Silent for 18 years, nearly nine miles of abandoned train tracks running from Hudson County to Essex County may someday soon be the home to a long greenway to rival the High Line in Manhattan.
The Open Space Institute has lined up support from freeholders in both those counties in order to build paths for walking and biking, drawings show, as well as rain gardens and other plantings that would stretch the entire length of the space that could be used for recreation or possibly even commuting. Norfolk Southern Railway, which owns the property the lines are currently on, has agreed to sell it for $65 million.
Drone video provided by the institute shows how the abandoned tracks slice through urban communities and wooded areas. The proposed greenspace would include several cities and towns from Montclair to Jersey City, which could mean that each town's section could end up looking different from the others.
"You have to work with the communities along the line to save what they want and how they want it developed," said Dene Holfheinz, of the Open Space Institute.
The rail bed, tracks of the old Booton line on NJ Transit that have been out of use since 2002, also crosses the water expanse of the Meadowlands en route to Jersey City, promising the best access yet to an area once called a swamp but now seen as vital to the regional ecology.
There are some roadblocks however. On Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark, companies adjacent to the space have taken over the tracks for their own purposes, like parking vehicles. But the promise of what could be has advocates excited.
"It connects communities...there really isn't anything like this in the region," said Debra Lee of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition. "When these options are available, people use them."
Money still has to be raised, both for the purchase and the reconstruction as a greenway. A combination of grant and government money would be needed to turn the proposal into a reality, with the purchase deadline within the next year or so.