Giving Back

The Trail that Jake Built - A New Path in Roxbury

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ROXBURY, NJ – There came a day in April when Jake Kovalcik, alone on Mooney Mountain, stepped back and looked at what he’d accomplished: By himself, accompanied only by his dog, he’d built a new trail for Roxbury Township’s Veterans Park.

“When I connected the two ends I said, ‘Holy cow, I’m done,’” recalled the Succasunna resident. Finally, a project he began in October and yearned all winter to complete, was finished.

Meandering for 1.5 miles, the new “Red Trail” was a labor of love for the 41-year-old advertising executive, who is a member of the township trails committee. On days when he was working from home and didn’t have to drive to his New York City office, Kovalcik would grab his trail tools and be up on the mountain shortly after sunrise. “The days I didn’t go into the city I would be on the mountain at 7 ’clock with my dog trying to figure out where things should go,” he said. “And after I got it figured, I would dig it all out.”

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Kovalcik will be on hand 10 a.m. Saturday (May 30) for the official opening of the new trail. After the ribbon-cutting, participants will, of course, get to hike Kovalcik’s creation as part of a 3-mile loop hike that will also include the park’s blue and yellow trails.

“He built the trail himself in his spare time,” said Roxbury Recreation Program Director Sandie DiDomenico in an email. “He’s a priceless trails committee member!”

Kovalcik, an avid hiker, mountain biker, runner, cyclist and self-described “outdoors guy in general,” said he was motivated to create the trail by the trail-building efforts of the Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association (JORBA), and others, on the Dickerson Mine Preserve in Mine Hill.

“I loved what they did up there so much I was trying to replicate it a little bit if I could,” he said. “I’m on the town trails committee and we’d been talking about it for a while. I’d really like to give Sandie and Dave Stierli a lot of credit for … sort of letting me create it in my own vision.”

In doing so, Kovalcik tried to plot a course that brings users close to interesting and unusual features. While there are no breathtaking vistas he could visit, Kovalcik said the woods include their share of novel sights. “There are a lot of interesting rocks,” he said. “There’s an old foundation I went right past, so people could check that out. There’s a big rock that looks like a giant turtle neck sticking out of the water. I really tried to incorporate interesting things that I hoped people would enjoy.”

Kovalcik figures he spent about 100 hours on the project. “Winter was kind of a bummer,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get back out there this spring. I had it all laid out. I knew where I wanted to go and I was itching to get back out there.”

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