Sunday, August 28, 2005
The Times, Trenton

By MIRTA D’AMATO

LAWRENCE – Advocates of the controversial biking/hiking trail through the Carson Road Woods have called on supporters to join them in a letter-writing campaign in support of their efforts to get financial support for the project.

They are urging those in favor of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail to e-mail state Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere before a state funding decision is made.

“The commissioner, like any other state politician, is influenced by whether or not they think they are going to get applauded or booed in what they do,” said Betty Wolfe, Lawrence Hopewell Trail program coordinator. “If there is a sense, an accurate reading by the commissioner, of the degree of support for this, then we are a lot more likely to get funding.”

Wolfe also expressed hope that a supportive letter-writing campaign will drown out opposition to the plan.

“There are a relatively small number of very vocal, very organized and highly focused people who are not in favor of the bike path,” Wolfe added. “When you have a very small, highly organized group, you have to work very hard to organize the general public.”

Opponents of the plan have said the trail would disrupt the open space.

Supporters of the bike path fear a repeat of what happened in 2004 when DOT denied a $200,000 state grant application.

Lawrence Mayor Pam Mount blamed opponents of the trail for diminishing the chances of getting those funds.

Now the township has applied for, and is awaiting word on, a $225,000 Local Aid Bikeway Program grant from NJDOT to finance a 0.9-mile section of the 20-mile bike trail intended for cyclists, walkers and the disabled.

Mount said she is confident that NJDOT will provide the funds.

“This is a public park, $8 million (was spent) in buying that land, so that there wouldn’t be a huge housing development,” Mount said. “The residents of Lawrence Township have a right to have access to that park. This trail is going to be a wonderful, exciting, non-disruptive way of encouraging people to use our park.”

The township agreed to provide an additional $22,500 or 10 percent of the $225,000 for the trail.

Since the 1980s, the Carson Road Woods tract had been sought by developers. In 2001, the township raised $8.4 million to buy the parcel from George Rieder and Gary Rieder of G. Rieder & Sons of South Brunswick.

Helping to foot part of the $8.4 million tab were the Delaware Raritan Greenway, which provided $3 million; and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which kicked in $1 million.

In 2002, merchants and government officials proposed the 20-mile Lawrence Hopewell Trail at a cost of $6 million. The trail would loop through Lawrence and Hopewell townships, and connect three Bristol-Myers Squibb corporate centers, Educational Testing Service headquarters and pass through the grounds of the Lawrenceville School, Mercer County Park Northwest, Rosedale Park and the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association Reserve.

Since then, several sections of the trail have been completed, including part of the Hopewell Township leg and segments through the ETS campus on Rosedale Road, a route of about 1.2 miles, and another connection of about 2 miles beginning at the entrance to the Lawrenceville School from Lewisville Road and ending in Village Park on Yeager Road.

According to Wolfe, about 150 e-mails in support of the Carson Road Woods section have been sent to the commissioner.

“We are really looking forward to NJDOT’s decision and hope that they do help us build what is really going to make a huge difference to people in this whole area,” Wolfe added.

©2005 The Times.