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 it was felt 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:
- To promote and work for the preservation of open space and the conservation of natural resources;
- To encourage and assist local governments in their open space and conservation programs;
- To raise funds for financing the acquisition of land for open space and recreation purposes;
- To foster knowledge and study of ecological and natural resources conservation;
- To encourage farmland preservation; and
- To engage in other charitable and educational enterprises related to the above goals.
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 protect and expand the greenbelt to support 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.
- FOWWOS has assisted the Township in acquiring much of the 1,525 acres of land (farms, woods and wetlands), which are now publicly owned and will be preserved as open space.
- Approximately 750 additional acres are targeted for acquisition by FOWWOS and the Township.
- Land acquisition benefits all of us by preserving the environment and slowing the Township’s growth to prevent crowding of our schools, roads and services.
- FOWWOS receives funds from the financial contributions of its members to help fund its activities. It also receives grants from State and County governments and private corporations. Most grants are tied to specific land aquisitions or programs.
- All contributions to FOWWOS and membership dues are tax deductible, since FOWWOS is a 501(c)(3) corporation..
- Many businesses have a policy of matching funds contributed by their employees to non-profit community organizations. Such matching funds have helped FOWWOS in the past.
- Contributions to FOWWOS used for land acquisition also qualify for matching grants from the Green Acres program.
- FOWWOS manages the West Windsor Clean Streets Program, which is conducted by community volunteers.
- FOWWOS has spearheaded the establishment of the Ron Rogers Arboretum in West Windsor.
- Within the Ron Rogers Arboretum, FOWWOS has helped fund and create the September 11 Memorial.
- FOWWOS is also actively involved in developing an extensive network of bike paths and recreational trails within West Windsor, in partnership with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance.
- FOWWOS is involved, in cooperation with Township staff and the West Windsor Shade Tree Commission, in preparing Individual Parcel Plans (IPPs) for the various open space areas within West Windsor that are under Township control. These plans will guide future maintenance and development activities on these open space lands. The IPPs will also form a basis for budgeting future maintenance and development spending.
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.