New Jersey Trails Plan due for a critical makeover - The Star-Ledger 8/27/06


JORBA Board Member/Chapter Leader
New Jersey Trails Plan due for a critical makeover
Sunday, August 27, 2006 BY FRED J. AUN
For the Star-Ledger

It's been 10 years since the New Jersey Trails Plan was updated, and anybody who designs, maintains or simply uses the state's trails is invited to help with a much-needed revision of the document.

Through three open houses being conducted next month, at workshops planned for October and in online surveys, the state Department of Environmental Protection and state Department of Transportation are hoping to hear from trail enthusiasts statewide. The end product will be a new Trails Plan that should provide long-term guidance and "vision" for trails and trail-related issues, said Annette Shultz, a planner with RBA Associates of Morristown, which is managing the project.

"This New Jersey Trails Plan update is focused on establishing a new direction for New Jersey trails," said Schultz. "Not only is the state involved in managing trails for recreational use, but also there are counties and municipalities involved in developing community pathways and local trail systems."

Shultz said the plan update will establish a framework that will guide future trail development and maintenance. "We want to identify the vision for 20 years into the future and refocus the efforts of all those involved with New Jersey's trails so that we're meeting the needs for all different kinds of trails in New Jersey," she said. "This is not an inventory. Nor is it involved in locating where trails should be."

Among other things, the Trails Plan might suggest the need for routes that serve ATV riders. It might suggest the formation of a Web site or other single source of information about trails that includes North and South Jersey.

"It's looking at what the trends will be over the next 20 years, what the situation is now and saying, 'Here are things that need to be addressed,'" she said. "Even if we don't have answers now, we are going to be raising to the surface topics of concern and making recommendations for action by whoever needs to take that action."

While the updated plan will be broad in perspective, it will also "analyze key issues" relating to the State Trails System. The State Trails System "was designed to be a network of trails interconnecting with each other as well as with schools and urban areas," says the DEP.

Getting listed as part of this system opens the door for state-funded improvements but also means "any state-funded project affecting a designated trail must be reviewed for its impact on use of the trail." More than 1,500 miles of trail were reviewed and 26 trails were initially deemed eligible for inclusion in the system.

Of those, eight trails and waterways are now considered part of the system: the Appalachian Trail, Batona Trail, Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, the Paulinskill Valley Trail, the Sussex Branch Trail, the Belleplain State Forest Trail System, Cedar Creek, Wells Mills Park Trails System of Ocean County and Wharton Water Trails.

Schultz conceded that many people don't even know the system exists. "The State Trails System is not on the tips of everyone's tongues," she said. "There is a lot of trail activity that isn't associated with trails having that formal designation."

Therefore, RBA will be studying "what's happening in regards to trails throughout New Jersey, not just those in the State Trails System," said Shultz. She noted that one of the biggest topics these days is the value of trails that not only provide outdoor recreation but also serve as conduits for traveling from one place to another on foot, horse or bicycle.
Jason said:
LOL, Mergs posted some info on that the other day. There's even a link that shows the results. It's pretty cool.

Excellent, sorry for the double post. I'll go look it up.
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