Public Input Sought for Barnegat Branch Trail Linkages
Posted by Michael Favor III on
Ocean County and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority are asking the public to help identify potential walking and biking linkages for the next phase of the Barnegat Branch Trail.
A meeting seeking public input is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m., Sept. 26 at the Berkeley Township branch of the Ocean County Library, 30 Station Road, here.
"We are looking for public input on bicycle and pedestrian connections to and from the Northern section of the Barnegat Branch Trail between Berkeley Township and Toms River, with local and regional destinations," said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department, which is helping to coordinate the surveys. "Community members, especially those who rely on walking or bicycling, offer unique and specific perspectives on the transportation networks that they use every day."
In addition to the public meeting, the community is invited to provide their local knowledge directly on a crowdsourcing map on the study website at https://bbtconnections.com.
This two-year study, conducted by Michael Baker International, will result in a plan that will provide safe and healthy travel alternatives and encourage increased walking and biking, while prompting economic growth in an environmentally friendly way.
"Public feedback on potential trail connections has been important in guiding this study and producing recommendations that are most likely to improve safety and accessibility," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. "Connections should accommodate safe, healthy, and efficient means of travel to schools, parks, libraries, historical sites, and other destinations near the trail."
The Barnegat Branch trail follows the existing right of way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
To get the trail under way, in October 2002, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders purchased 8.8 miles of the old railroad property in three towns – Berkeley, Ocean and Barnegat townships. This purchase was supplemented in 2004 when Lacey Township granted to Ocean County an easement over its 4.8-mile trail segment. Coupled with the existing bike path in Beachwood and the planned trail along the historic railroad property parallel to Route 166 in South Toms River, the completed trail will span about 16 miles from Barnegat Township to Toms River Township.
"The design of the Barnegat Branch Trail is sensitive to the changing landscape of central Ocean County," has said Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the trail and the County's Department of Parks and Recreation. "Trail visitors experience wooded areas in Barnegat and Waretown's southern reach before transitioning into an active-use corridor that parallels Route 9 north of Waretown."
Ocean County has completed six phases of the trail, which includes seven contiguous miles from Burr Street in Barnegat Township to Lacey Road in Lacey Township. In addition, almost 2.8 miles from Dudley Park at the Cedar Creek in Lacey Township to Hickory Lane in Berkeley Township have been completed.
"It was always the County's intent to complete the trail in segments as we received clearance and funding to move ahead," Bartlett has said. "The County has already received four grants for the trail totaling $1,253,000.
"Residential and commercial neighbors border much of the trail through Lacey Township before it returns to forest and then borders an old sand mine in a portion of Berkeley Township," he has said.
The Barnegat Branch Trail will provide a walking and bicycling backbone through Ocean County and opportunities to provide connectivity between the County's communities.
"As the Barnegat Branch Trail continues to grow in popularity with visitors and residents, this study will help make sure that they have input in trail connections," Little said. "We encourage those who have suggestions to attend the public meeting and help us in the study to use the trail to its full potential."
For more information regarding the study and the meeting, visit https://bbtconnections.com/.