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.