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New Jersey Herald - November 26, 1982 issue
From Rails to Recreation
State continues acquiring abandoned lines

By Tim Doherty

Staff Writer

Branchville - The milk trains don't run on the old Erie-Lackawanna Sussex Branch between Netcong and Branchville anymore, but bicyclists, joggers, equestrians, and other trail users soon may.

As a result of the recent purchase of more than 12 miles of railroad right-of-way between Andover Junction and Branchville, the state, through its Green Acres program, now owns most of the 21-mile line, which it plans to incorporate into a statewide trails system.

ACCORDING to Jeanne Donlon, Chief of the Bureau of State Land Acquisition, Green Acres bought the 116-acre property from the estate of the bankrupt railroad for $336,000, or $2,900 an acre.

Green Acres had purchased most of the southern portion of the branch, slightly more than six miles between Netcong and Andover Junction, in December 1979.

Not included in the recent purchase are the right-of-way and yard area in Newton, which the town plans to use for a bypass road and for commercial development, and railroad property in Branchville, which the borough purchased in 1978 and 1980.

NEWTON has not closed on the railroad property in the borough, but Town Manager Paul Busch said he hopes the purchase will be completed by the end of the year.

Mrs. Donlon announced the purchase at a recent "Working Together for Trails," a citizens conference concerned with implementing the N.J. Trails Master Plan developed by the sponsors of the conference, the N.J. Trails Council and Green Acres.

The Sussex Branch is listed in the plan as one of three abandoned lines proposed by the state for trail use in the county. The former New York, Susquehanna & Western mainline, now owned by the City of Newark, and the old Lehigh & New England, presently owned by Utility Propane Co., are likewise suggested for trail development; both connect with the Sussex Branch.

"THAT'S GOING to require some development money," said Mrs. Donlon of the proposed Sussex Branch Trail. "They're going to have to re-build some of those bridges."

Nine bridges are missing between Warbasse Junction in Lafayette and Branchville.

Asked how the state would fund development of the trails, Mrs. Donlon said she was hoping a new $200 million Green Acres bond issue would be passed next year.

IRONICALLY, Recycling Railroads, Inc., the organization that had proposed such abandoned railroad trails and had recommended state purchase of the Sussex Branch nearly four years ago, decided to dissolve as a corporation earlier this month, citing the lack of staff to carry out its programs.

"That does not mean that the idea and the concept has been dissolved," said Brian McGarry of Knowlton, a member of the group's board of directors. "It hasn't been a bad idea. As a matter of fact in five years of our existence, we've seen the focus center on the concept that really we were in the vanguard.

"The idea's very much alive," McGarry continued, "and is being worked on in areas throughout the state, the northeast, and the country."