Elizabeth Sewell, Northeast Region Trail Development Manager for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, made the case for developing a bi-state network of trails linking Northern New Jersey with the Circuit Trails
in the Philadelphia region during a presentation to the NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee's February meeting.
Rail-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that works with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails. They have planned and approved over 300 miles of trail in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the East Coast Greenway spanning from New York, through New Jersey, to Washington D.C. The group has set a goal of completing 500 more miles of trail by 2025.
Trails have public health, environmental and economic impacts, Sewell said, adding that the Delaware Valley portion of the East Coast Greenway generates $3 billion in benefits. New Jersey has estimated it brings in $840 million in tourism revenue to the state annually, she said.
“There’s a lot to leverage with these trails,” Sewell said.
Sewell’s proposal is to develop local and large-scale trail projects under what would be called the North Jersey Urban Trail Network and combine that with Circuit Trail efforts underway in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to create a massive network in both states. “This network consists of over 800 miles of planned trail that takes people from where they live to where they want to go,” she said.
New Jersey trails such as the Morris Canal Greenway and September 11th
National Memorial Trail can be the catalyst to establishing a network of trails that can combat congestion, environmental damage, and connect the region for more efficient travel, she said.
Sewell wants to see the North Jersey Urban Trail Network included in the NJTPA’s next long-range plan and asked committee members to look for opportunities to connect future trail projects and develop regional connections.
For more information on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, visit railstotrails.org