|By: John Tredea, Staff Writer , Hopewell Valley News||As published 04/06/2006|
About 65 people were on hand for March 29 hearing
Strong support for the partially complete Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) was voiced by most of the residents and officials who spoke during a well-attended public meeting on the trail at the Hopewell Township municipal building March 29.
About 65 people were on hand for the hearing, held by state Department of Transportation (NJDOT), LHT, Hopewell Township and Lawrence officials.
Hopewell Township Deputy Mayor David Sandahl said recently that the hearing would be an “opportunity for residents of both Hopewell and Lawrence townships to learn more about the trail, and provide input on trail plans.”
Mr. Sandahl also noted that “a successful public hearing is a critical step before technical planning and construction grant applications can be made to NJDOT and other state agencies. Funding for the trail ultimately will be raised through a mix of federal, state, county, municipal, and private funds, including contributions by both individuals and corporations.”
If completed as presently proposed, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail would be a 20-plus mile loop of multipurpose, recreational trails through public and private lands in Lawrence and Hopewell townships. Work on the trail began five years ago.
“The trail is a work in progress, and the exact route of the final trail will depend on input from Lawrence and Hopewell townships, Mercer County, private landowners and concerned citizens,” states the trail’s Web site: lhtrail.org
The plan is to make the trail suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers, with as much handicapped access as possible, as it passes through corporate campuses, school grounds, villages, fields, woodlands and along existing roads and streets.
Four sections of the trail have been completed and are available for public use. Marked by green triangular LHT signs, their locations are:
o Lawrence Village Park – Paved trail leads from Yeager Drive through the park, down Craven Lane and through the Village to the corner of Gordon Lane and Main Street (Route 206).
o Lawrenceville School – LHT signs lead trail users through the leafy campus to an exit onto Lewisville Road.
o Pennington-Rocky Hill Road, Hopewell Township – Paved mile-long trail on the Bristol-Myers Squibb campus runs between Old Mill Road and Titus Mill Road to provide safe passage on this stretch of a very busy road. The LHT passes a popular seasonal produce stand and allows users to enjoy views of surrounding state-preserved farmlands.
o ETS campus, Lawrence Township – Look for the LHT trail sign on Rosedale Road near the main auto entrance to enter this park-like campus, which includes Green Acres open space along the Stony Brook. Another two sections of the trail are actively being planned. The first will connect the Lawrenceville Village Park with the Pennington-Rocky Hill Road section. The second will initiate a link between the Lawrenceville School and ETS. These two sections are:
o Mercer County Park Northwest – Mercer County planners are developing a master plan for Mercer County Park Northwest that includes a long stretch of LHT trails through the old AT&T property on Keefe Road in Lawrence Township, as well as the County Equestrian Center and Rosedale Park, which border Federal City Road in Hopewell Township. Public input on the final plan will be sought at a hearing this fall.
o Lawrence Township – NJDOT grants have been requested for two new trail sections. One section would lead through the township’s Carson Road Woods property. Another, longer section would start on Lewisville Road, go through township open space lands that border Princeton Pike, cross Princeton Pike at the Regional Composting Site to continue on through Gatterdam County Park at the corner of Fackler Road.
BEFORE QUESTIONS and comments were taken during the March 29 meeting, Sheree Davis, bicycling and pedestrian coordinator for the state Department of Transportation (DOT), spoke briefly. She said the LHT “fits in nicely” with a proposed statewide bicycling and pedestrian network. Ms. Davis said “fostering a pro-bicycling and walking ethic” requires a “commitment to build the infrastructure.” The benefits such infrastructure would make available are many, she said, including opportunities for healthy exercise and a chance to meet neighbors in an attractive place while getting it.
The first speaker during the public section of the meeting was Mayor Michael Powers of Lawrence Township, who said: “I’m personally very committed to the trail… We’re becoming a nation of couch potatoes. We have to encourage physical activity, and not just in young people.”
“This would be an opportunity for families and friends to bike and walk together. The completed sections of the trail are getting heavy use. It will connect young people to the natural world. Hopefully much of it will be wheelchair accessible,” said Deputy Mayor Sandahl.
Many residents made similar comments, including Irv Broudy of Federal City Road, who said: “Myself and my wife are in favor of the trail. To allow people to commute by biking would really add something to our communities.” Mr. Broudy added that he thought the paving of the trail should be kept to a minimum. That could reduce the amount of handicapped access on the trail, however, officials involved in planning the LHT said.
Several residents who live near the Carson Woods in Lawrence were adamant that the trail should not be paved there. “There are five miles of trails in those woods now,” a Lawrence man who lives near Carson Woods, said. “Asphalt doesn’t make any sense.”
Lawrence farmer Ted Herbert said he has had myriad troubles with trespassers for many years and fears they will increase if the trail goes near his farm, as it would if created as currently proposed.
Several speakers replied that the trail might actually help Mr. Herbert. “I’m inclined to believe a path they could follow would actually tend to keep people off your land,” one man said.
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