A Much-Anticipated Update on the Drew Forest

By Sierra Walker | News Editor

4 mins read

Half of the requested amount given in the Borough of Madison’s open space grant application was recommended for approval by the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Committee.

The Morris County Board of Commissioners announced they would be voting on the approval of the open space grant to conserve the Drew Forest during a future meeting.

The vote will take place after the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Committee chooses to recommend the Borough’s application for approval, the last step of the application process.

During the working session of the Board of Commissioners Nov. 8 meeting, the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Committee presented their 2023 grant recommendations to the Board. 

“The Madison application was the only Open Space application received and presented to the Commissioners by the Open Space Trust Fund Committee for 2023,” the Morris County government said in a press release published after the meeting.

The committee “recommended that the Board of County Commissioners approve $5 million to assist Madison Borough,” the press release said. 

If approved, this grant would give the Borough half of the amount they—and many public commenters—asked for during the open space grant application process.

Courtesy of Christian Chase

In their application, the Borough of Madison requested a grant of $10 million, which would bring the Borough much closer to Drew University’s current asking price of $50 million for all 53 acres of the Forest. 

People invested in the preservation of the Forest have attended various local government meetings to provide public support for the application over the past month, in hopes that their efforts would positively affect the outcome of the vote.

Jay Thomson, a committee member, informed the public that the Board of Commissioners may not cover the full $10 million during the Oct. 12 meeting with the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund Committee. According to the Madison Eagle via Friends of the Drew Forest, $10 million would “match the largest open space grant awarded in the history of Morris County.”

With this in mind, a local organization, Friends of the Drew Forest, urged people to attend the Board of Commissioners’ meetings and to contact the board members ahead of time. The organization is all-volunteer, not for profit and dedicated to permanently preserving the Forest as open space with the help of community involvement. 

While telling people to attend the Nov. 7 meeting, Friends of the Drew Forest said, “We’ve been at this for 2.5 years and learned that we need to keep the pressure on—always.”

Students and the organization worked ahead of time to fill the room, offering updates regarding attendance and organizing transportation to the meeting for students without cars.

Public supporters of the application hoped that its approval in full would allow the Borough of Madison to make a competitive offer to buy the land from the University. 

The Borough plans to use the $5 million, if awarded, along with state Green Acres funding and federal fund requests endorsed by U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, to get as close to Drew University’s current asking price as possible.

Sierra Walker is a junior double-majoring in marketing and media and communications with a minor in Spanish.

Featured image courtesy of Christian Chase.

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