County Readying Next Phase of Rail Trail Project

Jun 20, 2018

Popular with kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts, Cedar Creek will be a key part of the next phase of work on Ocean County’s Barnegat Branch Trail.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced it is seeking bids on the seventh phase of work on the linear path that will travel from Barnegat to Toms River once completed. The trail follows the existing right of way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the trail, said this phase of work includes an almost half-mile section and extends from South Street at William Hebrew Park in Lacey Township to Cedar Creek.

“This will provide a connection to the existing 2.75-mile trail from Dudley Park at the Cedar Creek to Hickory Lane in Berkeley Township,” Bartlett said. “This will connect Lacey and Berkeley townships along the trail.”

As part of the work, the county will make an effort to maintain the historic value of the current aging trestle over Cedar Creek by using some of its wood for interpretive displays highlighting the history of the rail line that once traveled through the area.

Some of the pilings and abutments from the aging trestle also will remain in place to keep the historical look. However, the work will include constructing a 150-foot span prefabricated bridge over Cedar Creek. The trail, as in other areas, will consist of a 10-foot wide stone dust path.

“When this is done, bikers and walkers and trail users will be able to safely cross Cedar Creek,” Bartlett said. “And we will still have kept the appearance of the original trestle that is there.”

Cedar Creek drains into Barnegat Bay and is part of the Barnegat Bay Watershed Management Area. Like most Pine Barrens streams, the water of the creek is “tea colored” because of tannic acid from the roots of the cedars lining the river banks.

Bartlett said there also will be 12 parking spaces constructed in a paved parking lot near South Street. A separate lane with a crossing over the trail will be provided for the existing canoe drop-off and pick-up on the Lacey Township side of Cedar Creek.

“If all goes as planned, construction of this part of the trail will begin in the fall after the seasonal use by canoe liveries is done so there is no disruption to those businesses,” Bartlett said.

Completion of this section is expected in early 2019.

“The Barnegat Branch Trail continues to grow in popularity with our visitors and residents,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. “It is great for walkers, joggers, bike riders and people who simply want to enjoy the many natural areas of the county.” The trail is a multi-department effort among the county Department of Parks and Recreation, Planning Department, Engineering Department and Security Department, he said.

To get the trail under way, in October 2002, the county 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 16 miles from Barnegat to Toms River.

“The design of the Barnegat Branch Trail is sensitive to the changing landscape of central Ocean County,” said Bartlett, who also serves as liaison to the county 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.”

The county has completed six phases of the trail, which includes 7 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 said. “The county has already received four grants for the trail totaling $1.253 million.”

Bartlett said several Ocean County parks and natural land areas are located within walking or bicycling distance of the Barnegat Branch Trail including Lochiel Creek in Barnegat Township, Berkeley Island County Park, Wells Mills County Park in Waretown and Enos Pond County Park in Lacey Township.

“This trail not only offers the user the opportunity to see nature at its best in Ocean County, it offers access to Ocean County’s premier park sites,” Bartlett. “It’s a perfect combination.”

— Eric Englund


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