On October 31, 1995, a group of community-minded citizens met to discuss how they could help West Windsor Township maintain a piece of its rural heritage by preserving open space. West Windsor Township is located in Mercer County in central New Jersey.The township already had a well-established greenbelt plan, an open space cluster ordinance (which allows developers to place homes closer together on smaller lots in return for preserving open space), and a relatively new and undeveloped community park. Voters had approved a one cent open space tax in 1993, but more could be accomplished if private initiative could work in partnership with the public sector. And so, in 1996, Friends of West Windsor Open Space (FOWWOS) was incorporated as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation with the following objectives:
Since 1995, the partnership between West Windsor Township and FOWWOS has flourished. FOWWOS's private nonprofit status has made (and still makes) it eligible for 100% matching grants from the state Green Acres Program, while the Township is eligible for only 50% matching grants. Purchasing land in partnership with FOWWOS has therefore enabled West Windsor to maximize contributions from the state and minimize contributions from the local taxpayers.
Another avenue for open space acquisition that nonprofits have and governments do not is participation in what is called a "bargain sale", where the seller accepts less than the appraised market value for the property, donates the difference to the nonprofit, and takes a tax deduction for the amount donated. FOWWOS was able to help the township purchase the Liao-Lin property on North Post Road in this manner.
FOWWOS members have served on the township's Open Space Acquisition Task Force, Arboretum Location Committee, the Open Space Utilization Task Force, and the Bicycle and Pedistrian Task Force (later the Bicycle and Pedistrian Alliance, an independent 501(c)(3) corporation). Members negotiate with landowners and other nonprofit organizations. In addition, FOWWOS organized the committee that designed the 9/11 Memorial at the Arboretum.
Besides pursuing further acquisition of property, FOWWOS and the Township are currently engaged in developing individual parcel plans for the properties discussed in the Open Space Utilization Task Force Report, and FOWWOS and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance are developing and maintaining trails through preserved woodlands so that everyone can enjoy them.
Please join or renew your membership in FOWWOS and help preserve and maintain open space in West Windsor. By joining you can: help protect stream corridors and aquifers; help create greenbelts to maintain the diversity of plant and animal wildlife; help preserve farmland and a piece of West Windsor's long history; and help develop active and environmental recreation opportunities for everyone.
For more information on FOWWOS write or send email to the addresses below, contact one of the FOWWOS trustees, or call call Elliot Kleiman at 799-8372.
Friends of West Windsor Open Space
P.O. Box 73, West Windsor, New Jersey 08550
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