Chatham residents can enjoy the natural landscape and view across the Passaic River valley with a new hiking trail recently opened.
Chatham Township officials and volunteers opened the new Hillside Trail to the public on Sat., Oct. 22, with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Hillside Trail is a culmination of six years of effort by the township to preserve 17 acres of land at the location and open it to public access.
The hiking trail’s parking lot is located on Hillside Avenue, a few hundred yards up from the Hillside Ave. / River Rd. intersection and the large Chatham Glen community of residents. It sits across the street from Dixiedale Farm, known informally as the Christmas tree farm.
The trail is approximately one-third of a mile and is in the shape of a figure-eight to maximize enjoyment of the natural landscape and views across the Passaic River valley. Visitors can enjoy the serene landscape without traveling more than a few minutes from home. Numerous species of trees, wildflowers and grasses, and many species of insects, especially butterflies, have been spotted on the property. Red fox, white-tailed deer and three species of woodpeckers have also been seen by volunteers. The undeveloped land itself serves as low-to-no maintenance storm-water control for surrounding residents and roads, and as natural infiltration to the Passaic River, the drinking water source of 99 percent of Chatham Township residents.
Before the ribbon was cut on Saturday, Sharon Brackelmanns sang and performed an original song on the accordion that she wrote about the very same parcel of land, and the love she found there. Moments later, Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter told the people assembled, “We owe thanks to all the volunteers and staff who made this trail possible. The collaboration of so many talented people is something that helps make Chatham Township extremely special.”
The trail planning and construction was overseen by Chatham Township officials in close coordination with Open Space Committee members. The parcel of land was purchased in 2010 by Chatham Township during Nicole Hagner’s term as mayor, with help from grants by the Morris County Preservation Trust, NJ Green Acres, and a “bargain sale” contribution by the sellers, the late Mr. and Mrs. Sam Averett.
Several homes in varying condition were removed after the acquisition, in accordance with the transaction agreement, and today’s trail takes partial advantage of the cleared area.
In 2014, Boy Scouts led by Vincent Maddi conducted a native tree planting in the cleared areas. This summer, volunteers marked and mowed the trails and spread woodchips provided by the Township’s Department of Public Works along sections of the trail. Also this summer, Eagle Scout candidate Trey Helman built and installed a sturdy picnic table, benches and a welcome kiosk. Green Path Landcare of Chatham helped with the mowing upkeep, and Redwood Tree Service of New Providence framed-out the parking area and helped distribute woodchips.
Currently, Chatham Girl Scout Gold Award candidate Marie Field is implementing a native wildflower habitat restoration at the location. The township warmly welcomes additional volunteer partners.
For additional information about Hillside Trail, contact Chatham Township or Joe Basralian with the Chatham Township Open Space Committee at 917-596-7807. Also visit the Facebook page, Hillside Trail, Chatham, N.J.