Ocean County Press Release
WARETOWN – Ocean County will celebrate National Trails Day June 2 by highlighting a section of the Barnegat Branch Trail in Waretown.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 2, the public is invited to participate in various activities hosted by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and provided by Ocean County departments and Ocean Township agencies.
"This will be a day where people can learn more about our trail, they can try out the new exercise equipment, they can view the interpretive display at the Country Lane Trailhead, participate in nature walks and just enjoy all that the outdoors have to offer along the trail," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little.
The day kicks off with a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting with Ocean County freeholders and Ocean Township officials at the interpretive display area of the Country Lane Trailhead.
"The display highlights the history of the railroad and life in Ocean Township while the railroad was in operation," Little said. "History plays a key role in our trail. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act signed into law by President Johnson on Oct. 2, 1968."
Additionally, an outdoor exercise area near Railroad Avenue will be officially opened to the public. A certified personal trainer from the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation will be on site to demonstrate how to use the equipment, which is manufactured by Kompan.
And, the Ocean County Security Department will host a bike rodeo including bicycle safety talks and demonstrations.
Informational tables will be hosted by the Ocean County Planning Department, Parks and Recreation, the Ocean Township Recreation Department and Police Department among other agencies.
"This is a great day to come out and learn about the community and the county," Little said. "We are very proud of this trail and continue to work toward its completion."
The Barnegat Branch trail follows the existing right of way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
To get the trail under way, in October 2002, Ocean 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 Township to Toms River Township.
"The design of the Barnegat Branch Trail is sensitive to the changing landscape of central Ocean County," said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the County's 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."
Ocean County has completed six phases of the trail, which includes seven 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. A 0.45-mile section connecting Hebrew Park in Lacey Township to the Cedar Creek in Berkeley Township is under design and awaiting bid for construction.
"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 $1,253,000."
"Residential and commercial neighbors border much of the trail through Lacey Township before it returns to forest and then borders an old sand mine in a portion of Berkeley Township," he said.
The primary surface finish of the trail is a stone dust surface. As work progresses, the trail will feature a number of trail facilities including comfort stations, trail signage and historical exhibits.
The facilities are being built in a style reminiscent of passenger and freight stations that once served Barnegat Township, the Forked River section of Lacey Township, the Pinewald section of Berkeley Township and Toms River.
Bartlett said that several Ocean County parks and county 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 premiere park sites," Bartlett said. "It's a perfect combination."