Essex and Hudson counties make up the most densely populated corner of the nation’s most densely populated state: a place with lots of people and pavement but precious little open space.

But a proposal to turn nearly nine miles of abandoned railroad corridor into a 100-foot-wide linear park with a hiking and biking path, benches, gardens and art – similar to New York City’s popular High Line - has been embraced by the public.

The proposed Essex-Hudson Greenway would pass through New Jersey’s two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City, and provide much-needed recreation, transportation and access to nature.

The former Boonton Line was shut down in 2002, and early support for creating a greenway was galvanized by the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, a statewide nonprofit advocating for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The project got a huge boost in July 2020 when the Open Space Institute, a nonprofit specializing in large-scale conservation projects, reached an agreement to buy the Boonton Line property for $65 million from the Norfolk Southern Railway Company.

Time is running out for the Open Space Institute to secure the public funds to buy these 135 important acres. If local, county, state and federal funding doesn’t come through in the next six months, Norfolk Southern could begin selling off the land next January.

“We’re getting to the point where the window is closing on finalizing this purchase by the January 2022 deadline,” says Eileen Larrabee, senior vice president of communications for the Open Space Institute, speaking on behalf of the Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition. “If the deal is not finalized by deadline, they will start selling off pieces of this property for local development. Selling off any segment of this corridor will obliterate the opportunity to create this incredible greenway.

“This is one of the most congested areas in the United States, and there would be a big loss of green space if this project doesn’t come together,” she added.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a rail trail for New Jersey’s urban residents must not slip away!

The Essex-Hudson Greenway would stretch from Jersey City to Montclair, passing through Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield and Glen Ridge. These eight municipalities alone have a combined population of nearly three-quarters of a million people, and the Greenway would likely draw people from all over the region -- just as the High Line does.

When the Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition recently shared its funding concerns with the public, nearly 5,000 New Jerseyans flooded Governor Murphy’s office with emails and telephone calls. The governor responded by expressing his support for the Greenway, which Larrabee takes as an encouraging sign. “But we still need people to continue to speak out,” she emphasized.

Here are some of the benefits of the Essex-Hudson Greenway:

• A safe, off-road trail for walking, bicycling, bird watching, playing and relaxing.

• Alternative commuting options like biking or walking which will ease local traffic and reduce carbon emissions.

• Access to green space and nature for communities underserved by park land.

• An economic boost for towns along the Greenway, bringing in people to shop and dine.

• Connections to other trails, including the East Coast Greenway and the September 11th National Memorial Trail.

• Reduced flooding and stormwater runoff, thanks to plans for state-of-the-art “green infrastructure” like rain gardens, bioswales and high-tech cisterns.

We cannot let this amazing opportunity pass New Jersey by! Take action today!

Call Governor Murphy at 609-292-6000 and ask him to support the Essex Hudson Greenway. Show your support for the project on social media and use the hashtag #EssexHudsonGreenway. Tag the Governor on Facebook (@governorphilmurphy), Twitter (@GovMurphy or @PhilMurphyNJ) and Instagram (@govmurphy).

For more information on the Essex-Hudson Greenway and its benefits, go to www.essexhudsongreenway.org/ or the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition website at https://njbwc.org/.

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

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