| New Jersey Herald
FRANKFORD — For the second time in the past four months, the Township Committee failed to pass a resolution Tuesday to allocate $50,000 in open space funding to renovate Culver Lake Golf Course.
The Greater Culver Lake Watershed Conservation Foundation, an organization created to create the environment surrounding the lake, had sought funds to turn the 92-acre property on East Shore Culver Road into a space for hiking, biking, bowhunting and other outdoor activities.
The vote at Tuesday’s meeting was 2-2, with Nick Civitan and Deputy Mayor Jim Ayers for the measure and Sam Castimore and Ed Risdon against. Mayor Chris Carney abstained because he lives near the property.
Foundation President Rick Ferruggia said the group’s proposal had been “very well-received” from the lake community and other township residents. He said he envisioned the renovated property as a spot that would showcase the natural beauty of Sussex County and entice others to visit or move to the area.
Aside from the $50,000 from open space, Ferruggia said, “there won’t be one dime on the taxpayers of Frankford,” with the state’s Green Acres program and other grants funding the rest of the project and future maintenance.
Castimore said Frankford residents would still partially fund the project through their tax payments each year.
“What you’re saying is it’s not paid for by the taxpayer, but Green Acres funds is taxpayer money,” he told Ferruggia. “So you kind of hide behind the veil of, ‘it’s free,’ but it’s not free money.”
Ferruggia said about 70 residents sent letters in support of the proposal. Castimore said he has spoken to plenty of residents who oppose it.
“I guess the people that I talk to would rather see their taxes go down and don’t (want to) buy things that cost more money down the road,” Castimore said.
The Township Committee voted the same on the renovation as they did on Tuesday. The foundation modified its proposal since in the hope it would pass on the second try.
The three members of the public who spoke on the matter Tuesday, along with Ferruggia, said they support the project and see a potential benefit for the township.
“We very much are in favor of the foundation and their proposal. We think it’s the best-case scenario,” said Ralph Smith, president of the Normanoch Association of homeowners in the Culver Lake neighborhood. “I hate to see it go as a golf course, but I think hiking trails and the natural area would be wonderful for our township — a great asset.”
Danae Dotz, secretary of Frankford’s Lake Owassa Community Association, read a letter stating the association’s full support of the project and requesting the township approve the resolution.
“Preserving this important tract of land for walking, hiking, snowshoeing and other forms of recreational use for the residents of Frankford Township could not be more timely in this era of COVID-19, where additional options for outdoor activities are of the greatest value,” Dotz read.
Mike Dolan, a member of both the Frankford and Sussex County open space committees, said Frankford currently has more than $300,000 in open space money and no other projects planned.
“Projects of this nature, that are basically shovel ready, don’t come around very often,” he told the board, “and I just wish you’d reconsider your position and offer your support for the project.”
Ayers referenced an article he read about two new hotels being built just over the Sussex County border in Port Jervis, New York, with nearby biking and hiking trails making the city a popular tourist destination. He said the golf course project would achieve the same goal for Frankford and lead to more people visiting and spending money.
“In my opinion, when you have something like this open space and hiking trails, it only helps bring people into the area,” Ayers said.
Just before he recused himself ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Carney made a brief statement in which he reminded the committee of the 70 township letters in favor of the project.
“The only thing I do want to say is, we do work for the people,” he said, “and there were a lot of people who spoke up (in support).”