BLOOMFIELD, NJ – A massive green project is inching closer towards getting a green light.

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia and members of the Township Council on Wednesday night hosted a Virtual Presentation to update the community about the status of the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project.

The presentation, in partnership with the NJ Walk and Bike Coalition (NJWBC) and the Open Space Institute (OSI), provided the latest details on the status of the Old Boonton rail line acquisition, including initial details about the undertaking.

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The Essex-Hudson Greenway project is a proposed nine-mile park that will span from Essex County to Hudson County.  OSI, in partnership with the NJWBC and the September 11th National Memorial Alliance, signed a preliminary purchase and sale agreement in 2020.

“The Essex County Greenway is an exciting project that would improve recreational opportunities for all people living in or around the area where the park would be located,” said Mayor Venezia.  “As your Mayor, we are proud to support this project – and it’s been a long time in coming.  Here we are more than 10 years later and its lose to fruition.  There aren’t many projects like this in the country.”

The nine-mile path goes from Montclair to Glen Ridge to Bloomfield to Belleville to Newark in Essex County, and through the Meadowlands area in Secaucus, to Kearny and ends just north of Journal Square in Jersey City in Hudson County.

“These types of projects take a long time, but it’s an important project due to the connectivity of these towns, counties and existing locations,” said Essex County Commissioner Carlos Pomares.  “We will have an opportunity to connect to the Morris Canal Greenway and link so many communities together while people can take a walk with their family and get some exercise.  This is a powerful tool to have and if we don’t jump on this opportunity now, we may never get this chance again.  We are in the early stages, but we are working diligently to make it as feasible as possible.  Greenway's and parks are important, and this will be wonderful to have in New Jersey.”

The Greenway would enhance and restore the natural habitat in the land and parks across the nine-mile span.

“We have a short period of time to make this happen,” said Debra Kagen, Executive Director of NJ Walk and Bike Coalition.  “It could bring 135 acres of new green space to half-a-million residents in a 1.5-mile radius and provide transportation alternatives as it is a safe place off-road to have biking as it provides access to those that don’t have a car.  It also provides safe routes to walk to schools, rail lines and recreation areas.  It’s close to Broad Street in Bloomfield and can bring potential business and customers into the area.”

The average width along the corridor is 100 feet and the Greenway will also connect to other parks along the route.  It would reduce traffic and improve greenhouse gas effects.

“There is potential for a nine-mile linear park to start in Montclair, wrap its way around Essex County and connect to Jersey City,” Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill said.  “It will be on an unused rail line.  We have an opportunity to purchase this piece of property and protect this open space, Greenway and trail that will connect our communities in so many ways.”

Economic impacts would include new business opportunities along the way and increase values of properties along the path border and provide opportunities for development.

“This was a pie-in-the-sky opportunity back in 2010 to purchase this nine-mile stretch of Greenway, as it was a slow and laborious process to bring five towns in together in Essex County, and now we are getting closer,” said Bloomfield Councilman Nicholas Joanow.  “By working with our various partners and continuing to push for this park, it could one day be a reality.”

Joanow continued, “it will add an amazing amenity to each town (along the route) with infrastructure to get people from one town to another.  As we see during COVID-19, mental health and exercise is an important component and this will help create a project that will be enjoyed by residents of Essex County, and it will be a showcase to other communities.”

The green space will have rain gardens and may help mitigate flooding as the subterranean rights below ground would be acquired to store rainwater overflow.

“This is an incredible project, as the five communities in Essex County move this forward with (the agreement of) the communities in Hudson County,” Joanow concluded.  “We have come to an agreement with Northfork Southern to tentatively negotiate a price.”

Wednesday’s meeting was held virtually, and live-streamed via Zoom on the Township of Bloomfield’s Facebook page.