9-mile Greenway — stretching from Montclair to Newark to Jersey City — moves closer to fruition with land acquisition

Proposed Essex-Hudson-Greenway in the Meadowlands.

Nine miles of a former rail line is set to be converted into a new state park connecting eight Essex and Hudson County communities — Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Montclair — after the land was acquired by the state, according to a Thursday announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.

Murphy made the announcement joined by state and local elected officials, environmental advocates and critical project partners who helped bring the acquisition to fruition.

“For far too long, many of New Jersey’s most diverse communities have not enjoyed equitable access to our state’s open spaces and their accompanying health benefits,” Murphy said. “While connecting these communities to our natural environment and economic opportunity, the Greenway will also bolster resilience in one of the state’s most densely populated regions. Its acquisition testifies to my administration’s dedicated work and the shared vision of the partners who are making this new destination a reality.”

The Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition — comprised of the Open Space Institute, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance — has been advocating for the project for years. They said they are looking to create a safe, off-road trail to ride a bike and walk; ease traffic and offer active transportation options; create alternate commuting options; provide close-to-home, easy access to the outdoors; and bring much needed green space to urban communities that are traditionally and negatively impacted by infrastructure development.

The project is made possible through the Fiscal Year 2023 budget agreement, which includes $20 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to begin the remedial and structural work necessary to transform the abandoned rail line into a usable transportation corridor and recreational space.

The entire line will remain closed to the public for an initial period of 6-12 months, after which the line will be opened to the public segment by segment as work on individual sections is completed over the next several years.

The Department of Environmental Protection is currently procuring a consultant to support the development of the master plan and is leading an interagency working group and engagement with local elected officials, community members and other stakeholders.

“In this old, abandoned rail line, the Murphy administration sees an opportunity to improve the quality of life, environment and economy of the region — and we are seizing it,” said Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette. “Alongside Gov. Murphy and our many partners, the DEP is excited to continue the work of delivering a transformative Greenway that better connects our communities, provides innovative recreation and transit options, and contributes to the dynamic towns and cities all along its course.”

“The Essex-Hudson Greenway will offer complementary and environmentally-friendly mobility spanning two counties and eight municipalities in one of the most densely populated regions in northern New Jersey,” New Jersey Transit CEO and President Kevin Corbett said.

“For far too long our families have had to deal with the negative impact of an abandoned rail line. From illegal dumping to being an inviting space for negative activities, the rail line has tainted homeownership, backyards, new developments, new elementary schools and the first countywide park system in the country,” Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) stated.

“During my time as a public servant, I have always been an advocate for environmental responsibility and the preservation of open space,” Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill stated. “Growing up in Montclair, I valued the outdoors and developed the belief that all people benefit from having safe, recreational areas in close proximity. The Essex-Hudson Greenway will connect people and connect communities. It will literally bring people together and allow residents from different communities to experience and understand that we are the same community.”