West Windsor Council will consider a set of ordinances on Monday, December 20, that would finance the purchase of a long-sought-after open space parcel on the Millstone River.##M:[more]##

On December 6, council introduced a bond ordinance authorizing the appropriation of $663,"000 for the purchase of an eight-acre property owned by Eric Gunther, and an ordinance authorizing a land acquisition contract. The purchase price equates to $83,"000 an acre.

The Gunther parcel, located on Joanne Street in the Grovers Mill section of the township, is bounded on its northern end by the Millstone River. The property, which is included on the township’s open space acquisition wish list, includes one house that will be demolished using funds from the bond ordinance. Current zoning would allow the construction of two houses on the tract.

The $663,"000 appropriation includes the issuance of $632,"000 in municipal bonds in addition to a down payment of $31,"600. The Mercer County Open Space Board has approved a payment of $180,"000 to reimburse the township for the purchase. The funding still would have to be approved by the Mercer County Board of Freeholders.

The Friends of West Windsor Open Space, a township non-profit group, is expected to apply for a $180,"000 grant from the state Green Acres program, which would also be turned over to the township for the property. The remaining balance on the tract would be funded through the township’s open space trust fund.

The property purchase falls in line with plans by the township and FOWWOS to acquire open space along the Millstone River for recreational uses and to build a trail along the river through the township.

In March, 2003, the township acquired a heavily-wooded 23.3-acre property near the Plainsboro border with frontage on the Millstone River.

The tract, previously zoned for the construction of some 30 houses, was purchased for $1.53 million from David Yeger and Isador Rubin. The purchase was made through a combination of funds from the township, FOWWOS, Green Acres, and the Delaware & Raritan Greenway.

Last October FOWWOS received a $25,"000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program for the Millstone River Trail. The grant funds are to be used to build a small parking area and a portion of the trail on the Yeger tract, located along the south bank of the Millstone across the river from WW-P High School North.

A portion of the planned five-mile trail — called Phase I — already exists. This portion starts at Van Nest Park, proceeds along existing sidewalks on Cranbury, Yeger, and Melville roads and then on to the existing sidewalk on the easement leading to a township-owned property along the Millstone River north of Melville Road.

Phase II of the trail, yet to be constructed, would start at the end of the existing sidewalk on the Melville property and continue west along an existing dirt path into the Yeger property. From there it would run along an old farming road to end at Millstone Road near the border with Plainsboro Township.

The ultimate goal, officials say, is to extend the trail west from Millstone Road, through the Gunther site and other properties, to the border with Princeton Township. The township would still need to acquire or gain easement rights to many properties on the east side of the trail.