Ocean County Press Release
More Than 6-miles of Linear Park Completed
OCEAN COUNTY's linear park, starting in Barnegat Township and moving northward, is a popular trail for bikers, walkers and joggers.
"With the warm weather here more and more citizens and visitors are using the Barnegat Branch Trail as part of their recreational activities," said Freeholder James F. Lacey, who serves as liaison to the trail. "Construction of this park is continuing and we are progressing with the fifth section which runs through Lacey Township."
The two and a half mile section begins in Ocean Township and stops several feet south of Lacey Road in Lacey Township.
"This will be a great addition to the trail as it crosses four bridges including the one at Oyster Creek, the lower and middle branches of Forked River and the Upper Branch of the Forked River," Lacey said. "This portion of the trail will highlight beautiful natural areas in the heart of Ocean County.
"We anticipate a lot of usage of this area as it lets you experience portions of the County you may not ordinarily be able to get to," Lacey said.
Work on the fifth section is expected to be completed in 2014.
"This section of the trail is under the ownership of Lacey Township and the governing body provided a 12-foot easement which allows us to continue the trail and extend it northward from Waretown," Lacey said. "This is the longest section to be constructed at one time and it came with many design challenges."
For instance, he said the trestles over Oyster Creek, and the Lower and Upper branches of the Forked River will all be modified for pedestrian and bicycle use by placing decking with wooden planks on top of the existing railroad ties.
Railings along the sides of the trestles will also be installed.
"We have also worked very closely with Excelon Corp. to ensure that the trail did not compromise any security concerns they may have at Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant," Lacey said. "We wanted to make certain this section like all of the sections were designed properly to meet the needs of the users and those that are in surrounding areas."
Lacey said the work also will include a new bridge on the existing trestle foundations over the Middle Branch of the Forked River.
Also for pedestrian safety there will be push button activated pedestrian flashers placed on major road crossings.
Meanwhile the county has completed the fourth section of trail which spans about 1.5 miles from Route 532 or Wells Mills Road in Ocean Township to the Lacey Township border at Oyster Creek.
"As part of the fourth section of the trail, we opened the Country Lane Trailhead Facility in Waretown," Lacey said.
This parking, picnicking and restroom area officially opened in May. The Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Division is currently working on a display room at Country Lane which will highlight the local history of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Ocean County had been selected to receive $300,000 from the state Department of Transportation to construct Phase IV of the Barnegat Branch Trail. In addition, a $350,000 grant from the DOT will be used for the fifth section of the trail.
Lacey has emphasized the trail is being constructed in phases and may not always be contiguous until it has been completed. To date, 6.6 miles of the Barnegat Branch Trail are open and being used in Barnegat Township, Waretown and Berkeley Township.
The Barnegat Branch trail, which, when completed will be a 15.6 mile linear park, follows the existing right of way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
"Under the county's plan, this abandoned rail line is being improved to link Barnegat Township to Toms River Township, and in the process will offer residents and visitors a new type of recreational trail experience," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "The trail serves as a link to local parks, schools, stores, public buildings and other bike paths. As the work continues, this park will be accessible to many county residents and visitors. Many people are already using the completed parts of the trail and really enjoying all it has to offer."
Kelly noted the trail project has been a coordinated effort with a number of county departments including Parks and Recreation, Security, Planning and Engineering, working with towns insuring the trail is not only a pleasant experience but a safe one.