After public comment at meetings in Parsippany and Boonton, the project was announced in 2018 and moved forward the following year.
|Updated Tue, Jun 13, 2023 at 11:04 am ET
PARSIPPANY, NJ — The lengthy process of creating public open space around the Boonton Reservoir has advanced once more, this time by going before the township planning board for a courtesy review.
After two years of site investigations, designs, and engineering work, progress is being made on the plan for a 7.7-mile trail in Parsippany and Boonton.
On Monday, June 5, the Parsippany Troy-Hills Planning Board met with a representative from the Open Space Institute and the project engineer to undergo a courtesy review hearing on the highly anticipated Boonton Reservoir and Trail Project.
The effort to renovate Jersey City's 700-acre reservoir in Morris County has been ongoing for over two years, and the project is still on paper despite a $600,000 federal Community Project Grant secured by U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill last year to facilitate the project.
Since 1904, the facility, which is located in the towns of Boonton and Parsippany-Troy Hills, has served as a utility and Jersey City's primary water supply.
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The project, which was announced in 2018, will be built in four stages. The centerpiece of the project is a 7.7-mile natural-materials hiking trail complete with trail signage, three parking areas, and a new pedestrian bridge trail across the reservoir's massive dam outfall.
Peter Karis, the Vice President for Parks and Stewardship for the Open Space Institute, said that they are currently at the tail end of the pre-development process of the project.
Officials claim that once the overall project is completed, the Boonton Reservoir will be more secure for all residents. The extra green infrastructure is meant to reduce stormwater runoff, and the loop trail will become a regionally significant recreational destination for the Parsippany community.
The trail will have two main entry points, one on Greenbank Drive and the other planned for right off of Parsippany Boulevard, Karis said.
"It is a four-phase project. Phase one includes a trailhead at Greenbank Drive and about 3.2 miles of trail running along the eastern edge of the reservoir at the southern end. It's essentially an existing maintenance road around the reservoir through phase one," Karis said.
The Greenbank Drive trailhead will have space for approximately 40 cars, as well as an entry gate, kiosks, and scenic overlook areas with signage explaining the reservoir's history and ecology.
Phase two will see the construction of the second trailhead, which will lead to two distinct sections of the trail. One section will head north to a specific lookout point, while the other will head south to another "prominent" lookout point overlooking the reservoir.
According to Karis, phase two will also be ADA-accessible, while phase one won't.
"Phase one will be universally accessible, although not ADA," Karis said.
The third phase will go around the dam, including the replacement of a 120-foot historic bridge on the dam's down slope side. According to officials, the bridge will connect phases one and two.
"Phase four on the western slope is the most remote and the most rugged. It includes four pedestrian bridges and the vast majority of the water protection areas that are included in the project. There are several inputs into the reservoir from the 287 corner that are unmitigated from a stormwater management perspective," Karis said.
Although the construction of the parking lots will necessitate the removal of trees, the project engineer clarified that all removed trees in the surrounding areas would be replaced in order to maintain the tree canopy.
“This project has been in the works for some time, and it is very near and dear to my heart,” Mayor James Barberio said. “The opening of this recreation area will be enjoyed by so many of our residents and those of other towns for years to come.
Barberio anticipates that this project will generate a lot of traffic near the reservoir because the trail's opening will be the first time the reservoir is officially open to the public.
"I can't tell you how many residents are looking forward to this coming to fruition," Barberio said.
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