There are hundreds of thousands of acres of publicly-owned lands in the Barnegat Bay watershed. The vast majority of these lands are accessible to the residents and visitors of the watershed, and much of that land is along the bay itself. Below you will find information on publicly-owned lands, varying in ownership (federal, state, county, local), as well as type (park, forest, wildlife management, preservation, etc.). In some cases, we have included links to the information on our partners’ websites where it is already well-organized.
Federal land holdings in the area include the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge (managed by the US Department of Interior), which has locations throughout the watershed from Brick to Stafford, and the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (managed by the US Department of Defense), which has very limited access.
State-owned and managed lands in the Barnegat Bay watershed are numerous. The New Jersey Divison of Fish and Wildlife manages substantial acreage around the bay and throughout its watershed, such as the Sedge Islands Marine Conservation Zone on the bay side of Island Beach State Park, and the Butterfly Bog area in Jackson Township.
New Jersey has also helped preserve well over 4,000 acres through the Natural Lands Trust, including the Lazarus Preserve in Stafford Township and the West Plains Nature Preserve in Barnegat Township, to name just two. Passive use of these properties by the public for recreational or educational purposes is welcomed so long as it does not adversely affect the sensitive ecological communities. There are hunting restrictions on some of these properties so please check the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust’s website before you visit.
Last, but certainly not least, are New Jersey’s State Parks and Forests. These properties, totaling well over 31,000 acres just in the Ocean County portion of the Barnegat Bay watershed alone, are managed by the state Division of Parks and Forestry. Examples include the 12,167-acre Brendan T. Bryne State Forest in Manchester and Plumsted Townships and Barnegat Light State Park on Long Beach Island.
In Monmouth County, a portion of Allaire State Park in Howell Township drains to the Barnegat Bay.
Through the Ocean County Natural Land Trust Fund Program and the Ocean County Farmland Preservation Program, the county has preserved a total of 7,474 acres, and counting! The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund was created in 1997, when the residents of the county overwhelmingly voted to approve a 1.2 cent tax which provides funds to the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders for acquiring and protecting sensitive natural lands and farmlands from development. Examples of properties protected by the Natural Lands Trust Fund Program are the 26.2-acre Holly Acres property in Manchester Township and the 118-acre Potter Creek property (purchased in partnership with the Trust for Public Land) in Berkeley Township. For a detailed listing of all properties with pictures, visit the program’s webpage.
The Barnegat Bay watershed is also home to gorgeous county parks, primarily Ocean County Parks, totally over 2500 acres. Many parks offer access to the bay for crabbing, fishing, kayaking/canoeing and much more. Visit the Ocean County Parks and Recreation website for a list of your parks.
In Monmouth County, a portion of Turkey Swamp County Park in Freehold Township drains to the Barnegat Bay.
Many townships and boroughs in the Barnegat Bay watershed have passed open space taxes to purchase undeveloped lands for protection. Call your municipal offices or visit your town’s website to find out if that’s true where you live. All municipalities in the watershed have locally-owned and managed parks and recreation areas: Trader’s Cove Park in Brick Township, Riverwood Park in Toms River, or Huffy Wallis Park in Forked River are just some local examples. Explore your local publicly-owned lands and get to know your watershed.
The Trust for Public Land