BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ With a deadline looming, the Bernards Township Committee this week accepted an offer from a developer to construct a 1,034-foot pathway along a portion of Mountain Road _ but officials haven't yet decided how the path would be constructed, or set its exact width.

The official offer is for a six-foot-wide asphalt pathway, but township officials left it up in the air as to whether it might be preferable to construct a path from a material such as gravel, and to make it narrower.  

As it stands now, there is no walkway along Mountain Road, and the new pathway would not connect to other sidewalks or path.

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However, the four-year-old offer, due to expire on Sept. 5 if not officially accepted by the Township Committee, was viewed by a majority of Township Committee members as a "start" to constructing some sort of walkway along the roadway.

Deputy Mayor James Baldassare, who was among the four members of the Township Committee to vote in favor of accepting the offer last Tuesday, August 13, said the decision to accept the offer of a pathway to be constructed at no taxpayer expense was a "no brainer."

However, Township Committeeman John Carpenter, who cast the sole vote against the acceptance, cautioned that the pathway will not necessarily be "free" because the township will be responsible for continuing maintenance once it is constructed.

Noting that the subject was first raised _ and approved _ on the same night, Carpenter also said that he would have preferred residents to have more of an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

Resident David Russell said during the meeting's public comment section that he thinks that some sort of walking path along the road would be good, but he doesn't know if constructing 1,000 feet of a disconnected path would be worth it.

Russell said he would support a larger-scale project, but not just 1,000 feet. He suggested that a path should at least extend to nearby Mountain Park.

Township Engineer Tom Timko estimated that building a gravel path along the one-half mile from the possible pathway to township-owned Mountain Park would cost about $20,000 to $50,000.

"If you start [part of a pathway], maybe later on you will do some more," suggested resident Bill Allen, a former member of the Township Committee. That would help provide "safe access" for pedestrians and cyclists heading to township parks and open space in the area, he said.

A majority of Township Committee members agreed. Baldassare said he favors the idea of initially connecting to Mountain Park. He said the township could apply for grants as well as setting funds aside to continue the project on a piecemeal basis.

"It's use it or lose it," said Township Committeewoman Joan Harris.

The construction of an off-road, six-foot wide asphalt pathway was part of a subdivision approval granted to developer Jim Babey by the Planning Board in 2104 for the creation of three buildable lots on the 37-acre Maolucci farm off Mountain Road.

However, the Planning Board at that time deferred to the Township Committee to make a final decision on whether to accept the offer.

The offer was due to expire on Sept. 5, 2019, exactly five years after the final subdivision plan was recorded on Sept. 5, 2014, according to documentation attached to the Bernards Township Committee meeting agenda for Aug. 13. The online document includes a map of the tract. 

Since the subdivision on Mountain Road was approved in 2014, online correspondence from Township Planner David Schley said, "One lot at 224 Mountain Road has been developed with a new dwelling, one lot at the end of Kings Ridge Road remains undeveloped, and the pre-existing farm/residence remains on 30 acres at 240 Mountain Road."