The Lewisville Road section of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) is going off-road after the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) awarded the LHT and Lawrence Township $248,000 to build the nearly mile-long segment.

The grant, one of only 3 awarded to New Jersey trail projects, will be used to build a section of trail that will run from the crossing at Princeton Pike Corporate Center, northwest inside the tree line at the property owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb, to the crossing at Lewisville Road near the rear entrance to The Lawrenceville School.

This LHT application, submitted with help from Mercer County Planning Division, Lawrence Township and Bristol-Myers Squibb, is one of 18 regional trail projects in the Delaware Valley that were approved by the commission. The other two approved trail projects in New Jersey are in Camden County, and the remainder are in Pennsylvania.

Lawrence Township Mayor Greg Puliti said he was very pleased with the news. “I’m grateful to the DVRPC for this award. This is a beautiful piece of land that the trail will run on, one that very few people know about because of its location,” he said. “The trail here gives us a very scenic stretch but also brings our riders and walkers to a safe crossing of Princeton Pike.”

“We are very thankful to Bristol-Myers Squibb for their help with this parcel,” said LHT Co-President Eleanor Horne. “The completion of this section of the LHT means the trail will run almost entirely off road in a continuous stretch from the D&R Canal tow path all the way to the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed.”

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is comprised of elected officials and professional planners from nine area counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer in New Jersey. The William Penn Foundation is the primary sponsor of the Regional Trails grant program. The program’s aims are to promote a regional network of multi-use trails.  For the LHT, this meant its connection to the Delaware & Raritan Canal tow path and the connections into Lawrenceville and Mercer Meadows County Park were crucial in its application.

“I was very pleased to get the news of this award,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.  “It is always gratifying when professional planners and elected officials from other municipalities reaffirm the work we are doing and the community connections and support that the LHT has developed.”

Preliminary site plans and easements for the trail segment have already been completed, thanks to a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb. This “shovel-readiness” and demonstration of community and corporate support was one of the key factors the DVRPC used in determining where to allocate their trail funds.

“As a founder and longtime supporter of the LHT, Bristol-Myers Squibb is delighted by the progress being made on the trail,” said company spokesman Fred Egenolf. Earlier this month BMS completed another segment on its Lawrenceville campus along Province Line Road. “Our congratulations to everyone involved with this project.”

Bidding for the project will be done over the winter with construction expected to begin in the spring of 2012. On this stretch the trail will be 10 feet wide and made of porous pavement.

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.  72% of the trail is usable now; the remainder is planned for completion in 2012.

The LHT’s board is made up of community leaders, interested citizens 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.