West Milford, NJ: "A true country town" near town

Barbara and Peter Tirado spent 37 years in Queens, but when their daughter got married and moved to New Jersey, they decided to follow h...


Barbara and Peter Tirado spent 37 years in Queens, but when their daughter got married and moved to New Jersey, they decided to follow her across the Hudson River.

“We couldn’t afford to live on the ocean, so we decided to live on a lake,” said Tirado, 65, a retired reading teacher. In 2017, she and Mr Tirado, also 65 and retired from owning a plumbing supply business, paid $ 557,000 for a three-bedroom home on Pinecliff Lake in West Milford Township. , NJ. It reminded them of a second home they had. once owned in Vermont.

“It’s so peaceful. I watch the sun rise, the ducks, geese, eagles and hawks, ”Ms. Tirado said.

Stretching over 75 square miles in northwest Passaic County, approximately 40 miles from Times Square, West Milford offers many lakes and open spaces, including the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest, Apshawa Preserve and parts of Wawayanda State Park and Norvin Green State Forest. Its largest body of water is Lake Greenwood, which straddles the New Jersey-New York border.

“For being so close to the city it’s a real country town,” said Dennis J. Decina, a longtime resident and Re / Max agent in West Milford.

Many of the township’s 26,000 residents spend their weekends swimming, boating, fishing and hiking. Doug Zayat, 39, digital marketing manager, lives near Belcher Creek and enjoys running his pontoon along the creek to Greenwood Lake. He and his former wife and their two sons moved to nearby Wanaque Township in 2017, paying $ 275,000 for a four-bedroom house. Mr Zayat, who studied photography at university, started photographing the wildlife and landscapes of West Milford, and now shares his work on Instagram and Facebook.

“There is always something to see in West Milford – the beautiful scenery of mountains and lakes, or a bobcat in your backyard,” Mr Zayat said.

Or maybe a bear. “Our fence has been knocked down three times by bears,” said Andrew Quirk, 63, a physiotherapist who has lived in Upper Greenwood Lake since 2013 with his wife, Patricia Quirk, 62, who runs his physiotherapy office in Maplewood.

But Mr Quirk, a hiker, bird watcher and boater, said they were grateful to be living immersed in nature. “We love to get on the boat and watch the sun go down over the lake, and wait for the stars to come out,” Mr. Quirk said.

Brett Devenney, who works in law enforcement in Bergen County, and his wife, Katelin Devenney, a former office manager who now stays at home with their baby daughter, first visited homes in the Bergen County, where they grew up. But the couple, both 32, turned to West Milford because it was more affordable, paying $ 283,000 for a tiny lakeside house in November 2018 and spending $ 30,000 on upgrades.

Mr. Devenney enjoys sitting on the dock, watching the water and “only hearing nature,” he said.

West Milford’s building stock includes cottages built as summer getaways, luxury lakeside homes, large settlements in newer subdivisions and mid-century duplexes, Cape Cods and ranches. Buyers looking for something a little different can find log cabins in some of the neighborhoods around the lake.

Because the township is so large, many residents find a sense of place in their neighborhoods, which include Hewitt, Macopin, and lake communities like Upper Greenwood Lake and Pinecliff Lake. “Each lakeside community is like its own small town,” Julia Gaffney, longtime resident and agent of Keller Williams Prosperity Realty, told Wayne.

Most of the township is served by well water systems and septic tanks, although a handful of subdivisions have public water and sewer services.

Like other exurban communities, West Milford has seen an influx of shoppers from more congested areas, including New York City and Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties, during the pandemic. “Once Covid hit, a lot of people were looking for a getaway home to quarantine,” said Mark Werner, broker and owner of Werner Realty, who has lived in West Milford his entire life. “What could be better than being in the woods or by a lake?

Many of the sales were for second homes, Mr Werner said: “With Covid, a lot of people don’t fly on vacation. They look for a destination by car rather than by plane.

And some who already owned second homes in West Milford moved there year round during the pandemic, Mr Decina said: “They were working from home, so why not?”

Due to the new demand, “the market is extremely hot” in West Milford, with the most active sales in the $ 300,000 to $ 500,000 range, Werner said.

A mid-September check of the Garden State Multiple Listing Service found 105 listings, from a two-bedroom log cabin listed for $ 79,000 to a seven-bedroom colonial on 14 acres listed for $ 1.4 million.

According to the Multiple Listing Service, in the year ending Aug. 15, 409 single-family homes sold in West Milford, for a median price of $ 333,250. During the same period of the previous year, 451 properties sold for a median price of $ 275,000.

The inventory of homes for sale has declined significantly from pre-pandemic levels. On August 15, the multiple listings service was listing 97 homes for sale, up from 230 around the same time two years earlier.

One of West Milford’s biggest annual events is the Greenwood Lake Air Show, held at Greenwood Lake Airport, featuring stunt pilots and historic airplanes.

Popular dining establishments include Luc’s on the Lake, Ralph Spice, Mario’s Deli, Grasshopper Irish Pub, and the Vreeland Store. Most of the shops, restaurants and three malls are concentrated along the busy Union Valley Road, south of Greenwood Lake.

Due to the size of the township, generally “you don’t leave your house to walk downtown,” Ms. Gaffney said.

The Township of West Milford School District serves approximately 3,100 students. The district has six elementary schools; Macopin Middle School for the seventh and eighth years; West Milford High School from grades 9 to 12; and Highlander Academy School for high school students in special education.

The district’s student body is made up of 86.5% Whites, 9% Hispanics, 1.3% Blacks and 1.4% Asians.

Nearly 1,000 students attend West Milford High School, where SAT scores for the 2019-20 school year were 540 in reading and writing and 517 in math, compared to an average of 536 for each.

New Jersey Transit operates buses to Manhattan from the West Milford incentive parking lot on Greenwood Lake Turnpike. The journey takes an hour to an hour and a half, depending on whether it is an express bus. One-way fare is $ 13; the monthly rate is $ 303.

The trip to Midtown takes a little over an hour with no traffic, but much longer during rush hour. Commuters traveling to other parts of New Jersey and New York can take Route 23 or Skyline Drive in nearby Ringwood to Interstate 287.

Wild animals once roamed the woods of West Milford in the Warner Bros. Safari Park. known as Jungle Habitat. Beginning in 1972, visitors could walk through the 800-acre property and see lions, rhinos, zebras, baboons, and other roaming animals. That year, a visitor made the mistake of opening his car window and was mutilated by a lion, and there were occasional reports of escaped peacocks and wolves in the township.

Although it attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, the theme park was unprofitable and Warner Bros. closed it in 1976. The state bought the land in the late 1980s for $ 1.45 million and opened it as a park. It is now used by hikers and mountain bikers, who sometimes find the remains of ancient animal enclosures – but apparently no exotic animals – in the woods.

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