BERKELEY – Public input is being sought about potential walking and biking linkages for the next phase of the Barnegat Branch Trail.
Ocean County and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority will hold a meeting 5:30-8 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Berkeley branch of the Ocean County Library, 30 Station Road, for public input.
“We are looking for public input on bicycle and pedestrian connections to and from the Northern section of the Barnegat Branch Trail between Berkeley Township and Toms River, with local and regional destinations,” Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department, said. That department is helping to coordinate the surveys. “Community members, especially those who rely on walking or bicycling, offer unique and specific perspectives on the transportation networks that they use every day.”
A crowd-sourcing map, where the community can provide their local knowledge directly, is available at bbtconnections.com.
The two-year study will be conducted by Michael Baker International. At its conclusion, the study will provide plans for travel alternatives that will encourage walking and biking. The county believes it will stimulate economic growth in an environmentally friendly way as well.
“Public feedback on potential trail connections has been important in guiding this study and producing recommendations that are most likely to improve safety and accessibility,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said. “Connections should accommodate safe, healthy, and efficient means of travel to schools, parks, libraries, historical sites, and other destinations near the trail.”
The trail follows the existing right-of-way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
In October 2002, the county purchased 8.8 miles of the old railroad property in three towns: Berkeley, Ocean and Barnegat townships. In 2004, the county secured an easement from Lacey Township over its 4.8-mile segment. All this, with the existing bike path in Beachwood and the planned trail in South Toms River along the railroad property parallel to Route 166, the completed trail, stretching from Barnegat to Toms River, will span 16 miles.
“The design of the Barnegat Branch Trail is sensitive to the changing landscape of central Ocean County,” Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the trail and the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said. “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.”
The county has already completed six phases of the trail in Barnegat, Lacey and Berkeley townships.
“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.
“As the Barnegat Branch Trail continues to grow in popularity with visitors and residents, this study will help make sure that they have input in trail connections,” Little said. “We encourage those who have suggestions to attend the public meeting and help us in the study to use the trail to its full potential.”
For more information on the study and the meeting, visit bbtconnections.com/.