By Kerry Breen
Hanover Township’s ‘Connectivity Plan’ has begun, and the first phase of it will be finished by the end of September.
Phase 1A of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Framework Plan began in late July. While the entire plan is large, extensive, and will take several years, Phase 1A only took 60 days. The plan and its future phases will utilize and build on pre-existing paths; Phase 1A includes the installation of new and improved train signage stretching from the Morris County Library to Central Park, and the construction of a multi-use path from Cedar Knolls Road to Central Park.
The plan was developed in 2012 by the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) and aspires to establish a town-wide network of both on and off-road bicycle trails that will connect key attractions, such as population centers, public parks, schools, and municipal facilities. Pre-existing parks and open spaces will be connected as well, and it is hoped that this emphasis on walking and cycling will encourage residents to see these activities as viable modes of transportation, as well as a way of recreation.
“I think that Hanover Township has a lot of attributes, but what it doesn’t really have, what it’s not really at the moment, is a connected community,” said Dan Breen, the chair of the EDAC committee. “And I think that the point of the connectivity plan is to find ways for the township to better leverage the town’s attributes for businesses and residents alike. It contributes to a healthier community. They’re looking at other phases and hoping to complete this over the next few years.
Much of the path that is proposed by the Connectivity Plan already exists. Patriot’s Path, for example, already has a large segment that runs north-to-south through Hanover Township. The condition of the trail, however, is varied, and tends to discourage casual walkers and cyclists, meaning that it is only utilized by more experienced or determined hikers. A large portion of the trail is also on-road, so it runs along existing street roads, rather than through wooded areas or other routes where cars are not present. In these locations there are no safety signs or bicycle lanes, so walkers and bikers have to compete with cars and other vehicles. Both of these problems will be addressed by the plan, which will firstly use different types of trails to create safer biking and walking environments. The next step is to reconstruct the paths that do run through wooded areas to make them more accessible.
“What you’re going to have is all these walking paths, and bike paths; it gives people a place to exercise and get outside and be more physically fit,” said Breen. “I think it contributes to the community in the sense that it’s a place for people to get together and interact; and I think it’s an appealing amenity to people who either live here, are considering living here, or who work here. If you are a company like Bayer, that’s a great benefit for your employees – at lunchtime, you could have a nice path on which they could walk, get some exercise, get outside, interact. There’s a lot of positives to it, and I’m not sure I see any negatives.”
There will be three different types of trails. The first, an on-road path, will separate pedestrians and bicyclists from car and vehicle traffic while still integrating them into the existing roadway. Pedestrians will use sidewalk areas; cyclists will be encouraged to use the road, which will have bicycle lanes added for both convenience and safety. Although the paths will still be along the roadways, ample safety signs, sidewalks, and other improved pedestrian crossings will be added to make the roadways safer.
The second type of path would be an along-road shared use path, about eight to ten feet wide, running parallel to the roadway, shared by pedestrians and cyclists.
The third type of path would be off-road, built upon expanded areas and existing Patriot’s Path walkways. The trail would be similar to the along-road shared use path, but there would be no worry over cars and other vehicles.
The work being done for Phase 1A consists of mostly along-road shared use paths and off-road shared use paths, though there are a few segments that will use the on-road shared use paths. New signage will also accompany the paths and trails; the options for the signage include large trail head posts with maps and directions to nearby points of interest; there are also less elaborate options such as simple directional signs and mile markers. There are also plans to add other amenities such as park benches and trash receptacles to make the paths more appealing to residents.
“There’s a tremendous tendency in designing buildings and workspaces towards what’s called a ‘live-work-play’ environment,” said Breen. “People want to live, work, and engage in recreation in the same community. I think this is a form of that and you’re giving people a place, tied to their workplace, tied to where they live, where they can get outside, enjoy some nature, and engage in recreation. To me, I think what we’re trying to do here is be a leader among suburban communities in Morris County and New Jersey in trying to leverage what we have here in town for the benefit of residents and local businesses.”
Phase 1A costs $326,970 and is entirely funded through the Open Space Fund. The fund is dedicated to purchasing open space and making improvements on pre-existing parks and recreational facilities. Other phases will be introduced and completed as the project goes on.