‘Greenway’ will hyperlink trails with companies and recreation areas

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The creation of a ‘greenway’ of footpaths and waterways connecting businesses with leisure and community facilities is underway in West Milford, with help from a $40,000 grant from Highlands Council.

Members of the West Milford Economic Development Committee (EDC) and the West Milford Environmental Commission (EC) are working together to bring a new concept of housing to West Milford residents and visitors. Greenways are outdoor spaces that connect people and places. Each greenway is unique and reflects the character of each area in which it is built.

Highlands Council recognized the Greenway Feasibility Study which aims to implement recommendations in the recently completed Sustainable Economic Development Plan and the Community Open Space/Recreation Plan, both of which are consistent and support the objectives of the Highlands Regional Master Plan. Funding has been shifted from an earlier equal-amount grant to Jessica Caldwell of Newton to complete the Greenway facility study, Lisa J. Plevin, executive director of Highlands Council, told Mayor Michele Dale in a letter. With the approval, the municipality was authorized to allow Caldwell to begin work. Funding is dependent on the community’s ability to complete all work described in the scope of work within the proposed timeline.

An EC subcommittee commissioned by Mayor Michele Dale has been studying and evaluating the possibility of establishing a “greenway” or “pathway” along Belcher’s Creek from Pinecliff Lake to Camp Hope and then to Brown’s Point at Greenwood Lake with work in the second round. In addition to being pedestrian only, the trail facilitates kayaking and/or canoeing of Belcher’s Creek.

Phase One of the overall Greenway concept, when completed, will connect Pinecliff Lake to the Wallisch Homestead and then lead to Camp Hope via Belcher’s Creek. This link begins at the end of New Jersey Avenue (on Union Valley Road at the base of Pinecliff Lake Dam) and continues to the Wallisch Property and on to Camp Hope. There is some private property in this section so some easements need to be obtained from management.

EC Chair Steve Sangle, who also chairs the Greenway Subcommittee, said work is underway to define the path of Leg Two of the trail connecting Camp Hope to Brown’s Point on Greenwood Lake. He said there seemed to be a variety of different possible routes along Belcher’s Creek that needed to be considered.

“We will do our best to determine the most environmentally friendly route with the fewest number of costly options and environmental disruptions,” Sangle said. “For both phases we will try to connect the greenway with commercial and recreational areas such as ball fields and hiking trails. The business parks and neighborhoods – for example Lincoln Village, ShopRite, Bearfort Village, Belcher’s Run, Tractor Supply and Greenbrook Estates. Possible parking and economic revitalization of these areas are also possible considerations.”

This is just the beginning of the community’s Greenway network. Sangle and his committee will explore more trail connections and other ways for residents to get away from need areas like malls and trails.

Tom Castronova, Secretary of the EDC, shared details of mapping West Milford’s outdoor opportunities when addressing a recent meeting of the local board. He said the target audience for a proposed map includes residents and visitors, hikers, backpackers, paddlers, cyclists, potential users, land managers, recreation/conservation planners, government officials, outfitters, local businesses, funders and others.

The EDC’s goal through the proposed map is to generate interest in West Milford, New Jersey’s outdoor recreation and open space opportunities, orient people to and within these locations, connect users with relevant local businesses, stewardship groups and governments, and while promoting sustainable practices visiting public lands and waters,

Castronova said the map will accurately show all legitimate outdoor recreational facilities within the map extent, including public areas (states, state parks, county parks, local parks), rivers/lakes, trailheads, boat launches, hiking trails, points of interest, lookouts, campgrounds and cultural/interpretative sites. He reported that working with regional land managers, outdoor recreation organizations, nonprofit organizations and governments would be done to obtain and use up-to-date data to create the most accurate and well-verified map possible.

The proposed map would be two-sided in trail guide format, showing details of public lands, roads, trails, points of interest, community and cultural information, and reporting infrastructure, topography, land cover and hydrography on one side of the map. Descriptive text, informative tables, graphs, details and photos would be on the other side.

Castronova gave a timeline for the map, saying initial data collection and connections will begin in January 2023, with work on the project expected to begin in March 2023 and the map to be completed by January 1, 2024. Total cost was estimated at $5,000. The work would be done by a professional card company.