BERKELEY – For many years, the landmark trestle on the border of Berkeley and Lacey townships has been a refuge for many who come to enjoy the cool waters of Cedar Creek on blazing summer days or take in the peace of the woods.
Unfortunately, at times it has also attracted out-of-towners, drunks and even heroin users. Now that Ocean County has begun a project aimed at connecting the existing Barnegat Branch Trail from Berkeley to South Street in Lacey Township, hopefully things will improve.
The county has closed the portion of the trail from the trail entrance in Dudley Park in Bayville, around the Cedar Creek and roughly 1,200 feet north of the trestle in Berkeley Township. But parking is still available at Serpentine Boulevard and visitors can still use the trail up to the barricaded area, county officials said.
Work on the project should be completed by early summer. The Board of Freeholders awarded a $1,066,624 contract to Midlantic Construction last November.
“The closure is necessary while we continue our work in creating this almost 16-mile linear park, which ultimately will travel from Burr Street in Barnegat Township to Toms River Township,” said county Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines said. Haines is the county liaison to the Barnegat Branch Trail.
“When completed this section will offer residents and visitors better access to Cedar Creek – an environmental jewel in the county,” she said.
The trestle won’t be gone completely. Some pilings and abutments will stay, to keep the historical look. But the county plans to construct a 150-foot prefabricated bridge over Cedar Creek to make things safer.
The Barnegat Branch Trail follows the existing right of way of the old Barnegat Branch division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Ocean County purchased 8.8 miles of the old railroad property in three townships – Berkeley, Ocean and Barnegat – back in October of 2002. Add in the 4.8-mile trail segment Lacey granted to Ocean County in an easement in 2004 and the planned property parallel to Route 166 in South Toms River, the completed trail will span 16 miles from Barnegat Township to Toms River.
When the project is completed there will be 12 parking spaces constructed in a paved parking lot near South Street. A separate lane with a crossing over the trail will be provided for the existing canoe drop off and pick up on the Lacey Township side of Cedar Creek, county officials said.
Lacey officials in previous years were very concerned about problems at the trestle site, including wild parties, drugs, vandalism, open burning and littering.
Problems at the trestle at night could also expose Lacey to liability issues, officials have said.