The inaugural New Jersey Trails and Greenways Summit was co-hosted by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT) on September 22nd and 23rd. The Summit exceeded expectations, with more than 530 people attending the virtual event. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Summit is that it showed that there is a will at the state level to create a statewide regional trail network.
The Bicycle Coalition was involved in the planning of the Summit. We also presented on connecting trails using on-road connections and invited attendees to our Explore the Circuit ride for the Elephant Swamp Trail in Gloucester County.
Up until recently, New Jersey’s Trail development has been a piecemeal effort. Some counties, such as Monmouth and Cape May have had success building regional trails but for the most part planning and implementation of trails has not been a priority. The success of The Circuit Trails network has amplified the call for a coordinated and planned approach to building a statewide trail network. While the Circuit Trails focus is regional shared-use paths the Summit covered all types of trails, including natural surface trails and water trails. What’s most remarkable is that two state agencies have joined forces to make it a success.
In order to keep the momentum going, the Bicycle Coalition has partnered with other statewide organizations to create the NJ Trails Action Network. The network will collaborate with and amplify the work of agencies, partners, and other trail organizations throughout the state. Anyone can join the Action Network by going to njtrailsaction.org
If you missed the conference, no worries. The entire Summit is posted online on the NJ Trails Action Network YouTube Channel
The Opening Keynote session features Commissioners Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti from NJDOT and Shawn Latourrette from NJDEP. Robin Hutcheson from USDOT and Christopher Douwes from the Federal Highway Administration. The highlight of the Keynote is the presentation (34:00) delivered by Meishka Mitchell, Vice President of the Camden Community Partnership. Meishka is a Camden native who presents a compelling story of how growing up in the City has shaped her work on neighborhoods, parks, and trails in the City.