Construction is ongoing at three major segments of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), with completion of each expected this fall. By the time segments on the Bristol-Myers Squibb Lawrenceville campus, Carson Road Woods and the former Pole Farm of Mercer Meadows are complete, about 72% of the 22-plus mile trail that wends its way through Hopewell and Lawrence Townships will be built and open for bike riding and walking.

“This is a big milestone for the LHT and all of our supporters, both public and private, as we have been working on some of these sections for many years,” said LHT Co-president Eleanor Horne. “I am very excited that with the completion of these segments we can offer trail users much better riding and walking opportunities through some very beautiful areas in Mercer County.”

Construction first began this spring with phase I of Carson Road Woods, the section beginning at the small parking lot on Carson Road opposite Bristol-Myers Squibb continuing back about three-quarters of a mile to small stream crossing near the center of the park. This section, made up of crushed stone, was finished at the end of June. The second phase of construction in Carson Road Woods, also three-quarters of a mile, will continue from the stream crossing out to Belleview Terrace. Construction has just begun and is expected to be completed in October.

The second stone dust segment under construction – Mercer Meadows – is the longest at nearly 5 miles, with different phases of the project to continue into 2012. The redesign of Mercer Meadows County Park, formerly known as Mercer Park Northwest, is an ambitious plan that will link Rosedale Park, Curlis Lake and the Pole Farm. Connected via the LHT and various smaller trails, the park will have four distinct sections and amenities celebrating the industrial, agricultural, historical and environmental/ecological areas of the 1,000+ acre park.  The LHT will connect to the Mercer County Equestrian /Master Gardner’s Center as well as the Twin Pines Athletic complex, also currently under construction.

“The Lawrence-Hopewell Trail has been a key component in our vision for Mercer Meadows,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.  “As one of the founding partners of the Trail, we are pleased that the segment that runs through this important parcel of open space has evolved into the spine trail for the Meadows. We look forward to pedestrians and cyclists utilizing the trail and enjoying all that the park has to offer,” he said.

The third trail section under construction is on the Bristol-Myers Squibb  (BMS) Lawrenceville campus. It runs from the crossing at Carson Road, approximately three-quarters of a mile down to the end of the BMS property near the intersection of Route 206 and Province Line Road. The BMS trail segment doesn’t simply follow the campus perimeter. Instead BMS has designed its porous pavement segment to weave inside its Sycamore tree line, amidst other native vegetation.  Gentle curves and slopes along the trail route will make it a little more challenging and scenic. This section is also expected to be finished by the end of October.

“Getting over that 70% complete mark is also a big step for us psychologically, as a volunteer organization,” added LHT Co-president Becky Taylor. “It will give us the momentum we need as we work toward our goal of completing the trail loop by the end of 2012.”

Completion of the two adjoining sections in Lawrence Township – BMS and Carson Road Woods – means that riders and walkers now have a 4.5 mile trail section running from Province Line Road and Route 206, through the BMS campus, through Carson Road Woods and onto the trail loop at Educational Testing Service, (ETS). Riders and hikers may also be interested in the miles of other more challenging natural trails on the ETS campus that connect to the LHT. Users of this segment should park at ETS.

Other open areas of the trail to ride and hike.

The Historic Brearley House to Princeton Pike Corporate Center and a connection to the D&R Towpath offer a great area to explore. Parking is available.

Trail enthusiasts can also start walking or riding from Lawrenceville’s Main Street (Route 206) to Gordon Lane and then connect with Craven Lane and a beautiful path through Village Park into Mercer Meadows County Park.

Another good walk or ride could start at the Mercer County Equestrian Center on Federal City Road and ride down Old Mill Road (it is closed to cars) and then cross Pennington-Rocky Hill Road and onto the paved trail at BMS-Hopewell campus. This segment runs along the front of the BMS campus to Titus Mill Road. Cross Titus Mill and continue down Wargo Road to the Honey Brook Organic farm and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed. Parking is available at either end of this segment, at the Equestrian Center or the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association.

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a nonprofit, community-based organization developing a 22-plus mile safe, family-friendly trail through the Lawrence and Hopewell communities. The LHT’s board is made up of your neighbors, community leaders and two major area employers. It started in 2002 when a group of community leaders met at Bristol-Myers Squibb to address concerns about diminishing opportunities for safe, off-road biking and walking.  Hopewell and Lawrence Township officials, state and county government representatives and several private organizations including Educational Testing Service, joined the group, and an independent nonprofit organization was formed to build a biking and walking trail.