Work to create a continuous greenway along the former Morris Canal continues, with individual projects approaching major milestones.
Joe Macasek and Tim Roth of the Canal Society of New Jersey presented updates on various greenway projects during the Morris Canal Working Group meeting October 20. The NJTPA coordinates the working group.
"The key words are patience and perseverance,” Macasek said. “These projects are complicated and always take longer than you think.”
Work on the Lock Tenders House in Wharton is nearing completion, Macasek said. The Borough of Wharton held a ribbon cutting in August to celebrate the restoration of Lock 2 East and work on the house, which will serve as a museum.
Interior work in the Lock Tenders House progressed in October, with new floorboards, walls and windows. “This is a wonderful project reproducing a 200-year-old building with modern building codes and appropriate compromises to bring to fruition,” he said.
The lock has been reconstructed and there are plans to have a drop gate installed soon, which would enable the water level to be raised and lowered as it was when the canal was active, Macasek said.
Meanwhile, the Boonton Greenway Trail portion of the greenway could see the next significant milestones by next year. Macasek said the Town of Boonton plans to complete its trail in four phases and will connect the greenway with several local history sites and natural assets.
“We envision a greenway that has many branches and many stories,” he said.
Boonton is securing a contract for the Arch Bridge stabilization, with the goal of construction starting in the spring. Macasek said the railroad trestle, which is planned to be a public walkway, is in the engineering assessment phase. Acquisition of the railroad turntable on the other end of river is in negotiations with NJ TRANSIT. Stone arches that were part of the blast furnace complex will be saved and interpreted, he added.
Some of these projects, including the restoration work in Wharton, have been funded through the Transportation Alternatives Program, a competitive grant awarded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation in partnership with the NJTPA. Applications for the next round of funding are due November 3.
Sascha Frimpong, director of local project development at the NJTPA, gave an update on several other projects being funded through prior rounds of grant funding. This includes:
Peckman Crossing in Little Falls, Passaic County: New pedestrian bridge to be constructed over the Peckman River, with a path leading to bridge on either side that ties into existing Greenway trail, $1.47 million.
Jersey City Morris Canal Greenway, Hudson County: Five of 14 canal segments to be funded, $5.2 million.
The Pompton Feeder, Passaic County: This project, which is in the design phase, would create an additional eight miles of primarily off-road trails along the former Pompton Feeder of the canal, using almost six miles of NJ District Water Supply Commissions right of way, $3 million.
Trail construction, Warren County: This project, which is in the design phase, will include seven greenway segments, $1.6 million.
Waterloo Village Restoration Project, Sussex County: This project, which is in the design phase, will restore three Morris Canal-related historic buildings, Seymor R. Smith House, Waterloo Hotel, and Tenant House, $3 million.
Hackensack River Greenway
In addition to the Morris Canal Greenway updates, Sam Schroeder, a principal planner with Hudson County, gave an overview of plans to create the Hackensack River Greenway, which is also being coordinated through a working group. Hudson County adopted the Hackensack River Greenway Plan in February.
The greenway in its current state is a series of segments that have been developed by municipalities or the county. The working group is identifying key connections to create a continuous greenway from Bayonne through Jersey City and Secaucus and into North Bergen.
“We envision public access along the entirety of the waterfront,” Schroeder said, adding the new greenway would connect to others in the area, including the Hudson-Essex Greenway and the Morris Canal Greenway.