ROXBURY, NJ – An important piece of the former Morris Canal, situated in Ledgewood and choked with weeds, will soon receive major restoration.
Known as Morris Canal Incline Plane 2 East, the 19th Century structure in Roxbury’s Morris Canal Park will see restoration of its stone-lined raceway, mule/towpath, foundations and support structures. The work will be funded by $250,200 worth of state and county historic preservation grants distributed by the township under an ordinance adopted this week by the Roxbury Mayor and Council.
Considered engineering marvels at the time, the 23 inclined planes on the 107-mile-long Morris Canal used massive, water-powered turbines deep in the ground to pull canal boats up and over hills. Plane 2 East allowed the canal boats, loaded with 70 tons of coal, to traverse 80 feet of elevation in their voyage between the Delaware and Hudson rivers.
“It’s an absolutely marvelous industrial archeological site,” said Canal Society of New Jersey President Joe Macasek, discussing Plane 2 East.
Second Phase of Restoration
The site received $160,000 worth of stabilization in 2007, a "Phase One" project that included restoration of the sub-surface turbine chamber.
“The turbine chamber was about to fail,” Macasek said. “Deep down in the bottom, the arch was coming apart and about to collapse and bring whole side of chamber down. It would have been a total fiasco.”
The 2007 project included covering the chamber with a roof and protecting it from the elements with a “water control system,” Macasek said.
“That’s all great and absolutely fine, but the site needs more work,” he said. “One of the issues is that whole area along the right side. It’s a jungle in there, full of invasive species.”
For a while, the weeds were kept in check by volunteers – including some from the Roxbury Rotary Club. But a more permanent solution is needed, Macasek said. “We need to get those problem plants out and get more appropriate stuff planted there,” he commented.
The Canal Society and government historic preservation officials hope the Plane 2 E site can become "a major stop on the Morris Canal Greenway," said Macasek. "It now needs some fixing up to make it ready for prime-time for visitors."
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