paradiso, a founding member of the Friends of Wildwoods community group, applauded RPM’s thoughtful and innovative approach to environmental issues. “The Friends of Wildwoods support land preservation wherever and whenever possible, and we believe that politics should not be put ahead of open space, which is precious and scarce."
"Preservation has always been a bipartisan and popular issue across New Jersey, but we still have much unfinished work to do if we are going to succeed in protecting and preserving the last large tract of Montclair’s open space on Wildwood Avenue,” said Paradiso. “The commitment of the entire Real Progress Montclair slate to open space preservation is commendable, and they clearly understand the connection between it and protecting Montclair’s unique character and quality of life, which is a critically important issue for many voters in the upcoming municipal election.”