The Lawrence Hopewell Trail honored Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes with the third annual Trailblazer Award at an event this week– at the D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center in Princeton.

Hughes was among the Lawrence Hopewell Trail’s earliest supporters and has remained steadfast in his commitment to the LHT’s goal to build a 22+ mile biking and walking loop through Lawrence and Hopewell Townships. Among his many significant actions supporting the trail was to designate the LHT as the backbone of trail system for Mercer Meadows. And now his leadership is helping the LHT address the “missing link” to the trail, a stretch that links the trail off the Princeton Farms neighborhood in Hopewell Township across Carter Road and eventually connecting up with Educational Testing Service’s campus in Lawrence Township. The county supported the efforts by the N.J. Conservation Foundation and citizen activists to preserve the land as open space, enabling the LHT’s planned trail to become a reality.

“Creating a trail that would allow Mercer County residents to walk, jog or ride bikes through our beautiful communities has always made sense to me,” said Executive Hughes at the event Wednesday, October 20. “From my first acquaintance with the project, I was impressed with the vision of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail board to take an untraditional approach to developing a trail system through Lawrence and Hopewell Townships.”

“The collaboration between the county and the LHT has served the residents of Mercer County well, offering walkers, joggers and bicyclists access to some of the most beautiful parts of the county, including every aspect of the Mercer Meadows Park system,” Hughes said.

“Brian Hughes has been pivotal to our success in developing the Lawrence Hopewell Trail,” Becky Taylor, LHT co-president, told attendees at last night’s celebration of Hughes as this year’s “Trailblazer.” “He believed in our vision early on, giving us needed credibility to move forward in creating a trail where we don’t own a single foot of land but we cross corporate properties, public parkland and even private residences along the loop. Brian’s administration provided much needed financial support at several junctures as well as representation on the LHT Board of Trustees through Mercer County Planning Director Leslie Floyd.”

“The LHT is frequently asked how we, a group of lay citizens, have been able to build such a long, complex trail. Our answer is that you must start with a strong vision, a committed board, tenacity, and the full support of an equally visionary and tenacious County Executive. We could not have asked for a better advocate than Brian Hughes,” said Eleanor Horne, LHT co-president.