Walking To A Deeper Appreciation Of NJ Open Spaces

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by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Land is its own best advocate.  Few indeed are those who can walk through the Garden State’s spectacular natural areas and not want to see more land saved.  This spring, let the land speak to you: Join the Cross-Jersey Walking Challenge!

The Cross-Jersey Walking Challenge invites people to walk 100 miles across the state – from Trenton to New York City.  The idea springs from a partnership between the FreeWalkers (www.freewalkers.org), a long distance walking group, and the East Coast Greenway Alliance (www.greenway.org).

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Accept the Challenge and you can join any – or all – of three group walks along different sections of the trail, or complete the 100 miles at your own pace and schedule. Each section of the Cross-Jersey Challenge has its own website, complete with routes, maps, descriptions and frequently asked questions.

Saturday, April 9 – “Great Canal Walk”:  Starting at the Calhoun Street Bridge in downtown Trenton, walkers will hike the main section of the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal for 38 miles to New Brunswick.  The estimated walking time is 11 hours! The canal was built 175 years ago to provide efficient shipping between Philadelphia and New York. Today, the canal is mostly intact and is preserved as part of the 70-mile D&R Canal State Park, one of central Jersey’s most popular recreation destinations.  Find out more about the walk and register at www.TR2NB40.org .

April 16 – “The Tween Walk”:  Compared to the 38-mile trek, the 12.3-mile, flat Tween hike will be a walk in the park – or rather, a walk to the park: Metropark!  Starting in New Brunswick, walkers will follow sidewalks to Roosevelt Park in Edison and on to the Metropark train station in Iselin.  Still, this stroll will take an estimated 4.5 hours. Roosevelt Park is a great example of an urban green space, with athletic fields, picnic areas, playgrounds, a lake, a theater and even (in season) an ice skating rink.  Find out more about this segment and register at www.nb2mp10.drupalgardens.com .

May 21 – “The Big Walk”:  The final and most difficult leg of the Challenge is a 50-mile urban walk from Metropark through Newark and Jersey City before linking up with the Liberty Water Gap Trail in Liberty State Park. The finale is a PATH train ride to Penn Station in New York City. This walk will take an estimated 17 hours, but not everyone is expected to go the full distance in one day. Public transportation options are available along the route, so walkers looking for a shorter trek can opt to join late or leave early. Find details and registration information for this segment of the Challenge at www.NJ2NY50.org .

Whether you join the organized walks or set off on our own – or some combination – you can track your progress by registering for the Challenge at www.crossjerseywalk.org.

The East Coast Greenway is 3,000 miles of trails, parks and walking paths stretching from the Canadian border in Maine to Key West, Florida.  It’s evolving, with about 25 percent of the Greenway trail on traffic-free paths so far.

The East Coast Greenway is a grander version of a vision New Jersey Conservation Foundation and others have long held for this state we’re in: a place where every resident can walk out their door and access an interconnected system of parks, trails and protected natural areas, farmland, and historic places.

Shake off the cobwebs and chills of winter with exercise and fresh air!  And don’t forget that there remains an ever greater challenge:  saving New Jersey’s land and natural resources for future generations. It’s is a long journey, but well worth it!

If you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources, please visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.


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