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Hiking from Trenton to New Brunswick

on Sun, 04/03/2011 - 22:08


Greenway trail to link cities, landmarks

April 2, 2011 WOODBRIDGE — Morristown resident Paul Kiczek will join up with others Saturday in Trenton and begin walking. At the end of the day, they expect they will have walked 40 miles and reached New Brunswick.

The Trenton to New Brunswick 40, or TR2NB40, is one of three walks planned this month and in May along the 100-mile, Trenton-to-Jersey City stretch of the East Coast Greenway.

The Greenway is a nearly 3,000-mile multi-use path connecting Maine to Key West, Fla. It is known as the urban alternative to the Appalachian Trail because instead of hiking mostly through wilderness, walkers and cyclists on the Greenway will travel through cities, suburbs, over bridges and past historic places.

"I find it very interesting and fascinating," Kiczek said. "When you think about a trail you normally think about it being in a natural environment. But the Greenway is put in an area where there are people that can take advantage of it."

In development for several years, volunteers with the East Coast Greenway Alliance have been encouraging local municipalities to seek state and federal grants to close the gaps on the trail, which they say will provide people with safe routes to walk and bicycle.

The trail is being completed piecemeal and there is no estimate how much it would cost to finish in New Jersey.

Some of the trail is ready to go. The Greenway uses the Delaware and Raritan Canal Tow Path between Trenton and South Bound Brook.

In Middlesex County, officials began work in December to complete the Middlesex County Greenway, a multi-use path linking Woodbridge, Metuchen and Edison via former Conrail rail beds. The nearly $4 million job is expected to be ready by summer 2012. That path trail will also be part of the East Coast Greenway.

The Greenway in New Jersey is 48 miles complete, with another 20 miles in development. As it stands, 26 percent of the Greenway in the state is considered off-road trail.

"The goal is to make it traffic-free," said Edison resident Mike Kruimer, a member of the Greenway alliance who attended a meeting last month in Woodbridge to promote the trail.

In Edison and Woodbridge, the trail runs up Woodbridge Avenue and King George's Post Road. The goal is to have the trail run along the Raritan River in the industrial portions of both townships.

Fitness and community

Kiczek began taking long walks back in 1963 when he was 15 years old. His inspiration was President John F. Kennedy, who challenged the nation to walk 50 miles.

Today, with more than half of Americans considered overweight or obese, fitness is once again a topic gaining the attention of current President Barack Obama.

"I decided to try to do 50 miles in my older age now," Kiczek said. "Through that I just sort of reached out to other people who may want to do it as well."

Last year Kiczek and his website organized walks along the East Coast Greenway in New Jersey that drew about 70 people.

Kiczek and Kruimer say completing the Greenway, that is, getting the trail as much off road as possible and improving pedestrian and bicycle safety projects along roads, would be a good way to address the fitness problem.

"It's good for the community because you're outside, you see your neighbors," Kruimer said. "When you are sitting in that damn steel can you don't see anybody and you drive too fast."

Kruimer and his wife Anne cycled the entire East Coast Greenway in 2004 in 53 days. They use a hand-powered tandem bike because Anne was paralyzed in 1992 after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle on New Brunswick Avenue in Fords.

Kruimer said the state and local municipalities have done more and more to improve safety by striping roadways with bicycle lanes or "sharrows" — an emblem depicting arrows and a cycling figure painted on pavement, urging drivers to share the road.

New Jersey is also committed to developing new multi-use trails, awarding almost $12.5 million since 2008 in Department of Transportation Bikeways grants to more than 50 bike path projects.

Trail projects in Somerville and Bridgewater have received $1.2 million in Bikeways grants to develop the Raritan River and Peters Brook greenways, which planners hope to one day connect to the East Coast Greenway.

"If you think you can make improvement and it's going to happen in a couple of weeks you might as well give up now," Kruimer recently told officials and residents in Woodbridge. "Apply to the state to get grants to get engineering done and designing. You will eventually get it done."

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