A long-desired parcel of land finally has become part of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area thanks to a willing seller anxious to see the land preserved in its natural state and the intervention of The Nature Conservancy.
The 91.5 acres, known as the "DelGrosso Tract," was conveyed from The Conservancy to the National Park Service last month. The Conservancy had acquired the property, which lies just east of the Delaware River, in 2008 on behalf of the Park Service and held it until federal funding to re-acquire the property could be secured. The DelGrosso tract, which had been appraised at $1 million, was one of the largest remaining private in-holdings within the national recreation area. The area surrounding the Water Gap is under intense development pressure. Once buffered from New Jersey's first and second home boom by the Highlands to the east, increased protection of the Highlands has made the Kittatinny Ridge and Valley where this land lies highly attractive to developers.
“The National Park Service regards this property as a critical element in the overall protection of the wildlife, the lands, and the water in this spectacular unit of the National Park System," said NRA Superintendent John Donahue. "The loss of this tract, which runs from the mountain tops in New Jersey to the mountain tops in Pennsylvania, to residential development, would have been a detriment to our effort to protect the larger natural areas.
"The Nature Conservancy and our congressional members have been key partners in ecosystem protection in both states," continued the superintendent. "We are fortunate that The Nature Conservancy was able to step in and protect this property until we obtained the necessary funding to make it part of our national recreation area.”
The DelGrosso Family Company, LLC, comprising four cousins who inherited the property from family members, agreed to sell it to The Conservancy for its appraised value of $1 million.
“We’re especially grateful for the support of Congressman (Scott) Garrett as well as Senators (Frank) Lautenberg and (Bob) Menendez in helping to make this acquisition a reality,” said Dr. Barbara Brummer, New Jersey State Director of the Nature Conservancy.
Denise DelGrosso said her father and uncle originally purchased the land jointly in 1965 for the sole purpose of maintaining it as forested land for family outings, hiking, recreation and enjoyment.
While the acquisition was important, the NRA's land-acquisition priority list still has nearly 3,000 acres on it.
“We have a priority list of properties within the boundaries, inholdings, and properties abutting land locations that really still need protecting," said Cindy Branley, a management support assistant at the NRA. "We are definitely working on those things. It’s a slow process.”
On the Pennsylvania side of the 70,000-acre NRA the park has identified about 1,400 acres of private lands it would like to acquire if they ever go up for sale, and on the New Jersey side there are about 1,500 more acres, she said.