Dialogue on Watchung Reservation Master Plan, Potential Mountain Bike Trails to Continue at Freeholder Meeting; Summit Residents Weighing in on Options, Process

The Watchung Reservation Master Plan public meeting drew an overflow crowd. Credits: Jennifer Popper
Trails: Light Blue is Hiker Only, Green is Equestrian, and Purple is Mountain Bikes Credits:

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - The Watchung Reservation Master Plan discussion is expected to continue at tonight’s Union County Freeholder meeting following Tuesday’s public meeting on the subject at the Trailside Museum in the Watchung Reservation. During the public meeting, which was filled to capacity, a fair portion of the commentary reflected concerns regarding proposed changes that would include the addition of mountain bike trails. 

Beth Little of Summit was among Hilltop City residents attempting to determine future steps in the process, commenting, “What happens next? When is the decision being made?”

Bruce Bergen, Chair of the Board of Chosen Freeholders addressed a crowd that was becoming raucous. “The Freeholders care what you say. What you say tonight will be listened to. I apologize if it looks like we did this surreptitiously, the word did get out. Three hundred of you are here tonight.”

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The last comment of the evening was from Michael Kane of West End Avenue in Summit. He relayed his daughter Emily’s comments. She is a member of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) bike team, the CMS (Chatham Madison Summit) Trailblazers.  This team is made up of student athletes who use these trails to train.  Kane said, “The proximity of Watchung to many surrounding communities could increase biking in kids and that would be good.”

Procedurally, the Freeholders can take comments at any meeting during the public comment section of the meeting. It is not clear when the Master Plan will be voted on. The next step is to receive and study the Engineering report.

Kevin Campbell, Assistant County Counsel for Union County, informed the crowd that a decision to designate bike trails can be made by the County Manager, but that he works closely with the Freeholders and any decision would be made jointly. After the engineering report is digested, the Master Plan can be modified will eventually be voted on by the Freeholders. It will then be enacted by ordinance of the Freeholders.

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