Legality Of Township Leasing Six Mile Run Explored

Whether the township can legally lease the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site land from the state will be the topic of discussion soon between the Township Manager and township attorney.

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said he would discuss the issue with township attorney Louis N. Rainone. Vornlocker did not sound optimistic about the idea being workable for the township.

Language included in a stop-gap budget signed at the end of June by Governor Phil Murphy would allow private for-profit and non-profit organizations to bid on leases for state parks.

The Six Mile Run site is bordered by Canal, South Middlebush, and Blackwells Mill Road and Jacques Lane, and contains active farmland.

The matter was brought up during the September 15 Open Space Advisory Committee meeting by committee chairman Robert Puskas. Puskas, a local dairy farmer, said he was “at my wit’s end” dealing with hunters driving through farmers’ fields.

“We’re having quite a bit of problems of hunters going through fields, driving through fields, not doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said.

The state, which maintains the land owned by the New Jersey Water Authority, is “doing a lousy job,” he said.

Farmers, Puskas said, are not opposed to hunters, they’re “opposed to letting them do what they want to do.”

Puskas said that when he sees a hunter or someone else violating rules, he has to call Franklin police because State Park Rangers “are always an hour away.”

“It’s getting ugly fast,” Puskas said. “I’ve been fighting with the local park office about what they’re doing.”

Vornlocker said that he did not think the idea was feasible because the township does not have the manpower to maintain the areas.

“I don’t think we have anywhere near the manpower to manage Six Mile Run,” he said. “It’s a huge undertaking that I don’t think we can take on.”

Puskas countered by saying “there’s very little manpower needed.” He said the area’s bike and walking trails are well-maintained, with a bicycle club taking care of their trails.

“It’s our backyard, it’s our hometown,” Puskas said. “We have no say what goes on there.”

Puskas thought the next step would be for the Committee to send a recommendation to the Township Council to consider, but Vornlocker pre-empted that, saying the next step would be for him to discuss the proposal with the township attorney.

“If the committee wants to consider this for the future, I think the very first step of the process is the township attorney has to review the legality of what really is a third-party property,” he said. “It’s owned by New Jersey Water Supply, maintained by the state.”

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