OPEN SPACE OF WARREN COUNTY
Albert Krouse, Warren County Assistant Planner
David Peifer, Executive Director,
Upper Raritan Watershed Association
(wrote the section on Rail Corridors.)
To help plan for future open space and recreation areas, Warren County has taken an inventory of all such lands and categorized them according to ownership. County planners do not consider preserved farmland open space, because there is no public access. Lists of open space and also of preserved farmland are contained within the chapter.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is the only federal land reserve in Warren County. The Water Gap park covers 9,984 acres, which includes all of the former Township of Pahaquarry (now part of Hardwick Township), some additional portions in Hardwick, and also parts of Blairstown and Knowlton Townships.
The largest State owned open space in Warren County is Worthington State Forest, located in parts of Hardwick, Blairstown, and Knowlton Townships. The Forest covers 5,824 acres and is within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Allamuchy Mountain State Park, in Allamuchy Township, and Stephens State Park, in Hackettstown, share common boundaries and account for 3,390 acres of open space in Warren County. These two State parks extend into Sussex and Morris Counties.
The scattered tracts of land that comprise the Jenny Jump State Forest total 967 acres. These tracts are located in the Townships of Frelinghuysen, Independence, Hope, Liberty, and White.
Other large areas of State-owned land include 1,574 acres associated with the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center in Mansfield, Liberty, and Oxford Townships; 440 acres of land at the Rockport State Game Farm in Mansfield Township; 340 acres at the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery; and 92 acres at the Paulinskill State Park in Knowlton Township.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres State Acquisition Program has been actively pursuing new sites throughout Warren County. Among these are the expansion of the Jenny Jump State Forest in Allamuchy, Frelinghuysen, Hope, Liberty, and White Townships; the expansion of the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Oxford and Mansfield Townships; and acquisitions along the Musconetcong and Pequest Rivers.
The Paulinskill Valley Trail traverses the Townships of Knowlton, Hardwick, Frelinghuysen, and Blairstown, and then continues into Sussex County. This is part of what was once the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railroad. The trail has a flat cinder base and is popular for hiking, horseback riding, cross-county skiing, and bicycling. It also provides places for fishing and canoeing and is accessible to people in wheelchairs.
County-owned open space totals more than 650 acres. Until 1990, the County owned only 64 acres of open space--the County Courthouse Park in Belvidere.
From 1990 to 1995, the County acquired nine acres of the historic Morris Canal in Franklin, Greenwich, and Independence Townships. Since 1995, the Warren County Board of Recreation Commissioners has acquired 555 acres of open land and an
additional 29 acres of the Morris Canal using State Green Acres money.
Few municipalities in Warren County have lands dedicated for the single purpose of open space. To be cost effective, municipally owned open space usually must serve multiple purposes, such as parkland, playground, playing field, and picnic areas. Many Warren County municipalities share open space and recreation facilities with local boards of education or State-sponsored programs, such as Green Acres.
The largest area of semi-public open space in Warren County is the Merrill Creek Reservoir/Environmental Resource Center in Harmony and Franklin Townships. The site encompasses 2,650 acres of land plus a 650-acre reservoir.
Another semi-public reservoir in Warren County is the Yards Creek Station Recreation Area in Blairstown Township, where there are 700 acres of open space and 500 acres of water.
The New Jersey Audubon Society was deeded two properties of approximately 175 acres in Independence Township along Ryan Road. The purpose of the donation is to secure a resting place for migrating birds and a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. A segment of the Bacon Run Creek flows through this site. Public access for hiking and bird watching is planned.
In Pohatcong Township along Oberly Road, the 129.8-acre Pohatcong Grasslands is owned by the Phillipsburg Riverview Organization in partnership with the State Green Acres program. A preserve for threatened and endangered birds is planned.
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area 9,984
- Finesville State Park 3
- Stephens State Park 133
- Jenny Jump Forest 967
- Worthington State Forest 5,824
- Burch Sugar Maple 25
- Johnsonburg Natural Area 11
- Osman Forest 10
- Oxford Furnace Historic Site 1
- Allamuchy Mountain State Park 3,390
- Delaware River Access Areas 190
- Hackettstown Fish Hatchery 340
- Hackettstown State Game Farm (Rockport) 440
- Pequest Fish & Wildlife Area 1,574
- Dept. of Transportation Scenic Easement Area 53
- Mud Pond 143
- Paulinskill State Park 92
- White Lake 269
- Garrett D. Wall Park 4
- Morris Canal 38
- Oxford Mountain 170
- White Lake 385
- Hamlin 60
- Allamuchy 44
- Alpha 58
- Belvidere 39
- Blairstown 15
- Franklin 10
- Frelinghuysen 3
- Hackettstown 33
- Harmony 14
- Hope 17
- Independence 79
- Lopatcong 25
- Oxford 137
- Phillipsburg 43
- Pohatcong 182
- Washington Borough 39
- Washington Township 29
- White 65
|1. Gibbs Farm #1
|2. Gibbs Farm #2
|3. James Gibbs
|4. Fox, Elliot
|5. Steinharct, L.
|6. Leyburn, R.&A.
|7. Schnetzer Farms
|8. Cummins, G.&A.
|9. Makarevich, Gene
|10. Millheim Estate
|11. Terpstra, O.&F.
|12. Jeliffe, T.
|13. Schnetzer Estate
|14. Schnetzer, N.&M.
|15. Caputo, J.
|16. Semanchil Estate
|17. Trout, H.&A.
|18. Oostdyk, J.&O.
|19. Risko, Lew
|20. Genesis Farm
|21. Moore, Chan
|22. Jozwik, Mathew
TOTALS as of July 15, 1998 3,195 $12,436,289
(1998 acquisitions will add 744 acres, bringing the total acreage to 3,939.)
Rail corridors are important features of the Warren County landscape. Where these are still active railroads, they may play an important role in the County's economy. It is important to keep the rights-of-way intact for possible re-activation as railroads, although changing conditions may have rendered some of the routes obsolete as rail transportation corridors.
Railroad rights-of-way also present important opportunities for open space protection, greenway development, and linkage between open space parcels. Because of their linear nature, they lend themselves to the development of trails for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. They are also important cultural features, illustrating the development of the County, and often include striking engineering features, such as bridges, cuts, fills, and tunnels, that enhance the trail experience.
The map on page 109 depicting the rail corridors of Warren County was prepared by Brian Schmult of New Jersey RailTrails, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of rail rights-of-way and their conversion to trails. Three segments of former railroads have already been preserved as trails, but many more miles of line have been abandoned and might be available for the creation of trails.
Preserved Segments. The preserved segments are shown in red on the map. The largest of these is the former New York, Susquehanna & Western (NYS&W) line running along the Paulinskill River (#2 on the map). This segment is known as the Paulinskill Valley Trail and provides access to one of the County's most attractive rivers.
The next largest segment is part of the former Lehigh & Hudson River (L& HR) line, which follows the Pequest River (#14 on the map). The preserved section is included in the Pequest Wildlife Management Area, owned by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Game. This segment provides easy fishing access to the Pequest and is also quite scenic.
The only other preserved section is a short length of the former New York, Susquehanna & Western line in the Delaware Water Gap national Recreation Area (#6 on the map). Known as the Karamac Trail, this short segment provides access to the Delaware River.
Abandoned Lines. These lines are shown in blue on the map. Their potential for conversion to trails should be evaluated quickly, because after abandonment such areas often become eyesores and linear continuity is often lost through the legal or illegal actions of abutting property owners.
The former Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) line is abandoned for most of its length, from a point near Alpha Borough to a point near the County's eastern boundary (#1 on the map). It passes through substantial population centers and links these centers with relatively undeveloped lands to the east.
The former Cutoff or Northeast Cutoff of the Erie Lackawanna (#3 on the map) is one of the most significant engineering features of the County's landscape. Constructed in the early years of the twentieth century, this engineering marvel rivaled the Panama Canal in scale and boldness. The bridges and culverts along the route were the first major structural use of reinforced concrete for railway bridges in the world. The massive bridge over the Delaware River near Columbia was, at the time of its construction, the longest concrete structure in the world. The viaduct near the village of Hainsburg was the tallest concrete structure in the world. The line lies generally above the landscape and provides excellent views of the surrounding countryside. There have been repeated studies to evaluate the feasibility of re-activating this line for rail service.
The former Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad (#4 on the map) extended from Belvidere, where it was accessed by the Bel-Del Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, along the Pequest River. As mentioned earlier, a portion of this line is preserved, but the majority of its length remains unprotected. It offers possible river access for most of its length and provides excellent scenery.
The former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Branch (#5 on the map) runs from Changewater on the Musconetcong River through Washington Borough, where it crosses the active Conrail line (#9 on the map). At Changewater, there is a spectacular set of cut-stone piers that once supported the high-level bridge over the Musconetcong River. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Game provides fishing access here. North of Washington, a bridge has been removed, breaking the linear continuity. North of this point, the route is quite scenic and enters one of Warren County's most interesting engineering features, the Oxford Tunnel. Drainage from this tunnel now enters Pohatcong Creek, and the tunnel is reputed to support a breeding population of native Brook Trout. North of Oxford, the line touches the Pequest Fish and Wildlife Management Area and parallels the former Lehigh & Hudson River line before veering northward. It passes through the Manunka Chunk Mountain in a double-bore tunnel. North of this area, the line joins the former Bel-Del Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad (#11 on the map) and runs at a high elevation above the Delaware River Valley, affording excellent views. This line terminates at the Delaware River north of the Town of Belvidere. A massive steel-truss bridge crosses the river at this point, providing potential access to Pennsylvania.
The Oxford Branch (#10 on the map) was originally a part of the DL&W line and was used to route the line over Oxford Mountain during construction of the Oxford Tunnel. It also served the extensive iron mining operations in the Oxford area.
The Lehigh and New England (#13 on the map) is erroneously named. It was, in actuality, a connection between the DL&W and the NYS&W. It is, however, quite scenic for much of its length, running along Paulinskill Lake.
Overall, the railroad history of Warren County has left a rich potential for trail development and greenway linkage. The abandoned lines should be evaluated for open space acquisition.
View in PDF format:
Rail Corridors in Warren County, New Jersey
County Open Space & Recreation Trust Funds
County Open Space Tax Programs
View Map: Warren County's Open Spaces
[8 1/2 x 11 inches] [11 x 17 inches]
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