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The Township Journal - December 15, 2006 issue


BYRAM -- Hikers frustrated with the condition of the Sussex Branch Trail through the township take heart: a $25,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection will be used to repair the 2,000 feet between North Shore Road and Whitehall Hill Road, according to Margaret McGarrity, secretary to the enrionmental and open space committees.

McGarrity explained the trail is the old rail bed of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western commuter line. It has suffered erosion and flooding problems for the past few years, she said. The state owns the trail, but Byram applied for the grant to help pay for repairs, which will be done by state employees and contractors.

A second section, slightly longer, has even more severe problems, McGarrity noted. Part of that section was washed out from runoff from Route 206 which also gouged out channels along the trail. Because the rail bed was flat, it is on an embankment which gets steeper as it travels into Andover Township. The major washout is near the township line. McGarrity said the township is attempting to find funding for that section as well.

The trail actually pre-dates the DL&W, McGarrity explained. She said it was the location of the mule train that brought iron ore from the mines in Andover to Andover Forge, now Waterloo Village. In 1850, the railroad was constructed on the old mule train tracks. The rails were torn up in the 1960s, she added.

The Sussex Branch Trail runs from Waterloo Road, at Allamuchy Mountain State Park, to the village of Branchville, and is considered a pristine hiking trail.

A second grant was awarded to the other side of Allamuchy Mountain, to create a loop trail around Allamuchy Pond on an easement granted to the state by the Villa Madonna. That grants is for $8,000, according to DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson. A second grant came to Sussex County, $8,000 for trailhead interpretive signs at High Point State Park. In addition, the Musconetcong Watershed Association received $12,045 for its River Resource Center.

A total of $730,000 from the federal Highway Administration's Recreation Trails Program has been funneled into the project to maintain and improve 40 trails, Jackson said. These trail projects were recommended for funding by the New Jersey Trails Council and approved by the Federal Highway Administration under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act. During 2007, the DEP will administer about $1 million in competitive grants for groups that operate and maintain trails. Recipients of this money must provide 20 percent in matching funds

The DEP's Office of Natural Lands Management administers the program. The Trails Council is made up of representatives from hiking and mountain biking, motorized trail use, canoeing/kayaking and horseback riding interest groups, as well as several general trail advocates and representatives from state government, according to a press release from the DEP.

"These funds will improve access to ever-expanding networks of trails throughout New Jersey, including nature trails, trails in urban parks, handicapped-accessible trails and canoe trails, " Jackson said. "The direct beneficiaries of this money are our many residents and visitors who enjoy the outdoors."

Copyright 2006 Straus Newspapers.

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