The fate of the Drew Forest is once again in question. The Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Committee held a public meeting to vote on whether to accept the $10 million grant application to conserve the magnificent 53 acres of the Drew Forest.
The meeting was held at the Morris County Administration and Records on Thursday, Oct. 12. Over a dozen Drew students were in attendance along with Drew alumni, members of the nonprofit Friends of the Drew Forest and local residents. Community members attended the meeting in an attempt to plead with the committee to conserve the Forest.
The meeting allotted time for 15 minutes of public pleas followed by a private discussion among the committee. The public hoped that the committee would grant this application since they granted a similar application in 2014 with the purchase of land at Giralda Farms, a neighboring forest.
Most speakers spoke about the importance of the Forest to the local community. They emphasized its ability to purify the water used by Madison and 12 neighboring towns. Others also mentioned that affordable housing can be found in other places besides the Forest. Once the Forest is gone, it is lost forever.
Ken Dolsky, Vice President of New Jersey Forest Watch and Parsippany resident, stressed the importance of the aquifer by stating, “Drew Forest is a recharge area for the Buried Valley Aquifer, from which Parsippany and 25 others draw their well water.” He also stated, “Paving over Drew Forest is not what New Jersey needs.”
Speakers also discussed the value of trees to the community and the Earth. Cathy Wilson, Morris Township Committee Member, specifically stated that the “Drew Forest is a unique, vital and natural resource that has many impacts on us, our town, our residents.”
Out of the six supporters that had time to speak, one of our own Drew students, Luiza Vaskys Lima (‘25) was able to speak out in appeal. Vaskys Lima’s plea embodied the voice and heart of Drew’s students. She reminded the committee what was at stake.
Vaskys Lima closed her appeal with a strong call for responsibility: “Finally, and I would like to emphasize that: The Forest is not a burden. In the same way, climate is not a burden. Other forms of natural environments and processes are not burdens. And we all rely on these to survive, even if minimally. It is our responsibility as a community to protect natural spaces. If not for you, for the future generations who will need to deal with its consequences.”
The public was then asked to leave while the committee discussed and voted over the next two and a half hours. The Board can reject the application or approve any amount of the $10 million request. The results of this vote will be announced during the Nov. 8 meeting.
Elizabeth Blank is a junior majoring in history and minoring in environmental justice and teaching.