2010-09-30 / Front Page

New trail takes visitors along historic railroad line

Multiuse path to measure 8.6 miles when complete by 2012
BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent
Local dignitaries joined bikers, horseback riders, walkers and a horse and wagon at the official opening of the Union Transportation Trail on Sept. 25.

Above: Horseback riders hit the newly created Union Transportation Trail in Upper Freehold. The Monmouth County Park System opened the new trail on Sept. 25. Below: The rehabilitated historic wood trestle bridge along the trail. Above: Horseback riders hit the newly created Union Transportation Trail in Upper Freehold. The Monmouth County Park System opened the new trail on Sept. 25. Below: The rehabilitated historic wood trestle bridge along the trail. The trail meanders along a former railroad line that transported farm goods to market in the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to the Monmouth County Park System (MCPS), which designed and maintains the trail, the 20-mile Pemberton and Hightstown Railroad started operating in 1868 to carry dairy products from Monmouth County farms to stops in Burlington and Mercer counties. In 1888, the Union Transportation Co. leased the railroad. While passenger service stopped in 1931, freight service continued until 1977.

Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders Director Lillian Burry noted that when the Union Transportation (UT) line ceased operations in the 1970s, the Jersey Central Power & Light Co. (JCPL) acquired the right of way. In 1991, the MCPS identified the right of way as a possible rail trail, and in 1998, the MCPS signed a 99-year lease with JCPL for the right of way.

“Today, we are here to celebrate the completion and opening of the first two miles of the trail,” Burry said in her speech on opening day. “Along the trail, you will also find the rehabilitation of the historic wood trestle bridge over Lahaway Creek in Hornerstown. It is one of the few physical remnants of the old railroad.”

Burry congratulated the MCPS for “providing another wonderful recreational resource.”

Upper Freehold Mayor Stan Moslowski Jr, who grew up in town, recalled the trains running along his family’s farm when he was a kid. He said his father made him pick up coal that fell from the trains to burn in the stove. Former Committeeman Charles Faber, brother of current Committeeman Bob Faber, once operated train engine No. 999 on the line.

Moslowski called the UT trail one of the most beautiful spots in the county, and thanked former township officials who helped make Upper Freehold what it is today. Among the former mayors present during the opening day ceremony were Fred Kniesler, John Mele, David Horsnall and Richard Osborn. Osborn’s horses pulled a wagon full of guests along the trail, since he and his wife Debby operate a horse drawn carriage business.

Others in attendance at the trail opening included

Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners Chairman Ed Loud, Upper Freehold Township Recreation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, Recreation Director Gail Mele and Deputy Mayor Lorisue Horsnall Mount. Monica LaRue, the equestrian representative on the township recreation committee, rode her horse on the multiuse trail.

Allentown resident and MCPS Director James Truncer said he is hopeful that the sections of the Union Transportation railroad line in Burlington, Ocean and Mercer counties will eventually be preserved as a recreation trail.

“The trails service all ages, populations and users,” he said. “In terms of cost/benefit, it’s one of the best returns for outdoor recreation.”

According to MCPS project manager Andy North, the portion of the trail in Monmouth County will be 8.6 miles long when finished by 2012. The northern end of the trail runs to the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, he said.

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