The state of New Jersey will pay $65 million to acquire nine miles of abandoned rail track, allowing for the eventual creation of a long-envisioned Greenway that will be the state’s answer to New York City’s High Line.
“I think when we look back 30, 40 years from now, this is a top-five accomplishment,” Gov. Phil Murphy told a news conference Friday to announce the deal with the rail bed’s owner, Norfolk Southern.
“It will allow us to rethink mobility throughout the region,” Murphy added of the 100-foot right-of-way the trail offers. “This is our High Line moment, and we intend to make the most of it.”
Proponents of what had been known as the Essex-Hudson Greenway have campaigned for years to acquire the land and create the park, which would stretch through eight communities from Montclair through the Meadowlands to the west side of Jersey City.
“Not everybody can go to the shore for the weekend, not everybody can get away. These are parks for people who need a break, who maybe don’t have a backyard,” said. Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
Advocates who have worked long and hard to get to this point also see this linear park as a help in fighting the impact of climate change.
“To do rain gardens and natural habitat restoration, all of which will help us with flooding mitigation,” said Deb Kagan of the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition.
But as a greenway for hiking, roller skating and especially biking, the plan offers an alternative to what bicyclists throughout the area face today.
“you go on local roads and you deal with traffic. You deal with cars, you deal with trucks, you deal with buses,” said Patrick Conlon, the President of Bike JC.
The Open Space Institute, which spearheaded the project, struck a deal with Norfolk Southern in July 2020 to acquire the land, but it was not until Friday that the funding was actually in place to make it happen.
Given that the rail bed has been abandoned for nearly 20 years, and will require environmental mediation, it is unclear when any or all of the park would open, however.