News Trails On The Horizon In Morris County As Part Of New Open Space Initiative

A special Freeholder Board-appointed committee last month recommended funding 13 trail projects in 13 towns across Morris County at a cost of $661,000 as part of a new Morris County Trail Construction Grant Program that was approved by the county governing board last spring.

Recommended grants range from $7,384 to Montville for the Reilly Field Look and Crossover Trail to a high of $132,696 to Morristown for the Foote’s Pond Wood Trail.

Grants also were recommended for trail projects in Chatham Borough, Denville, Florham Park, Harding, Long Hill, Mendham Borough, Mine Hill, Morris Township, Randolph, Roxbury and Washington Township.

Funding will come from a portion of the county’s existing voter-approved Morris County Preservation Trust Fund. In 2014, voters approved a ballot question by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 to permit diverting a portion of that fund to trail development as an allowable use of the money

“This is a very wise investment in the improvement of our county’s recreational opportunities, which improves the quality of life for all residents, making Morris County a better place to live and work and locate a business,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, who is the board’s liaison to Planning and Preservation.

“It was impressive to see so many towns submit applications for trail construction grant during this inaugural grant round,’’ said Morris County Park Commission Executive Director Dave Helmer. “As a result, residents of Morris County will have an additional six-miles of trail to walk, run, hike, bike and horseback ride on, in the next few years as these projects are completed.”

Freeholder Doug Cabana, who is liaison to the Park Commission, said “This is an exciting next step in the county’s open space preservation effort. This money will help provide good public access to many of those already preserved properties and connect some of the undeveloped lands to help create recreational greenways across the county.’’

The new program will award grants annually to qualified applicants from the county’s 39 municipalities to build new recreational trails on municipal open space, thereby enhancing recreational opportunities for all Morris County residents.

It had $705,000 to award in this inaugural year from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund. The freeholders are expected to formally vote to approve the grants at their Dec. 14 meeting.

The new program will operate on a reimbursement basis. Municipal applicants are limited to one request per funding cycle. The program will rely upon municipalities to provide planning and design of new trails and to contribute a 20 percent financial or in-kind match for the trail construction projects.

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