NJ - New Rail Trail Proposed For Upper Freehold Township

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NJ - New Rail Trail Proposed For Upper Freehold Township

Postby railtrailbiker » Thu Aug 26, 2004 6:30 pm

Just off Jonathan Holmes Road, near the corner of Route 539, the view to the north is blocked by green brushes and timber utility poles that dot the easement of an old freight train line. Mayor John Mele said he hopes to change that scenery with his vision for a trail system in the township. For the past two years, Mele, the chairman of the Open Space Committee, has been working with a subcommittee researching a proposal to create a trail system in the township for horse riding, buggy rides and bicycling. Officials are planning to place the trail's route between routes 526 and 537, running south to north along a defunct railroad line, off Sharon Station Road and Route 539. The trail would connect three Monmouth County parks and two municipal parks with a contiguous pathway, Mele said. The proposal would make the township "a more walkable community," while highlighting Upper Freehold's rural character and support of the equine industry, Mele said. However, the conceptual plan already has faced scrutiny from the Planning Board and was a political issue during the Republican primary, said Mele, stepping up efforts to inform residents about the benefits of having a horse trail. "This is for a horse use and a township use," Mele said, "There's a lot of people who own horses within the township, and we wanted to create a trail for them." Committeeman William E. Miscoski, who won his bid for re-election, said the trail proposal became an issue during the primary, because residents wanted to know what Miscoski's position was on the issue. Miscoski is opposed to the trail, because it would be difficult to regulate littering and off-road vehicle joy rides on the path, as well as keep property owners from enjoying their backyards, he said. If horse lovers are searching for a place to ride, the state Assunpink Wildlife Management Area has more than 2,000 acres to be utilized, Miscoski said. "I have nothing against horse riders," Miscoski said. "I just don't want them infringing on property owners' rights." Mele argues that property owners living near the railroad easement would be able to decide if they want a trail running behind their homes. Also, connecting the township's parks and county owned parks with a trail would only enhance the township's rural identity, he said. "We're trying to link the trail with the points of interest within the township," Mele said. "This will make us a more walkable community." In March, the proposal was presented to the Planning Board, whose members had questions about the trail, including its uses, material for its construction and location. The subcommittee that Mele heads is working to answer those questions. The concept for a trail was derived from a model set by neighboring Millstone, where volunteers were successful in drawing support from the township and several property owners, Mele said. Audrey Ginolfi, the secretary for the Millstone Trailblazers, said her organization approached the Millstone Township Committee three years ago about the plan and was supported by township officials ever since. The group has a trail designated solely for horse riding, located between Prodelin Way and Millstone Road along portions of Baird and Stillhouse roads. The Millstone Trailblazers hope to one day have a continuous horse path from Charles Springs running west to Assunpink, Ginolfi said. "In the past three years we ran into three individuals who were opposed to the plan," said Ginolfi, adding that about 20 residents in Millstone have allowed the trail to run through their properties. "Everyone else has been very receptive, and the township has been very receptive. "We hope that having a public trail system will attract horse owners and help preserve the rural character of (Millstone)." Despite losing his bid for re-election in June, Mele hopes to continue working with the township on environmental issues. Creating a trail system within the township would be among his top priorities, he said. "I think this gives us an opportunity to plan for the future," Mele said. "If we don't plan it now, it will be difficult to nego-tiate with property owners later on getting a right of way.

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