A plan to swap about four acres of land preserved under the state’s Green Acres program to construct a new access road for Ocean County College has cleared a state environmental hurdle and is ready to proceed, county officials said.
The access road, which would run from North Bay Avenue parallel to the Garden State Parkway and into the campus, is necessary because of the college’s expansion into a four-year institution with more students as Kean University becomes more a prominent part of the landscape.
A third access road is “necessary for the safety of getting people in and out of the college safely,” said Freeholder John P. Bartlett.
The county faced a long regulatory road in getting the new access way approved because its initial plan to use county-owned land for the road was nixed by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which suggested that a more northerly route would be less intrusive to the local environment. But the northerly route came fraught with its own set of issues, including the diversion of about four acres of Green Acres preserved land and opposition from environmentalists who claimed building the road would be detrimental to an endangered plant, the swamp pink, which grows in the area.
But last week, a DEP panel approved the diversion in a unanimous, 7-0 vote.
“That was our last hurdle, and it was a hurdle,” said Bartlett. “Some groups did everything in their power to stop us, but it was successful.”
The road, county officials have said, will allow the more than 1,500 students enrolled at Kean’s campus at the Toms River college to avoid having to cross busy lanes of traffic from the current access roads. Traffic into and out of the college will be handled on a ring-like road, making the additional access road necessary to complete the envisioned route in OCC’s master plan.