In 2010, Union County Parks revised and updated its Master Plan for the County Parks system. Below are sections from that 200-page document that deal with paths, trails and greenways.
Planning Goals and Action Strategies
This Master Plan has been developed to address the issues Union County’s residents feel are important to a viable and accessible parks and recreation system. It is intended to achieve realistic goals for the enhancement of Union County’s social, cultural and environmental well being. To achieve that, this plan recommends that the County focus on five specific Goals and their associated strategic steps summarized below that will drive future decision making.
Goal 1: Provide an Interconnected System of High Quality, Accessible, Multi-Use Trails and Greenway Corridors.
Strategy: Work with other government agencies and community partners to improve walkable access to parks and recreation opportunities throughout Union County.
- Partner with schools, libraries, and other public places to provide park and recreation amenities throughout neighborhoods and close to homes.
- Consider opportunities for trails in areas that have little or none currently. The long-term goal should be to connect with existing trail network where possible.
- Work with other City departments and community groups to ensure safe pedestrian access across physical barriers to parks and recreation facilities. Incorporate traffic calming strategies at access points to parks, open space, and trail heads.
- Create walking /bicycle maps with routes and mileages of park and trails. Make these available online and in printed form. Provide wayfinding signage along trails and walking routes to make them more useful to visitors.
- Look for opportunities to provide trail links to specific destinations like schools, parks, indoor recreational facilities, and businesses. More useful to visitors.
- Provide adequate funding to maintain existing and new trails.
- Develop partnerships and user agreements with utility companies to develop trails corridors in easement right-of ways where safe and appropriate.
- Work with the municipalities to develop a wayfinding program that links and coordinates all municipal and county open spaces
Strategy: Encourage outdoor recreation for all ages and ability levels.
- Provide trails that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Provide a variety of trail experiences and trails that serve multiple uses.
- Where appropriate, permit multiple uses of trails – walking, running, bicycling, and horseback riding.
- Provide adequate opportunity for rest and contemplation.
Strategy: Develop standards for trail amenities.
- Furnish trail systems with appropriate supporting trailhead improvements that include interpretive, directory and mileage signage as well as rules and regulations for trail use.
- Provide site furnishings such as benches, bike racks, dog waste stations, trash containers.
- Utilize native vegetation in planted areas where possible.
- Provide safe parking areas.
- Provide lighting in high-use areas and where appropriate.
Strategy: Facilitate community involvement and stewardship.
- Create a volunteer work party program. (Boy & Girl Scouts)
- Develop an Adopt-a-trail program.
- Encourage participation in community trail events.
- Expand on existing relationships with schools, business and non-profit organizations.
Strategy: Development of a Union County Greenway System
- Provide a comprehensive system of multipurpose off-road trails using alignments through public landholdings as well as cooperating private properties where appropriate.
- Plan, including the identification of public and private properties that would be included within a County greenway network.
- Link residential neighborhoods to community facilities like parks, special use areas, downtowns and other unique or special destinations.
- Support development of a regional “ Greenbelt”
- Connect trails with transit stops, bike routes, and sidewalks to create a comprehensive network of non-motorized transportation throughout the County.
- Develop trails and greenway corridors that protect natural resources, including plant and animal habitats.
- Ensure safe road crossings by implementing design standards for road signs, surface treatments and striping.(23)
Recommended New Park and Property Acquisition
The County has a strong established system of public spaces. The satisfaction levels from the community are high for parks, natural areas, and programs. The real challenge over the next ten years will be to balance existing resources and programs with new and changing needs, striking the right balance among a broad range of competing interests. The County must strike the right balance as they continue to maintain this quality of service and level of public satisfaction in the future, adjusting to continued population growth, increased demand for programming and natural spaces, and ever changing economics and demographics. In response to that challenge, this plan sets forth six major goals to guide policy-making, public investments and County management of public spaces during the next decade.
Greenway Program/Rails to Trails Program
A greenway is a corridor of protected open space that is managed for conservation and/or recreation. The common characteristic of greenways is that they all go somewhere. Greenways follow natural land or water features, like ridges or rivers, or human landscape features like abandoned railroad corridors and canals. They link forests, parks, cultural and historic sites with each other and, in some cases, with populated areas. Greenways not only protect environmentally sensitive lands and wildlife, but also can provide people with access to outdoor recreation and enjoyment close to home.
Rail-trails are multi-purpose public paths created from former railroad corridors. Most often flat or following a gentle grade, they traverse urban, suburban and rural America. Ideal for many uses, such as bicycling, walking, inline skating, cross-country skiing, equestrian and wheelchair use, rail-trails are extremely popular as recreation and transportation corridors. In addition a rail-with-trail is a public path that runs parallel to a still-active rail line. Rail and trail share an easement and are sometimes separated by extensive fencing. Some trails are adjacent to high-speed, high-frequency trains while others run alongside tourist railroads and slow-moving excursion trains.
The County maintains an extensive array of open space that could ultimately be linked together by a series of trails, parks and conservation areas
In an effort to create a continuous greenway throughout the existing County Park system, a major component would be to utilize abandoned Railway ROW’s by creating trails. There are currently two (2) abandoned Railways that can be used to successfully link several County Parks. The Rahway Valley Railroad (RVR) and the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT) currently have Railroad ROW’s that could be used to successfully create a link from Summit to Linden collectively. Conversations with Dom Critelli
(Acting Manager – Bureau of Rail Services for NJDOT) have stated that the RVR is a state owned line and is being controlled by the County. County has confirmed that this line is inactive. As for the SIRT section, NJDOT has executed an agreement with the County to provide funding for the reactivation efforts. Funding has run out, but line is 95% complete. It appears that no further progress has been made in years.
The RVR section runs from Summit to Roselle Park. Starting in Hidden Valley Park the RR ROW continues by connecting Houdaille Quarry (Summit/Springfield), Briant Park (Summit), Meisel Park, Rahway River Parkway (Springfield Section near Meisel Park), Galloping Hill Golf Course (Kenilworth) and Blackbrook (Kenilworth). The termination point of the existing RR is on Westfield Avenue in Roselle Park.
The SIRT section runs from Cranford to Staten Island, although the section of interest would only run to Linden. The possible beginning location in Cranford could be a 5 acre vacant lot adjacent to the RR ROW located on South Avenue East. Currently, the lot is owned by Lehigh Acquisition (Block 511, Lot 1). The termination point for this trail system would be in Linden along another vegetated vacant lot. This lot is owned by the DOT within Block 436, Lot unknown). Due to the possibility of this line eventually being reactivated, a temporary boardwalk could be placed over the existing tracks.
Proposed Trail System
Kenilworth (possible route for East Coast Greenway)
Property north of Kawameeh Park consists of 32 acres (marshland) is owned by Elizabethtown Water Company (Block 2802, Lot 4) and can be used to connect Kawameeh Park by putting in an elevated boardwalk.
The existing trail from Blackbrook can be connected to the new trail created along the RVR ROW and continue along Fairway Drive South to a property owned by the Park Commission along Fairway Drive East which consists of 32 acres.
No parkland available to make link between Cedar Brook Park and Green Brook Park. A bike lane/walking path with signage along residential streets may work. A potential path could be to follow Pemberton Avenue to Grant Avenue and make a right. Continue following Grant Avenue which turns in West End Avenue. Entrance to park is on left side.
Elizabeth River Parkway (ERP)
With the exception of Mattano Park and the Prudent section of ERP, the rest of the parks consisting of Elizabeth River Parkway can be connected via trails/bike paths through much of the vegetated land that exists within these parks along the river.
From the potential property in Linden (where RVR trail would terminate) a link to Mattano Park in Elizabeth can be made via local roads. Pedestrian bridge over Rt. 1 would be needed and connect to Tuxedo Pl (along Rt. 278). Follow Tuxedo to Bedle Pl and continue to tee with Myrtle. (Along Bedle are other municipal parks – 8th Ward Park and Public Park) Make right onto Myrtle, left onto Clarkson Ave, stay right at triangle to Arnett St, right on Summer and entrance to Mattano Park is on right side. Total length is approximately. 1.5 miles.
Passaic River Parkway
An existing trail system exists through much of this park along the Passaic River. A new walkway/trail can connect the entire park together within the Passaic River Parkway system.
Rahway River Parkway
There is potential to create a trail system throughout the entire Rahway River Parkway. The trail system can begin at the Linden Landfill. Throughout Rahway, existing developments along the river have already started creating walkways on their properties. Eventually, the goal would be to connect all of these to create a continuous path. Leaving downtown Rahway, the vegetated land along the river increases with the opportunity to create the trail system. Several county parks already exist along the river or within close proximity.
A trail system can be developed to successfully link Hidden Valley Park, the Quarry and Watchung Reservation. Trail can connect to Old Coach Rd. and continue to Baltustrol Rd where it can become a bike path along the road. Path can continue over the Rt. 78 overpass, where an entrance into the Reservation can be created. Once in the reservation, there are several existing trails that can be linked. In addition it is suggested that a bikeway corridor on Glenside Avenue be designated that can connect the RVR ROW in Summit to the Watchung Reservation.
Watchung Reservation Trail
Using existing county property southwest of Watchung Reservation a trail can be made to connect the end of the Deer Path Trail to the proposed Summit-Mountainside-Springfield Trail and back to the Rahway Valley Railroad. One side of this trail uses an underpass at the quarry to cross Rt 78 and connect back to the RVR, the trail crosses Summit Road at Green Hill Road and through an existing Springfield Board of Education section of property. The other side of the trail crosses at the Summit Road overpass and crosses through a Union County Park Commission property off of Baltustrol Road to enter Hidden Valley Park and connect to the RVR.
Berkeley Heights Parks
Two parks can be formed north of Springfield Ave and south of Park Ave in Berkeley Heights along the Passaic River Parkway on existing township property.
A pathway can be constructed connecting the fields at Summit High School to the Passaic River Parkway by utilizing City of Summit property along Butler Parkway , traveling northeast on River Road and crossing through a Union County Parks Commission property across from Brainerd Road.(170-171)