Ocean County Press Release
6.6 Miles of Linear Park Completed
OCEAN COUNTY, this summer, will have completed nine-miles of a 15.6 mile linear park that starts in Barnegat Township and travels north.
"We are getting ready to finish a 2.4 mile section of the Barnegat Branch Trail in Ocean and Lacey townships and begin the sixth phase in Berkeley Township," said Ocean County Freeholder James F. Lacey, who serves as liaison to the project. "With the warm weather upon us and the summer season just weeks away, I am happy to announce the near completion of nine miles of this trail. It provides many recreational benefits for residents and visitors alike."
The two and a half mile section scheduled for completion this summer begins at Bay Parkway and Route 9 in Ocean Township and stops several feet south of Lacey Road in Lacey Township.
"This is 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," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to tourism. "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," Vicari said.
Lacey noted that this section of the trail is under the ownership of Lacey Township and the governing body provided a 12-foot easement which allows the County to continue the trail and extend it northward from Waretown.
"This is the longest section to be constructed at one time and it came with many design challenges," Lacey said.
For instance, he said the trestles over Oyster Creek, and the Lower and Upper branches of the Forked River were modified for pedestrian and bicycle use by placing decking with wooden planks on top of the existing railroad ties. Fencing on the sides of the trestles was also 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 includes 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 is getting ready to start the sixth section of the trail which is about 3/4ths of a mile and will run from Hickory Lane south to Maryland Avenue in Berkeley Township.
"When completed this will connect to the existing trail already constructed in Berkeley Township," Lacey said.
The cost of the construction for the sixth section is being covered by a grant from the state Department of Transportation. The project contract was awarded to Earle Asphalt and construction is scheduled to begin by July.
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," Lacey said. "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."
Lacey 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.