Today, the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Caven Point Protection Act.
Sponsored by State Senators Brian Stack and Sandra Cunningham, the bill (S-2956), now moves on to the full senate.
If passed by the senate and assembly, the bill provides that “the 21.5-acre Caven Point Peninsula, the estuarine ecosystem for plants and animals, and critical bird breeding habitat … shall be designated, and permanently preserved, as natural habitat.”
In recent years, environmentalists and local activists, including the Friends of Liberty State Park, have been up in arms over efforts by billionaire Reebok founder Paul Fireman to acquire Caven Point for expansion of Liberty National Golf Club, which he owns and which sits next door to the preserve.
On June 29, the legislature passed the Fireman-backed “Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act” which, according to critics, opened the park to large-scale commercial development. In spite of activists’ exhortations, the Act failed to include protections for Caven Point.
Simultaneously, a Fireman-backed group called the Peoples Park Foundation proposed a plan that would build sports and entertainment complexes in areas previously slotted for wetlands, walkways, and forests.
FOLSP is supporting the DEP’s “New Vision” plan, which is already funded from $70 million in Natural Resource Damage funds. The result of a multi-year process with hearings and 3,600 survey responses, the plan would remediate the interior of Liberty State Park, allow for small-scale commercial enterprises, and create habitats, trails, and 61 acres of active recreational facilities such as ball fields, athletic courts, and track-and-field amenities.
After the vote, FOLSP President Sam Pesin said that the organization “gives tremendous thanks to Senator Stack for guiding the Liberty State Park Caven Point Protection bill through the judiciary committee. This is a major step forward toward the monumental milestone of protecting the priceless Caven Point Natural Area against privatization.”