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
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
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
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."