On October 1, the National Park Service’s (NPS) Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) teamed up with the Middlesex Greenway Coalition and the Metuchen Environmental Commission for a National Public Lands Day event in Metuchen, New Jersey. NPS RTCA is providing planning support to the Borough for greenway and trails development and natural resource conservation.
Metuchen residents, businesses, environmental organizations, and local government representatives joined U.S. Representative Frank Pallone as part of a rally to not only celebrate the existing 3.6-mile Middlesex Greenway trail, but push for an extension of the greenway to the south and north. The current county-managed greenway stretches through the boroughs of Edison, Metuchen and Woodbridge and serves as a popular path for walkers and bicyclists in the area, connecting to the East Coast Greenway and Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. The proposed extension would create an additional 3.75 miles of trail northwest to South Plainfield and would provide access to the “Everglades of Central Jersey”—the Dismal Swamp--for paddling, hiking and nature study. An additional 3.5 miles would extend south to Perth Amboy and the Raritan Bay.
The current greenway was created from an unused rail corridor owned by Conrail, the same rail corridor that would be used for the trail’s extension. Discussions with Conrail are ongoing to alleviate their concerns about selling and/or leasing the property for recreational use.
More than 200 people showing a mix of different ages, abilities, and ethnicities attended and signed a petition to show public support for the proposed extension. The sunny day was enlivened through music, refreshments, and a guided walk along the greenway corridor to the Dismal Swamp. Booths at Trailhead Park, currently the northern end of the existing greenway, offered information on area trails, community input on the concept for the proposed greenway, and tables for community fitness and outdoors groups interested in the greenway. NPS RTCA staff Julie Bell’s Jr. Naturalist Activity Booklet was a hit with the kids, and all fifty copies were snapped up within an hour. Ms. Bell also shared information and answered questions about NPS Partnership programs and RTCA work in New Jersey during a news interview as well as at the shared RTCA – Metuchen Environmental Commission booth.
“We are very pleased that the NPS was able to join us at Trailhead Park today and support the opportunities that the trail provides,” said Metuchen Councilwoman Dorothy Rasmussen. “Continued technical assistance from NPS is important to garnering attention to the proposed extension and helping make it a reality.”