UNION COUNTY—As Union County moves to close the last missing links in the county parks system, an agreement with Mountainside will pave the way for a connecting path between Echo Lake Park and the Watchung Reservation.
The link would create a path through the Mountainside Community Pool complex, from Mountain Avenue, through to the Route 22 pedestrian overpass that links to an off-road path parallel to New Providence Road.
The new bicycle path would utilize the access road to the pool complex and then pass around the far side of the pool’s picnic grove, connecting to an existing path that leads to the municipal building. Under the plan, half of the existing fitness loop path will be reserved for walkers, while the remaining section will become a multi-purpose trail to be shared with bicyclists.
In late December, the borough council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the county’s plan to create the off-road bicycle path, citing the importance of creating safe bicycle paths that “link key destinations.”
The resolution noted that the path would enable bicyclists to have an off-road connection between the parks.
Mountainside Mayor Paul Mirabelli said he and the members of the governing body were thrilled at the prospect of connecting the parks.
“The borough does not have a lot of sidewalks, which while aesthetically pleasing, presents a challenge when it comes to providing for the safety of walkers and bicyclists,” the mayor said. “Having a path like this, which kids and families could walk or bike together for miles, is just great.”
When the noted Olmsted landscape architectural firm designed the Union County parks system nearly 100 years ago, one of the central themes was enabling residents to be able to take long, uninterrupted walks in nature.
Although thousands of acres were preserved when the county created the parks system, funding limitations prevented the full scope of the Olmsted vision from becoming a reality. In recent years, through land acquisition funded by the county’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust fund and other funding sources, some of those gaps were filled in.
When the link is completed, it will be possible for residents in the center of the county to bike or hike from Nomahegan Park in Cranford, head on through Lenape Park and then Echo Lake, cross Route 22 and then head up to within a block of the Watchung Reservation while never having to utilize a public roadway. The new link also provides additional options to bicyclists travelling the East Coast Greenway, which runs from Maine to Florida and passes through Union County.
With Mountainside now signed on, the county can move ahead with seeking possible grant money to help defray the cost of the connecting path. But between funding applications, engineering and design work, and construction, it will likely take at least two years to complete the project, county officials said.
GOING FOR A WINTER WALK… Mountainside resident Jeffrey Bauer takes his Corgi named Bailey for a walk along the loop path behind the borough municipal building on Route 22. A portion of the path would be used as part of a connecting route that would link Echo Lake Park and the Watchung Reservation
BIKES WOULD BE ALLOWED…under a resolution passed by the Mountainside Borough Council that approves utilizing a section of the trail behind the municipal building to create a connecting path between Echo Lake Park and the Watchung Reservation. The link would create a path through the Mountainside Community Pool complex, from Mountain Avenue, through to the Route 22 pedestrian overpass that links to an off-road path parallel to New Providence Road.
A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES…could literally begin on this path some day. Under a plan approved by the Mountainside Borough Council, a portion of the path would be incorporated into a connecting trail between the Watchung Reservation and Echo Lake Park. The path to Echo Lake already links up to a path through Lenape Park, where it intersects with the East Coast Greenway, the 3,000-mile trail system linking 25 major cities from Maine to Florida.
CROSSING ROUTE 22…is a breeze on the pedestrian bridge in Mountainside. Under a resolution passed by the Borough Council, Union County would create a connecting path through the Mountainside Community Pool complex, from Mountain Avenue, through to the Route 22 pedestrian overpass that links to an off-road path parallel to New Providence Road. The link would make it possible for residents, but especially youngsters, to travel safely off-road between the Watchung Reservation and Echo Lake Park.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!