A 9-mile linear tract once home to a busy rail line will soon become a New Jersey state park, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Nov. 12.
The state will allocate $65 million to purchase the rights of a former rail line to create a greenway linking Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Montclair.
The rail line that the trail will replace has been silent since 2002, when New Jersey Transit opened the Montclair Connection to link Montclair east to New York City. In partnership with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, Open Space Institute had been in talks with state and local officials for months on how to foot the bill of purchase from Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
“This is our High Line moment and we intend to make the most of it,” Murphy said in a morning presser in the company of local officials, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, and members of the involved organizations.
“This new park will be a crown jewel of our state park system, providing much-needed recreational space to New Jerseyans and out-of-state visitors, while revitalizing and protecting environmentally-sensitive areas,” Murphy said. “Residents of our state’s two largest cities, and the suburbs beyond and in-between will benefit from access to a multi-use trail, and the natural beauty of the Meadowlands.”
Local leaders had long been calling for the conversion of the tract into a park, giving locals a safe off-road place to bike and to walk, and creating an alterative commuting option between Jersey City and Montclair.
OSI entered the purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern in July 2020. In May, several officials—Commissioner Brendan Gill, Montclair Center BID Executive Director Jason Gleason, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop—told NJBIZ that establishing the Essex Hudson trail is a rare opportunity. At the time, they noted that if funding weren’t allocated and the sale wasn’t finalized, other entities could purchase the plaza along the tract, therefore eliminating the opportunity for one long continuous trail.
Murphy noted that there will be a naming contest for the park, which has been referred to since the idea was conceived as the Essex-Hudson Greenway.