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New Jersey Herald - June 9, 2002 electronic edition

Newton missing rail-trail opportunity

New Jersey Herald Editor's Mailbag


As the Rails-to-Trails Initiative nears the 15,000- mile mark across the United States and countless communities benefit dramatically from the valuable asset that a rail trail brings not only to adjacent property values but in patronage of small businesses nearby, Newton seems to be asleep at the switch (no pun intended). Riding or walking through the town of Newton, one has absolutely no idea that a trail actually goes through the town or can be taken to adjacent wildlife areas. Newton has totally ignored this priceless asset as its Main Street struggles to survive.

Countless other success stories should provide an easy trail (again no pun) for the town's leadership to take to either designate the trail themselves at only nominal cost, or to encourage and enable the state Parks and Forestry Division to do it as it has done on other trails in such an enriching manner. Either the government leadership or the Newton Chamber of Commerce should embrace this opportunity and provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.

A recent article in "Rails to Trails" magazine cited that "trail proximity automatically raises property value by $5,000." The study undertaken in Brown County, Wis., reported that combined property value of two houses near the Fox River Trail has improved by a whopping $280,000 since that trail opened in May 2001. Now wouldn't that be great for Newton's tax coffers at no increase in operating expenses.

Rails-to-Trails has been embraced across our beautiful country, not only by local governments and commerce groups, but also by transit agencies that have added bicycle friendly equipment to their fleets or trains and buses. From Amtrak, which has added baggage cars with bike racks, to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, which has installed bike carriers on the front of its buses, it is getting easier and easier to travel with your bike to the trail from great distances. provides a location, overnight facility list including B&Bs, restaurants, trail description and map to any place in the United States, while a trail hiker or rider wouldn't be able to find his way through Newton, and if that person navigated their way through the town wouldn't have any sign from the Newton Main Street just a few blocks away that welcomes them and their patronage.

As Newton battles surrounding towns for big boxes and its Main Street is peppered with closed or struggling businesses, it is a shame that this tremendous economic engine sits idling in their yard (no pun).

Thomas Meyer