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Monmouth Heritage Trails Saves a "Bridge too Far"

There is a historic, 450-foot-long, 60-foot high bent timber trestle crossing the marshy upper end of Lake Matawan, in Matawan, New Jersey. It is historic in that it may be one of two or three wooden trestles remaining in New Jersey. The old rail line that crossed the trestle had been inactive for a half century and the line was completely overgrown. The only people using the open trestle were teenagers taking a shortcut from Matawan high school to the borough's main street.

In 1998, New Jersey Transit, the property owner, planned to tear down the trestle, to eliminate its liability should some person fall off or through the rotted crossties. The rail company had already put out a demolition contract worth $170,000, but failed to notify anyone of its plans, including the Monmouth County Park system, which included the rail corridor among its long-range plans for development as a rail-trail. The proposed 12-mile trail would be an extension of the 10-mile Henry Hudson Trail, and would run from Matawan to Freehold, New Jersey.

Then, Monmouth Heritage Trails, a non-profit, grass-roots advocacy group, learned of the planned demolition. Board members alerted county and state officials including Governor Whitman, as well as daily and weekly newspapers. New Jersey Transit found itself bombarded with calls asking why it planned to tear down a historic structure but had not notified the Park System. NJT cancelled the demolition contract and not only that, but opened up negotiations with the County about it leasing the rail corridor.

Now, two years later, the County is crossing the final t's and dotting the final i's on the lease, and is set to begin planning and construction. If everything keeps on schedule the Henry Hudson Trail extension could be open by 2005.

For more information: Monmouth Heritage Trails, 455 Route 520, Marlboro NJ 07746; (732) 972-8822.

Grand Illinois Trail Opens

By Dick Westfall, Illinois DNR

On June 2 in Moline, Illinois and June 3 in Chicago, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources held Grand Illinois Trail celebrations/ press conferences to open the GIT to public use and announce new GIT initiatives. The events also celebrated progress to date and recognized the many partners involved in this ambitious project.

The Grand Illinois Trail is a 475-mile loop hiking-biking trail connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River through northern Illinois. The trail is the longest trail in Illinois and one of the longest multi-modal (hiking-biking) trails within a single state. The trail connects existing off-road trails with on-road bike routes. About 200 miles of the trail are open today, about 100 miles are under construction, another 50 miles are awaiting funding and about 125 miles will be on-road, signed bike routes.

The GIT is being developed through a partnership between the IDNR and local agencies and organizations, including the League of Illinois Bicyclists, the Openlands Project, the Illinois Trails Conservancy and the Great River Trail Council. The IDNR coordinates trail development in cooperation with the GIT Executive Council.

New initiatives announced June 2 and 3 include:

The GIT is a challenging project involving literally hundreds of partners and local jurisdictions. The IDNR is fortunate to have the many dedicated partners that are making this trail a reality.

For more information contact IDNR, Greenways and Trails Section, 524 S. 2nd St., Springfield, IL 62701 (217) 782-3715. See the Grand Illinois Trail on the web:


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