Trestles Old and New Offer Unique Addition to Rail Trail

Plans for southern Lacey stretch of Barnegat Branch Trail include four water crossings

When the Barnegat Branch Trail was first conceived, Ocean County Freeholder James Lacey knew that the path — along an old railroad right-of-way — would have its challenges.

Among the biggest of those challenges is the next phase to be built: Phase V through the southern part of Lacey Township. With four water crossings — the South and North branches of Oyster Creek, Middle Creek, and Cedar Lake — and Homeland Security concerns around the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station —it was going to take negotiating and planning to keep a contiguous path in place and maintain a nature trail feel at the same time.

Months of planning and negotiations with Excelon over access across existing Oyster Creek trestles finally resulted in a plan for a trail that will allow bicyclists and walkers unique views of Oyster Creek and more importantly, of Cedar Lake, where the path will cross the middle of the lake.

The plans met with the approval of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, who nodded in response to the presentation by County Engineer Frank Scarantino.

Phase V, which begins at Bay Parkway in Waretown and covers 2-1/2 miles to just south of Lacey Road, follows the existing rail bed that once provided a pathway for trains running down the coastline.

"We tried to avoid removing trees as much as possible," Scarantino said, so the rail bed provides a perfect path. Scarantino noted the rail bed has a 50-foot right-of-way and the trail is designed to run down the middle of the rail bed.

"We've had room to let the trail meander a bit," he said.

The trestles over Oyster Creek are in disrepair, officials noted, but "they were designed for 88-ton locomotives; there's more than enough reserve strength" to handle the weight of bicycles and pedestrians, Scarantino said.

The trestle over Middle Creek is completely gone, with just pilings remaining. The solution is a prefabricated bridge that will span the 40-foot distance, Freeholder John Bartlett said.

And the portion across Cedar Lake already is used by fishermen, so it will not need a great deal of work, Scarantino said.

Where the trail crosses roads, it has been designed to cross at existing crosswalks wherever possible, Scarantino said.

The northern end terminates a block south of Lacey Road, Bartlett said, at the request of Lacey Township officials. But it will end near the back edge of the parking lot at United Methodist Church, which will give access to bicyclists in particular who want to continue their ride north.

Once Phase V is completed, it will create a contiguous stretch of trail that covers 7 miles from Lacey to Barnegat.

"Make no mistake, it is being used," Lacey said. 

The freeholders are expected to approve a request from Scarantino to seek bids for the construction next week. Work could begin as early as the fall.

proud July 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM
The real challenge is how will the Barnegat Branch Trail safely connect north and south of Lacey Road and how much will that cost? Will that crossing affect the soon to start improvements at Lacey Road and Route 9? What happens at the silos and pits near Hickory Lane in Berkeley and how much will that cost? My guess will be that will result in yet another tax INCREASE from the county. Thanks for nothing, but there are people hurting out there while the bipartisan solution is to raise taxes for special interests. What ever happened to " we the people, for the people, all the people..." it's all out the window for the politicians and their brood on the dole.
chris desmarais July 28, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I hope they are not going to build the road alongside of it. No mention of that in the article. I have been on the trail from where it begins at the trestle at Cedar Creek next to Hebrew park going north into Berkeley. It's very nice to jog on. Better for your knees than pavement. Hopefully building it will also vacate the dirtbags that party back there by the trestle and who leave mounds of trash behind.
Minden Yo July 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM
What about Toms River? There's no place safe to ride bikes here?
Dave Sleeper July 28, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Using Waretown's section of the rail trail as a barometer, I can only guess that Lacey bicycle enthusiasts will be cramming our new bike path shortly. This ought to alleviate a lot of that bicycle congestion we've endured over the past decades.
proud July 28, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Dave. please identify where there has been decades of bicycle congestion.
Dave Sleeper July 28, 2012 at 04:07 PM
In my driveway?
proud July 28, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Dave, mountain biking on the trail as it exists is lots of fun, and doesn't cost tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that could be used where NEEDED.
Martin July 28, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Freeloaders voted for the "tens of millions of taxpayer dollars" instead. Stay tuned for the tax increase.
USConstitution July 29, 2012 at 12:09 AM
The trail is a beautiful linear park through Waretown. My compliments to the committee and townships that are backing this. Let's hope the Lacey Township Committee wakes up and joins the trail all the way through Lacey. It is embarassing that we are the only township (Barnegat, Waretown)not backing the trail fully. I understand the real reason the Lacey men want a road is to allow those who own property that is landlocked by the trail to build a road to open up their financial gains. The linear park benefits all citizens and should be the priority over building more houses or strip malls in Lacey.
proud July 29, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The township has agreed to a trail through all of Lacey. The road is still up in the air. The fact remains that Lacey can't afford to build the road anymore than the county can afford to build the trail. Raising taxes in a depressed economy has all the makings of a bubble, and if you don't think it can burst, you are sadly mistaken.
grace July 29, 2012 at 06:59 PM
winding river park?
Andrew P September 13, 2012 at 12:40 PM
A much belated repaving of the path in front of the Lacey High School was just completed and I've never seen so many people riding and jogging along it. If that's any indicator, the rail trail will be quite popular once completed.
Andrew P September 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM
count on it!
Dave Sleeper September 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
I wish somebody would put a bike parth on Nautilus Blvd. before one of those Mexicans gets flattened.
Sailor September 16, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Sometimes we forget the quality-of-life issues in projects like this. Life without art, music, and yes, parks and trails is empty and sterile (read or view "1984".) The stress relief and exercise that these havens provide have health benefits that are measurable in dollars and cents, too. Those who have a simplistic view of things miss this point by at least the mile they could have enjoyed walking or biking one of these trails.
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