THE LACEY RAIL-TRAIL’S MISSION
We educate residents, government officials, civic groups and business owners about “Smart Growth”, a New Jersey State initiative.
We promote alternate modes of transportation, the preservation of the Central Jersey Railroad Right of Way in Lacey Township exclusively as a bike and pedestrian trail in an effort to achieve quality of life and to preserve natural resources for generations to come.
Ocean County has purchased the corridor in municipalities to the North and South through its Ocean County Natural Lands Trust (open space tax fund program) and is in the process of creating the “Barnegat Branch Bike Path” linear County Park. The park extends through 5 municipalities and is over 15 miles in length.
Lacey Township owns the sandy, 4+/- miles center portion of the tree-lined corridor within its border and has proposed to construct a 2+/- mile roadway with adjacent wide sidewalk to connect the County trail in their community. The Township contends the roadway is necessary to relieve Route 9 traffic.
In 2001, Lacey Township placed a non-binding referendum question on the ballot asking voters whether to preserve the corridor as a trail only or build a road with a “trail” (wide sidewalk) adjacent to it. Voters rejected the road combination and a majority chose preservation of the trail.
Lacey officials ignored the vote for preservation and proceeded with a pro-road and pro-development agenda.
After years of contentious local Township meetings and with no trail preservation options ever pursued by the Township committee, in 2005 the pro-road Township committee submitted an application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental (NJDEP) protection for a necessary Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) permit to construct approximately 8/10 of a mile of the proposed roadway.
Requests for additional information were made by the NJDEP on the application. Support for the road was given by NJDOT and OceanCounty; a local public hearing was held; and extensive public comments were submitted on the application.
The Lacey Rail-Trail Environmental Committee retained experts in the field of traffic analysis, planning, storm water, and environmental review to comment on the application. Numerous environmental organizations supported the preservation of the trail. The Central Jersey Rail Coalition also supported preservation of the trail for possible future rail service restoration.
After thorough review, the NJDEP issued a DENIAL on the Township’s road CAFRA application in April 2006.
Lacey Township Committee members could not reach a consensus to appeal the Department’s decision and instead chose to yet again place a non-binding referendum question on the ballot in the fall of 2006.
The pro-road ballot question had the support of tens of thousands of dollars to promote it. The ballot question asked if residents wanted a road built on the right-of-way to relieve traffic on Route 9. The question did not give the voters the option to preserve the trail. It was a road or nothing. They were only offered traffic relief or not. A majority of voters chose “traffic relief”.
This time the elected officials chose to “listen to will of the voters” and have proceeded with a pro-road agenda.
The ballot question does nothing to change the decision of the NJDEP. However, with the “blank check” given by the voters, the Township is moving forward with re-submitting a new CAFRA application for 2+/- miles of roadway – authorizing spending to date of close to a million dollars of local taxpayer money to move forward on a multi-million dollar road project that, if approved, will also be paid for with local tax dollars.
The Lacey Rail-Trail Environmental Committee remains committed to supporting Route 9 improvements and intersection upgrades for traffic relief on the State Highway. Years of advocacy for the upgrade and improvement to the Lacey Road and Route 9 intersection have kept the project moving forward in the NJDOT pipeline.
The Lacey Rail-Trail Environmental Committee remains steadfast in their trail preservation advocacy and pedestrian safety efforts and will once again challenge the information in the new CAFRA road application.
Save It…Don’t Pave It!!!
On a Path for a Greener Future
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