WESTFIELD, NJ — The Recreation Commission has identified construction of a mountain bike trail in a 44-acre park on Prospect Street as among its priorities in an extensive plan for local parks and fields.
The Brightwood Park trail project is one among $41.61 million in park improvements the town is considering for implementation over the next 10 years. It is a trail that 14-year-old mountain biker Murray Topilow is hoping for and one that a New Jersey mountain bike association has offered to build at no cost to the town.
“My parents both work a lot,” Topilow, a Westfield resident, said at the Recreation Commission’s meeting this week. “So, it’s difficult to get out to many trails because they’re not close to Westfield.”
Topilow is not alone in wanting more convenient trail access, something that continues to be a limited resource after the Union County freeholders in 2017 decided not to allow mountain biking in nearby Watchung Reservation, a move that came at the urging of environmental advocates.
With a club mountain biking program at Westfield High and one of the town’s intermediate schools, off-road bike trails are in high demand locally, said Andrew Stillufsen, co-chair of Union County chapter of the Jersey Off Road Bicycling Association. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association is also working to start a team in Westfield, Stillufsen said.
Commission member Larry McDermott said that he agrees that adding a bike trail to the Green Acres protected park is an excellent idea. McDermott said the commission is prioritizing which items on the extensive master plan to recommend to council. Click here to view all of the projects.
“The Brightwood project has been prioritized,” McDermott said. “The next step is to see what council has to say.”
One member of the commission expressed his concern about enforcing safety rules and codes of conduct on the proposed bicycle path.
Murray’s father, Evan Topilow, replied that mountain bikers follow strict guidelines, which could be posted at the park’s entrance.
“We won’t be making our own rules,” Evan Topilow said. “We will defer to the International Mountain Bike Association and Jersey Off Road Bicycling Association.”
While the recreation master plan projects the cost of the proposed “Natural Surface/Mountain Bike” trail at $221,000, the nonprofit mountain biking association, JORBA, has offered to build the trail at no cost to the municipality. JORBA says it is dedicated to building and maintaining sustainable, environmentally sound bike trails.
“We build and maintain trails that are built to avoid erosion,” said Stillufsen, who is a Westfield resident. “JORBA will build the trail for free. We’re a volunteer organization, fully insured, and we have our own equipment.”
Stillufsen said the trail would not adversely impact people living near to the park. The trails are quiet and free of fluorescent light, he said.
As for trail etiquette?
“Mountain bikers as a group self-police,” Stillufsen said. “We know that access to trails can be taken away at any time so it’s to our advantage to follow the rules.”
Brandstetter Carroll, the firm that was contracted for the Parks Plan, is anticipated to give a public presentation at the Tuesday, Feb. 11, Town Council meeting to summarize the plan. The meeting will be held at the Westfield Municipal Building, 425 East Broad St. It begins at 8 p.m.