New Trails and Renovations at the Reservation

South Mountain Reservation gets five miles of upgrades and new trails.

Seventy percent of a $985,000 project has been completed, after over 300 hours of labor on the South Mountain Reservation, which has repaired two and a half miles of trails and added another two and a half, county officials said June 18.  

The first part of the project was to repair two and a half miles of trails in an attempt to deal with the ongoing issue of erosion on the reservation. 

"This stuff [the trails] hasn't been touched in over 110 years," a representative of the conservancy, Dennis Percher, said about the 2,000-acre reservation in West Orange, Millburn and Maplewood bordering South Orange. 

Percher explained further, before the the trails were redone runners would come back from a run covered in mud because of the water washing away the trails.

Due the slope of the reservation, the trails have eroded over the years but this project will restore the worst parts of the trails by raising up gravel and diverting water from trails.

"We've already had heavy rain and there was no erosion," the landscaping architect, Charles Cunion, explained.

The second part of the project has created another two and a half miles of trails through the Mayapple Hill section that the county bought a fews years ago, for $5 million, in a joint effort of West Orange, Open Spaces, Green Acres and the South Mountain Conservancy. 

The new trails are only two to three feet wide, Cunion said, as opposed to the rest of the old trails throughout the park that are about eight to 10 feet wide on average. It will also give a new access point near the  in West Orange. 

The improvements and additional trails were funded by Green Acres grants, which Open Spaces matches dollar for dollar and the project will be completed on August 27, Essex County Executive Director Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said. 

"This is the third contract in the last 10 years," DiVincenzo said. "We made it our priority especially with our conservation groups."

Since 2006, over $2.5 million, not including this recent project, has been invested into repairing and renovating the park, by adding plants, dog park and other general improvements.

Allowing mountain bikes on the trails was also brought up during the press conference, to which DiVincenzo and Percher said it was being discussed. 

Cunion explained later, the new two and half miles of trails were designed using a lot of the International Mountain Biking Association's guidelines, IMBA. Only slight modifications would be needed to make the trails ideal for biking, which he estimated the cost at $10,000 at the most. 

Michael June 19, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Let's be clear - "mountain biking" is NOT being discussed by the County. Joe D explicitly told the Conservancy (and me personally) that if the Conservancy supported allowing mountain biking (which it did though its presentation of a Multi-Use Pilot Program designed to allow mountain biking in about 2/3 of the Reservation on a temporary trial basis), he would support it. The result was over 2000 volunteer hours (with the majority by mountain bikers). Joe D then lied and said it was not moving forward. The mountain bikers stopped volunteering after being lied to. The results are obvious.
Michael June 19, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I also note that whatever "modifications" are being discussed at a cost of $10,000 could be done for free by the mountain biking community - just like all the other miles of multi-use trails constructed by the mountain biking community (through the South Mountain Conservancy) for FREE. Note that this is not a knock on Cunion nor the Conservancy (which is a wonderful organization), merely a fact that we have a large number of highly qualified volunteers who are being ignored at the expense of the tax payers.
Noreen Brunini June 19, 2012 at 07:10 PM
$985,000 divided by 5 miles worth of trails is $197,000 per mile (not including the $5 million acquisition costs for the new trail in Mayapple Hill). Am I reading this correctly? And yet Essex County did not through in the extra $10,000 to allow mountain biking? Correct?
Michael June 19, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I assure you that the $10,000 is not the issue for the County. That work could and would easily be done for free by volunteers. Joe D just does not want to "rock the boat" by allowing mountain biking. He is a bright man who knows how to get re-elected, and he clearly has calculated (perhaps incorrectly) that the negative impact of allowing mountain biking outweighs the positive impact - on his re-election - of being progressive and allowing mountain biking and improving the trail system in the Reservation. He would rather spend $1 million of our money instead (although in fairness, some of the work being done could not be done by our volunteers - though it is not being done properly anyway).
Adam Kraemer June 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM
While I love the South Mountain Reservation. However, this could be done at a lower cost. Can low risk inmate form the county jails do the work? With high taxes, decaying infrastructure, high crime rates, and high poverty rates is this the best allocation of public resources?
mergs June 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM
While I applaud smart, passive use of open space for recreation, and respect the South Mt Conservancy's position, the article is disappointing: $103K for a trail plan + $985K to an excavating co is a lot of taxpayer money. Local advocates through the South Mt Conservancy have put in 2000+ hours of volunteer time and have fixed and built miles of trails, for FREE. This could easily have continued but Essex Co continues to ban the most productive & skilled volunteers: local mountain bikers. Instead, common sense and open-minded progressive thinking continues to be lacking at the county level (I'd assume due to out of date notions of mountain biking being unsustainable and wreckless.) Newsflash: Essex County is in the majority. Passaic County, Morris County and Somerset County and NJ State Parks and Forests have all discovered that mountain biking is a healthy outdoor activity, great for families and has little or no impact on the environment. And mountain bikers volunteer in force to create and maintain trails on par with any other user group.
M OKeef June 20, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Sounds like Joey D has too much money!
Michael June 20, 2012 at 02:01 PM
There is a skill involved in this work. There is no need to use low risk inmates (though they would be welcome) since we had a volunteer base of 10-15 volunteers per trail day, plus larger groups on special days (i.e., Goldman Sachs and other groups), to perform this work. The result was several miles of new trails - all at NO COST to the taxpayers. If this project is worth $1 million, that means the work that was performed by volunteers (at least as many miles of new trails) is also worth $1 million. Unfortunately, the County decided that rather than embrace the mountain biking community as so many towns, counties and communities throughout the country have done (in addition to the federal government and the Sierra Club, to name a few), they preferred to abandon the mountain bikers and spend tax payer money (that could better be spent elsewhere in the Reservation) to do that which volunteers were previously doing. To be clear, I am glad money is being spent in and on the Reservation - it is sorely needed. My problem is that the money could have been far better spent.
mergs June 20, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Correction: I meant to say "Essex County is in the minority" not majority


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