New Jersey will purchase an abandoned rail line to create the Essex-Hudson Greenway. (Courtesy New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition)

By BRENDAN W. GILL
Special to Montclair Local

Recently, I had the much-anticipated and long-awaited opportunity to stand with Gov. Phil Murphy and a coalition of elected officials, community leaders and civic organizations, as the governor announced that the State of New Jersey would purchase the land upon which the Essex-Hudson Greenway — a 9-mile, 100-foot-wide linear park and shared-use trail connecting Montclair to Jersey City — would be created.

It was more than 10 years ago that I first heard of what was then being called The Iron and Ice Trail, and committed myself to turning this idea into a reality.

When completed, the Essex-Hudson Greenway will pass through eight municipalities in Essex and Hudson Counties and will become the newest addition to our state park system. It will connect Montclair to surrounding neighborhoods, strengthen our local business, and provide much-needed transportation alternatives and new commuting options to our residents.

In the governor’s words, the Greenway will be “a crown jewel in our state park system, and one of the top five developments” in his time as governor.

However, we still have a long way to go. We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball or wait another 10 years before we can deliver the essential benefits of this project to our communities. We must be meticulous in our planning on issues ranging from stormwater overflow and flood mitigation, to security and trail maintenance.

As with all great endeavors, these developments would not have been possible without the contributions of key partners, supporters and stakeholders. I thank the Open Space Institute, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, the September 11th National Memorial Trail, local businesses and environmental leaders, bicycling and pedestrian enthusiasts, civic groups, religious organizations, public health advocates and hundreds of supporting entities for their leadership and hard work in support of this transformative legacy project.

Furthermore, in accordance with President Joe Biden’s recently signed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the Greenway will serve as a model for future environmentally friendly infrastructure projects across the country. It will embody the “Build Back Better” emphasis on our nation, especially as we improve our infrastructure, provide new opportunities for small businesses and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Essex-Hudson Greenway will improve the economy and health of our communities in the short term, and provide untold benefits for the environment and future generations. It will be a historical, game-changing infrastructure project that will allow New Jersey to take its place as a leader in the national movement towards environmental responsibility and the promotion of a healthier lifestyle.

I remain as committed to seeing this project through to fruition as I was 10 years ago, and I look forward to continuing my work toward another great day in New Jersey’s future — the opening of this historic Greenway.

Brendan W. Gill is a lifelong Montclair resident, a board member of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and a commissioner at large on the Essex County Board of County Commissioners. 


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