A 20-mile biking and walking trail will be constructed through corporate campuses and Mercer County Park Northwest, along existing streets and through school grounds in Lawrence and Hopewell Townships as a result of a grass-roots effort unveiled today. Representatives of businesses, government, non-profit organizations, public and private schools and biking clubs outlined conceptual plans for the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) during a press conference.

The proposed trail will link dozens of county businesses, schools, parks, recreational sites and and residential areas, and will consist of both new pathways and existing roads. Construction for the new portions of the route will begin in 2003, and completion on a majority of the trail is expected in Fall, 2004.

“Cyclists, walkers, runners, skaters and commuters seeking an alternative way to work or recreate will all be welcome to enjoy the paved pathway planned for construction along a 20-mile loop through Hopewell and Lawrence townships,” said Louis A. Fedele, Bristol-Myers Squibb Senior Facilities Director. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) served as the catalyst for the bike path and was quickly and enthusiastically joined by a wide variety of public and private partners.

“Rarely have I seen such strong cooperation between state agencies, the county, two municipalities, corporations, and citizen groups. The result of this unique collaboration is a wonderful resource that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors to Mercer County,” said Kurt Landgraf, President, Educational Testing Service.

A recent survey conducted by the Hopewell Valley YMCA revealed enthusiastic support for walking, running and biking trails among area residents. When asked to identify outdoor activities that are needed in the Hopewell community, most respondents cited trails as either their first or second choice.

Almost half the total construction costs of $6 million has been secured. Bristol-Myers Squibb has committed to cover the $1 million cost of constructing the trail on three of its sites: campuses on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road in Hopewell and Carter Road in Lawrence and along Princeton Pike and Route 295, also in Lawrence. Mercer County Executive Bob Prunetti has earmarked $1.2 million for trail construction in Mercer County Park Northwest. Educational Testing Service has committed to invest $250,000 for a route through its Carter Road campus and to support the maintenance of the trail.

The newly formed non-profit Lawrence-Hopewell Trail Corporation will seek funding from a variety of additional public and private sources, including state Green Acres and state and federal Department of Transportation. The LHT Corporation will oversee construction and maintenance of the trail.

Efforts to create a local biking and walking trail have been co-chaired by Educational Testing Service and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Representatives from Lawrence and Hopewell Township governments and the state Green Acres office of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection were early supporters and activists in the group, as were representatives of the Mercer County Planning Division.

Throughout the collaborative planning process, the coalition has been guided by its mission: “to enhance our community by planning, designing, implementing and maintaining a public system of biking and pedestrian trails, and to create a pilot project in the Hopewell and Lawrence region with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Educational Testing Service corporate sites serving as anchors.”

While the 20-mile route has been established in concept, minor changes along the route can be made as necessary.

“The Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a great project for the entire Township of Lawrence. We have been working very aggressively for years on preserving open space for parks and permanent agriculture. Greenways, links and trails connecting all parts of town have been a vision. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail complements and expands our town’s efforts. We applaud all those involved. Corporations, non-profits, governments, citizens, and schools have all been enthusiastic and cooperative,” said Pam Mount, Lawrence Township Councilwoman. “We all look forward to the groundbreaking in 2003.”

“The creation of Lawrence Hopewell Trail demonstrates what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors cooperate for the good of the community at large. Special thanks are due to Bristol-Myers Squibb and Educational Testing Service, leaders in this effort, and exemplars of corporations acting as ‘good neighbors,'” said Mary Lou Ferrara, Hopewell Township Committewoman.

“I applaud the effort initiated by members of both the public and private sectors here in central New Jersey that has led to the proposed creation of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. By creating this 20-mile trail, we will give local residents and families expanded access to outdoor fun and recreation and help build their appreciation for our natural environment,” said U.S. Representative Rush Holt.

“The Lawrence Hopewell Trail will provide new recreational opportunities for all of the residents in Mercer County. The LHT will make Mercer County Park Northwest more accessible to the general public. The 1200-acre park is one of the county’s gems, and the Trail will give more people a chance to enjoy it,” said Robert Prunetti, Mercer County Executive.

“I applaud the success of the Hopewell Lawrence Trail Committee for the public-private partnership they have put together to develop this trail,” said Bradley M. Campbell, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. “This effort is an example of the types of smart growth initiatives that are being fostered around the state under the leadership of Governor James McGreevey. The trail, linking green spaces with work places, provides alternative transportation opportunities that will help reduce traffic congestion, offers recreational opportunities, and provides improved public access to our parks.”

“Bicycling and walking in New Jersey are great ways for families to enjoy a day out together. They are also viable means of non-motorized transportation for many citizens to get to and from the workplace,” said Jamie Fox, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail will provide a safe and reliable way for residents to maintain a healthier lifestyle through bicycling and walking. The Department applauds the efforts of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Task Force and looks forward to working with these communities to make this trail a reality.”

“The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is delighted to be able to dedicate part of our Reserve for this trail. Not only will it connect communities together, but it will provide one more precious opportunity for people to get closer to the natural, outdoor world and improve their health to boot!” said George Hawkins, Executive Director, Stony-Brook Millstone-Watershed Association.

“Students from throughout the Hopewell Valley Regional School district will benefit from the existence of the LHT,” said Robert Sopko, Hopewell Valley Regional School District Superintendent. “The school board is interested in exploring the extension of the LHT through property it owns on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road.”

“Bike paths will greatly enhance our quality of life. Biking is healthy, it offers a wonderful recreational opportunity for all ages, and the bike paths will lessen the number of local commuter trips. I enthusiastically endorse these efforts,” said Jon Edwards, Mayor of Hopewell Township.

“The Princeton Freewheelers, an 800 member group of dedicated cyclists, fervently believes that the Lawrence Hopewell Trail will constitute an outstanding benefit for area cyclists, and will also offer local families an intergenerational recreational opportunity, as well as provide a ‘green’ facility for local transportation. It is hoped that this trail will become an incentive for other communities to help create a ‘Bike Friendly’ New Jersey,” said Hank Segal of the Princeton Freewheelers.

“We think of our Rosedale Road campus as a park that is open to our neighbors to enjoy. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail expands the recreational possibilities for all to enjoy,” said Eleanor Horne, Vice President and Corporate Secretary, Educational Testing Service.