Years in the making, the abandoned Old Boonton Line is getting an upgrade with plans to convert it into a public-use green space that would provide a no-traffic path from Jersey City to Montclair. The nearly 9-mile trail would connect Jersey City from near the Grove Street PATH station to Montclair via the Bay Street Station, thereby creating easier access to surrounding towns in Bergen and Hudson counties via the light rail. Not only will the path benefit walkers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts but this development would also provide a more environmentally friendly transportation route for the nearly 300,000 New Jersey commuters into New York City.
Given the extensive construction requirements and environmental ramifications that need to be studied, it’s predicted to take years to complete and now, advocates are warning that the opportunity of the greenway could fall through if action isn’t taken, North Jersey reported. So before you start lacing up your walking shoes, read on for more information about the plans and perks of the new nature trail.
The Bloomfield Township hosting a virtual presentation on the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project on April 14 at 7PM. Mayor Venezia, the City Council, and the Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill discussed the project including major details and ways the community can support it.
However, the delay of the massive project is at the state level, specifically the funding which is putting “the entire project at risk,” Debra Kagan stated, executive director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.
The contract, brokered in March 2020 by the conservation nonprofit the Open Space Institute, calls for local, county, state, and federal sources to buy the trackbed along New Jersey Transit’s defunct Boonton line from the Norfolk Southern Rail Corp. for $65 million, North Jersey explained. The deadline for the purchase to be completed in January of 2022.
A Path to Connect 8 Cities
The Old Boonton Line was abandoned when the new station in Montclair was completed in 2002. The rail line cuts through 8 New Jersey cities including Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair. One especially unique feature of the soon-to-be path is that it crosses both the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, offering an in-depth view of the natural life of an otherwise highly industrialized area.
The Open Space Institute announced the purchase agreement for $65 million with the Norfolk Southern Railway Company in August 2020. Since that time, the endeavor has garnered more support from local communities and environmental groups alike.
The proposed outdoor space will connect the towns in an unprecedented way and offer a new healthy outlet for residents in the area, so groups like the New Jersey Sierra Club are in full support. Other groups who are invested in this project are the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, the Bloomfield Open Space Trust Fund, and the Friends of the Ice & Iron Trail.
135 Acres of New Green Space
The proposed Essex-Hudson Greenway will bring approximately 135 acres of new green space to the residents of the most densely populated counties in the country. New Jersey has a multitude of walking paths and hiking trails — this path will connect with several of these through trails. Following the example of new park developments in Hoboken and Jersey City, the proposed plan for the greenway includes space for rain gardens and bio-swales to mitigate flooding in addition to extensive tree coverage to enhance the environmental scene.
A Vision for Community Enhancement
While this addition will directly benefit those who use the path, the new development is predicted to bring in new business and aid the economic development of the area as well. As the project is still in the early stages, it’s expected the community will have the chance to weigh in on design and amenity options. At this point, the possibilities are endless when it comes to cultural influence for programs and art incorporated into the greenway, similar to the Highline in New York City.
The Essex County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed their resolution, stating that the greenway would improve air quality and increase the overall health of the local residents.
There has been one extension on the deal, leaving six months to complete the land transfer. If the January deadline is missed, the railroad company is able to sell off pieces of the line, making the project impossible.