PlanSmart NJ celebrated its 45th anniversary as an independent, nonprofit civic planning and research organization committed to “better land use, better lives” at its annual dinner held in New Brunswick on Nov. 14.

   Over 300 of New Jersey’s architects, engineers, planners, environmentalists, local officials, and business leaders participated in the celebration.

   PlanSmart NJ leaders celebrated the achievements of several awardees that represented its mission to improve the quality of community life by advancing sound land use planning and regional cooperation.

   Awards were presented by former Gov. Jim Florio and by Richard Johnson, of the Matrix Development Group.

   Mr. Johnson presented the Regional and Community Planning Award — PlanSmart NJ’s oldest award — to Eleanor Horne, of Lawrence, and Becky Taylor, of Hopewell Township, for their work on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.

   Mr. Johnson said: “This award is at the core of PlanSmart NJ’s work. New Jersey, perhaps more than other places, needs to look beyond municipal boundaries to focus on regional economic growth and environmental planning that will foster our economic vitality and improve our daily quality of life.

   ”This award honors those who look 10 or 20 years ahead to imagine and celebrate a vision, and who bring together people/stakeholders, businesses, and municipalities to plan for a better future.

   ”Through their leadership Ms. Horne and Ms. Taylor have successfully completed a 20-mile trail that traverses two townships, links cultural and natural resources, and connects to the East Coast Greenway, an evolving 3,000 mile network of community trails ranging from Maine to Florida.

   ”This project is especially rewarding for PlanSmart NJ as it implements one of the trails identified in the Mercer County Green Links Plan which PlanSmart NJ wrote and published in 1996.”

   THE ENVIRONMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD went to Linda Mead, of the D&R Greenway, for that group’s regional planning approach to land preservation. The D&R Greenway was co-founded by PlanSmart NJ (then known as MSM) in 1989. Under Ms. Mead’s leadership, the D&R Greenway has preserved close to 15,000 acres, for a total of 17,335 acres since its founding. Many of those acres are in Hopewell Valley — including the St. Michael’s Preserve, just outside of Hopewell Borough.

   In his welcoming remarks, Richard Goldman, Esq., chairman of the PlanSmart NJ Board of Directors, said, “I support this organization because I know that New Jersey needs an independent organization that keeps its eye on the big picture and works to break down silos of decision making to promote both a healthy economy and a healthy environment.”

   Executive Director Ann Brady took a look back to appreciate the visionaries who founded it in 1968 as the MSM Regional Council, and offered PlanSmart NJ’s vision of how to plan for 45 years into the future.

   ”PlanSmart NJ’s strength comes from you, and PlanSmart NJ’s role is to influence and inform you and nurture the network that we have in this room,” said Ms. Brady. “With your continued support of time and resources we can protect what we value, plan for the future, and build a better future for our children.”

   . For more information on PlanSmart NJ, visit www.plansmartnj.org.

    — Ruth Luse

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