State Park Service Celebrates Improved Sussex
By Janet Dabrowski
LAFAYETTE - On a pristine summer morning, the New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks
and Forestry opened up the Sussex Branch Trail in Lafayette Township.
Nine bridges were recently completed along the
hiking trail, which enables trail users to walk 20 continuous miles
of the Sussex Branch and 47 miles of "rail trail" located throughout
Sussex and Morris counties.
Approximately 45 people gathered for the August
7 ceremony, at the site of one 9 new bridge located at Warbasse
Junction in the township.
Also present at the ceremony were Rocky Gott, Superintendent
of Parks; Jack Larken, Councilman for Andover; Jeffrey Spicka. Project
Manager of New Jersey Division of Transportation; and Greg Marshall,
Director of Parks.
Bill Foelsch, Director Division of Parks-New Jersey
Trails praised the decade - long efforts of congressional representatives
like Jim Howard, Robert Roe and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in
"setting the trail project into motion."
Foelsch said the government funds were essential
to the trail opening
"In regards to the trail project. as we know, good
things take time and we did wait for the government funds," Foelsch
said. "They were key in the process of instituting and completing
the rail trail. Also it is a very positive note that our New Jersey
tax dollars produced something beneficial right here in our own
Foelsch added later his comments on his first ride
along the trail. "I bicycled the trail on a Saturday afternoon for
a total of 5 miles. The Sussex branch was increasingly busy as was
the Paulinskill Trail. The linkage of the trails took me to a community
festival at Lafayette Village, a stop for lunch and then up to Swartswood
State forest. "
Spicka said this was rare cooperation between the
DOT and DEP on a project. This project was a unique opportunity
for he department of transportation and the department of environmental
protection to work together to build a transportation/recreational
facility to benefit walkers, bikers, hikers horseback riders and
the disabled," Spicka said.
Spicka further noted that with the initial phase
I of the bridges being complete, we look to the future for future
Phase 2 would be to improve and reconstruct the
actual trails, Spicka said. Other distance future ideas for the
trail system would be to use the linkage of the trails as possible
business opportunities along Route 206. And even using the trails
for future commuting services like walking to the train or carpooling
In 1997. Governor Whitman set aside 5250.000 for
the upgrading of the Sussex Branch Trail. In addition. one million
dollars in federal funds was received to complete the project.
Concluding the ceremony, officials and members
of the Boy Scouts Pack 180-Branchville, eagerly snapped the red
ribbon opening the trail to the public.
Spicka remarked, "enjoy the bridges, they'll be
here a long time!"
After the ceremony, Eastern Mountain Sports hosted
a hiking clinic and the State Park Service led participants on a
rails-to-trails~ history tour.
The Sussex Branch trail is part of Kittatinny Valley
State Park. It intersects with the Paulinskill Valley Trail and
traverses through a portion of Allamuchy Mountain State Park, providing
access to Cranberry Lake and nearby Waterloo Village.
The trail follows the route of the abandoned Sussex
Branch of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, which was in service from
Today, the scenic trail welcomes walkers and hikers,
biking and non-motorized vehicles, dog walkers and horseback riders.