I noted the seasonal and even diurnal changes in the woods. There were hundreds of mountain bikers, both from within Essex County and from beyond, who loved South Mountain, who cared about its welfare, and who lovingly memorized its contours. The Lenape Trail is an paved multiuse pathway stretching two miles end-to-end. In a New York Times article, one hiker said of the bikers, "Better they go to quarries, with their rocky bases." The trail can be accessed at three points. Mountain bikers were portrayed as non-residents of Essex County, too young to pay taxes, and reckless. It is doubtful, anyway, that the Freeholders' compromise would've withstood judicial scrutiny; it reeked of "separate but equal.". If there were just one new gouge in a favorite fallen log from someone else's chainring, I'd notice. It develops a sense of balance, strengthens muscles, fosters an appreciation of the outdoors, and makes for wonderful family bonding time. Maintenance became synonymous with cosmetic upkeep, such as mowing lawns and clearing trash from picnic areas. Ironic, considering that one cliff in South Mountain, near which sits its most well-known overlook, was rather obviously mined into existence. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference builds, maintains, and protects hiking trails in the NY-NJ Metro region and educates the public about their responsible use. The South Mountain Recreation Complex is nestled along Northfield Avenue and Cherry Lane in West Orange. See all Essex County trails. In 1979, the Essex County Park Commission was disbanded and replaced by the Parks Department. Flat and beautiful ride. Yet the hikers were happy to generalize about the negative effects and to use words like "barren" and "devastated" as if they were talking about high-altitude deserts. The tree-lined 22.5-mile Henry Hudson Trail is the definition of scenic variety. The trail forms a perimeter loop around the 770 acre reservoir... TheÂ Maurice River Bikeway Trail provides access to shops, recreational parks, and riverside riding all in one. Sandwich Street Reconstruction â â¦ Wrench-Up Classes are Back! It rained four days ago. 7 talking about this. While youâre there, donât forget to check out the Fairy Trail NJ, where the tiny fairy houses will enchant your littles along the trail and in the trees. Essential to note is that even within South Mountain, there is quite varied terrain, meaning that it's useless to generalize about bikes' effects. This post may contain affiliate links. The paved 1-mile trail provides a pleasant route dotted with tall pines and leafy shade trees... Cape Mayâs 8.9-mile Middle Township Bike Path and 2.7-mile Cold Spring Bike Path were fully connected in summer 2017. This, I take it, was based on a hiker's description, because any biker would note that these so-called jumps are actually meant to make the trail passable again. Until the rediscovery of this ban, South Mountain Reservation had been the premier dirt destination in northern New Jersey. In 2000, Treffinger made headlines himself by telling the cable channel HBO it could not use county property while filming its hit drama about Mafiosi living in Essex County, The Sopranos. #98 of 110 mountain bike trails in New Jersey #11,502 in the world The Reservation is located on the First Watchung Mountain where the parkland has been preserved in its natural state, including deciduous woodland and wetlands. TrailLink is a free service provided by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (a non-profit) and we need your support! Essex's neighbor to the west, Morris County, also flirted with a bike ban, especially after one NORBA race in Tourne Park, which sent about a dozen bikers to the emergency room. Instead, he made it seem like the bikers' spokespeople were wingnuts. Smooth trails all around. The best part is between Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. Above youâll also see links to pages with maps of all the different features in Essex County. Linking the communities of Palmyra, New Jersey and Tacony (a historic neighborhood within Philadelphia) is the over 3,600-foot-long Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. It's notable that the issue to address is actually on-trail use of bicycles, which is banned, not off-trail use, about which the trailhead signs have nothing to say. Johns Hopkins University faculty pageacademia.eduGoogle ScholarACLS FellowsTwitterMy online music magazine. His History of the South Mountain Reservation will be published later this year. The forest fire through which I rode in South Mountain was like the ban itself. Whether you are on foot or wheels, pack plenty of water and a light snack. There was one truck parked on a nearby fire road, presumably with firefighters monitoring the conflagration. Click on the pins on the map to see the name and a link to more information about that place. The Calhoun Street Bridge spans 1,274 feet across the Delaware River, connecting Trenton, New Jersey, on its east bank with Morrisville, Pennsylvania, on its west bank. Also, if this gentleman were familiar with the Reservation, he might have noticed that the trails do have rocky bases; on many trails, the sharp "trap rock" is the predominant feature of the terrain. This multi-use trail can be used both directions and has a easy overall physical rating with a 252 ft green climb. Laurel Lake, NJ Intermediate. It scared me, but it also captivated me and energized me. I wondered how it had arrived there without getting stuck in a rut or behind a fallen tree. I grew up in South Mountain Reservation, on my mountain bike, always fleet yet always in awe of its challenges. Not all the singletrack was extremely technical: some was quite fast and smooth, but there were also several steeps, such as Stonehenge or Oh Shit, which had body counts heaped upon their revered names. I saw the best riders of my generation destroyed by madness: college, jobs and trail closures. Asphalt, Ballast, Crushed Stone, Dirt, Grass, Gravel. Water prevented completion. The Gloucester Township Health and Fitness Trail, formerly known as the Blackwood Railroad Trail, is a paved bicycle/pedestrian path in Blackwood, Gloucester Township. Even though the county's official website extols the park system's virtues, the reality is that the parks have less budgetary priority than urban social services and policing, not to mention the infrastructure necessary to keep Newark Airport and Port Newark humming with commerce (and tax revenue rolling in). LIke I said its a really cool place and has some grat mountian bikeing.The Reservation is very Mountian bike friendly on like other Reservations in Essex County. The only partial acknowledgement of the issue is in a section detailing policy issues/goals to address in the future. The reasoning for this shift is somewhat opaque, but surely budgetary concerns were at the fore. Brookdale Park is â¦ Treffinger had inherited a county on the verge of bankruptcy after his predecessor was sent to prison on charges of corruption. Among us were wild teenagers, with dyed hair and facial piercings, as well as staid middle-age executives, who could find some escape from the non-stop hustle of everyday life in such a wealthy and competitive county. Perhaps most dangerously, the department ceased programs for removal of non-native, invasive plant species and diseased trees. The Union Transportation Trail follows the path of the former Pemberton & Hightstown Railroad, which began operating in 1868. The Oxford Bikeway is a .9 mile long pave trail constructed on an abandoned railroad right-of-way. In the newspapers, quote after quote from the hikers described bikers as outlaws. It connects Port Norris with Bivalve. Otherwise a very nice straight path, flat terrain hike. Laurel Lake, NJ 9 Once the perception of bikers as dangerous was solidified, it was easy for the hikers to use pseudo-science to convince the Freeholders that allowing mountain biking would destroy the trails. Trails.com member Samantha B. recently completed Harold Parker Road. I didn't stop riding for a moment, but fears of a cop confiscating my bike changed the tenor of the experience. Eco Tours, Train Rides, Whale Watching, etc. Instead, articles quoted hikers who called bikers "kamikaze people." In the decade of Essex's ban, Morris County officials and volunteers have built new trails and even selectively closed some others that were poorly designed and erosion-prone. Two young mountain bikers sporting black stretch shorts and neon-colored jerseys had appeared around a bend." Not only did the park boast singletrack nearest to New York City, it was some of the most varied trail for at least fifty miles around, with an emphasis on the gnarly, the technical and the off-camber. The map of the Reservation calls it "The Quarry." He was worried that the program was giving people the wrong idea, that Essex County might seem awash with crooks and thieves. The bike path is nestled at the bottom of the railroad embankment carrying New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line. Hikers, too, use the ramps to easily cross large logs without having to forge a new trail by circumnavigating the obstacles. The Trolley Line Trail is a 2.5 mile paved pathway between Rabbit Hill Road and Penn Lyle Road in West Windsor. And yet the bike ban remains in effect. GBH The best & most popular mountain biking trails in Essex County. Natural Lands Trust: Information for their New Jersey nature preserves: Peek Preserve and Glades Wildlife Refuge. Mountain bikers were portrayed as non-residents of Essex County, too young to pay taxes, and reckless. The Sandy Hook Multi-Use Pathway travels 8.7 miles alongside the picturesque beaches and historical monuments of the Sandy Hook peninsula. Some stairs do get pretty steep to carry bikes up, but youâll be able to cover most of the ground on a bike no problem. The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway is a 1.5 mile walkway along the bank of the Hudson River in Jersey City. Years ago, probably around the time of the ban, I stumbled onto a low, smoldering forest fire on the yellow trail above Stonehenge. You get a great view of the Philadelphia Skyline. Turnersville, NJ Intermediate. In some cases, this portrayal was accurate, but no one seemed to care, for example, that one of the leaders of the hikers' cause was a Manhattan resident. Enjoy. Highly recommend any skaters to trail skate here. In some cases, this portrayal was accurate, but no one seemed to care, for example, that one of the leaders of the hikers' cause was a Manhattan resident. The paved pathway running through West Hudson Park offers a scenic, tree-lined escape between Harrison and Kearny, NJ. The Columbia Trail has the distinction of being named for a natural gas pipeline that runs beneath it for 15 miles in rural northern New Jersey. Great trail, super smooth to ride on and got a chance to see some great wildlife on the lake as well. Today, so few people dare ride in South Mountain that generating the momentum to overturn the ban seems far more difficult than stealing past the trails-closed signs. The complex features a variety of recreation opportunities including Turtle Back Zoo, Codey Arena, MiniGolf Safari, the childrenâs Regatta Playground, Paddleboating, a 1.7 mile walkway, and the Clipper Pavilion picnic shelter. Mostly shaded area. The South Mountain Reservation has 19 miles of NJ hiking trails and 27 carriage roads for jogging and horseback riding, leading deep into discovering a 25-foot NJ waterfall at Hemlock Falls. BLOOMFIELD -- Kristine Contento-Angell, newly minted national mountain biking champion and Bloomfield resident, still practices her sport on the same bike â¦ The quality of the trail conditions, layout and maintenance is a testament to the efficacy of a compromise between responsible bikers and caring hikers enabled by a fair governmental policy. In the end, it's not the loss of the trails that is the most irksome. Among the report's goals were to "rehabilitate each county park for the full use and enjoyment of all county residents" and to "capitalize on unique features" of the park system. West Essex Trail, Essex County Department of Parks (973) 268-3500 : Access: Farview Avenue, Verona and Cedar Grove Community Park off Little Falls Road : Surface: Cinder and gravel : Distance: 2.8 miles: Other facilities : None: Type of facility : Multi-use trail, family friendly, biking At its peak, my riding community was hundreds strong, men and women from the suburbs of northern New Jersey who knew no finer pleasure than threading a line down a craggy singletrack. Today, Lewis Morris Park, which borders Jockey Hollow National Historic Park, contains some of the most well maintained mountain biking trails in any New Jersey county park. Took my bike for 30 miles on this trail. And in my memories, the gilding on those teenage years turns red at the point when the county declared mountain biking illegal in South Mountain. It called for $125 million for the trust fund to rehabilitate the aging, decrepit park system. Looking for a diverse trip? Star-Ledger reporter David Schwab wrote, "Some bikers have transformed tree trunks that have fallen across trails into jumps by piling large branches beside them to form takeoff ramps." Like all other New Jersey counties, Essex is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders. Winery / Restaurants / Food Trucks The winding trail sits on the tree-covered bank of Plainsboro pond, home to geese, swans and other waterfowl. In South Mountain, for example, the effects of bikes during a drought are completely different from those during a rainstorm. The Merchantville Bike Path gently oscillates through Merchantville Borough, paralleling Chestnut Avenue. The problem was that we had organized and educated each other, but the movement collapsed upon defeat. While only a few hikers were likely responsible for these acts, they were a physical manifestation of the selfishness and unwillingness to compromise which characterized the hikers' cause. Recent News. These trails range from 0.1 to 3.9 miles in length. The effect was wide-ranging neglect of the parks. Check or FAQs for more common login questions. But the threat of violence and the cyclists' young age were crucial to the hikers' invidious depiction of the bikers. New Jersey Biking. Bike Windsor Essex is a member-based advocacy group representing all bike lovers in Windsor and Essex County, to help make our region safer and more bike friendly. If youâre looking for a change of luck on your gambling getaway to Atlantic City, try visiting the 7.6-mile Atlantic County Bikeway. The Wildwood Crest Bike Path is a one-mile bike path that runs along the beach from East Cresse Avenue to East Rambler Road. Had to really look thru all the shrubbery and trees to get a view of anything, otherwise just a narrow path to the end and back. Edgar Felix Memorial Bikeway, Monmouth County. ESSEX COUNTY, NJ â The rules about off-road biking in Essex Countyâs parks arenât new. And I came to love the trail names, which were handed down to me from elder riders, along with the apocryphal tales of previous generations of daredevils who had mastered the trails. 523 Miles 842 Kilometers of Trail 10 Recommended Routes ... 4.8 mi 7.8 km #1 Camden County College Trails. Unlike those who wanted to ban mountain bikers so they could have the public land all to themselves, I am happy that South Mountain is forever changing and that the passage of time will bring with it new opportunities rather than the comfort of repetitive experiences. One IMBA official who visited South Mountain in 1995 told locals that the trails themselves were built in the wrong places and poorly at that. Hikers' opinions of mountain bikers ran the gamut from approval to outright hatred; those of the latter persuasion were most vocal. Our coalition of 100 clubs and 10,000 individuals supports and tends a network of 2,100 miles of trails. Not being a soil scientist, I can speak only from my experience: mountain bikes may damage trails, but in many situations, they are no more damaging than hikers. Furthermore, although the Open Space Advisory Committee's report argued that South Mountain should not be "gardenized," it seemed that the hikers did not consider the terrain to be dynamic. Nevertheless, a small group of vocal hikers ably shaped public perceptions of the bikers and framed the debate in such a way that the bikers were basically outsmarted. In 1998, three years after the reaffirmation of the mountain biking ban, the county started a trust fund for the parks as well as an Open Space Advisory Committee. Bikes have much less ability to erode trails than rushing water, and trail maintenance could fix this problem. Most of the reservation's trails, bridges and shelters were not built until the Civilian Conservation Corps came on the scene in the 1930s. The paved trail is having tree root problems other than that it was a very good ride. It maintained that there should be no effort made to "gardenize" the reservations, but rather, they should remain in their traditional, wild state. Find the top rated bike trails in New Jersey, whether you're looking for an easy short bike trail or a long bike trail, you'll find what you're looking for. Before this plan even went into effect, it was overturned in a Freeholder meeting mobbed by over 300 angry citizens, more than had ever attended such a meeting. Today, that section of the reservation is unlike any other: lush with ground cover because the fire opened up the forest's canopy. Additionally, Essex has a County Executive who is not answerable to the Freeholders - rather, he has the power to approve or squash the ordinances they recommend - and who gets budgetary line-item veto power. Patriotsâ Path. 5-7 miles of trail. The historical Ben Franklin Bridge, opened in 1926, offers expansive city skyline views and is itself a stunning structure. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these at no cost to you. Many bikers are themselves hikers, and a lot of hikers did not support the ban. Like most of the Freeholders, he wanted an expedient solution that would appease the most voters. Click on a bike trail below to find trail descriptions, trail maps, photos, and reviews. South Mountain Reservation â Hemlock Falls. Due to neglect, even the deeply rutted and rocky fire roads required the finesse for which east coast riders are known. Riders can begin their journey at US 9/Sandman Boulevard in Lower Township across... Itâs hard to believe that a noisy locomotive once ran through here, given that stillness is a defining characteristic of the Middlesex Greenway. Today, when I return to the trails as a hiker, my ears tingle with remembrance of the laughter, the terrified shrieks, or the perfect silence that accompanied our community of riders. It also showed me the resilience of this oasis of untamed forest in a wasteland of suburban sprawl. Never was biking considered a solitary experience through which one communes with nature, explores, exercises or relaxes. The trail provides access to the parkâs stocked lake, water park, athletic... A short rail trail with two covered bridges occupying a portion of the former Mount Hope Mineral Railroad right-of-way in Wharton, NJ. On this 5.2-mile trail, youâll pass by everything â¦ From the bikers' perspective, these tactics indicated that the arguments about damage to the trails and bikers' recklessness were a smokescreen. Click on any trail below to find trail descriptions, trail maps, photos, and reviews. The simple fact that county parks have never been the exclusive domain of taxpaying county residents was never a factor in the discussions. Watch this space for new dates for upcoming public events on Badges Without Borders. That the fire did not spread and rage out of control proved that a small human intervention can be greatly beneficial to the Reservation. There were, however, some parts of the 2,047-acre park which resemble west coast riding - patches of conifer forest, with widely spaced trees and rolling trails cut between them on a bed of pine needles. The Landsdown Trail runs 1.8 miles between Lower Landsdown Road and W. Main in Clinton. The articles exhibited the same sort of judiciousness and objectivity when describing the sport of mountain biking itself. The Route 52 Bridge Trail is an important connector between Cape May County and Atlantic County in New Jersey's growing trail network. It showed me that the Reservation was dynamic, that I could not take for granted that the next time my tires hit the dirt it would be unchanged, that it would be the same old trails I knew so well. Eco Tours, Train Rides, Whale Watching, etc. The short Stockton Station Rail-Trail runs through a city park in Camden between Westfield Avenue and Pleasant Street. Fun walk across the bridge with beautiful views. This includes a difficult 7.5-mile mountain bike trail that begins near Shepard Lake. The Jersey shore was a major vacation destination for residents of the Delaware Valley region throughout the early 20th century. South Mountain's hikers commissioned a report on the damage mountain biking does to trails, but it was, as an article on the IMBA website reports, "a shady, biased environmental study performed by a USDA county extension agent who was clearly predisposed against bikes on trails." 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