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ADVERTISER-NEWS:-SOUTH EDITION - Thursday, August 19, 1999
State Park Service Celebrates Improved Sussex Branch Trail

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 state."

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 development."

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 lots.

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 1848 {1854-DR} to 1966.

Today, the scenic trail welcomes walkers and hikers, biking and non-motorized vehicles, dog walkers and horseback riders.