By: Jeff Sommes:
The Morris County Board of County Commissioners received a recommendation today to award eight trail projects for $528,265 as part of the 7-year-old Morris County Trail Construction Grant Program.
Morris County officials said in a statement that Betty Cass-Schmidt, Chairwoman of the Trail Construction Grant Advisory Committee, presented the 2022 grant recommendations to the County Commissioners during their public work session in Morristown.
Officials say since its inception, the Commissioner-appointed advisory committee has recommended 47 grant awards totaling 28 miles, and 21 projects have been completed.
"The program continues to build momentum. Each year we see new municipalities which had not previously participated apply to the program. There are also municipalities returning to the program that has had success in previous years.
Nine municipalities have received more than one grant. Municipalities can submit a design and permitting or a construction application. This allows cities to choose a trail development strategy that fits their needs and financial structure and results in better trails for residents," said Cass-Schmidt
The County Commissioners will vote on whether to accept the grant recommendations at their Dec. 21, 2022, meeting.
"Since the first trail grant award in 2016, our municipalities and citizens have received this program very well. As with our Open Space and Historic Preservation programs, the trail network we have been developing throughout Morris County offers an easy and accessible respite to everyone looking to get outside, exercise, or even clear their head – by walking, jogging and riding bikes through our rural towns. While the county oversees some essential educational, human service, infrastructure and public safety functions, we view this as an equally important service to maintain and reinforce the excellent quality of life we have in Morris County," said Commissioner Stephen Shaw, the board liaison to Morris County's Office of Planning and Preservation.
Morris County officials said funding for trail projects is derived from Morris County's voter-approved Morris County Preservation Trust Fund, which was established in 1992 and subsequently modified with voter approval in 2002 to establish a Historic Preservation Fund.
In 2014, voters approved a ballot question by a margin of 3 to 1 to modify the fund again, this time allowing trail development as an allowable use for a portion of the trust fund money.
If the County Commissioners approve the recommended projects, Morris County will have dedicated nearly $5 million towards establishing 28.37 miles of trails in just seven years since the inception of the Trail Construction Grant program in 2016.
Purpose of Funding: The grant program's purpose is to provide recreational trail use opportunities, which benefit the communities and enhance the quality of life for the residents of Morris County.
Who is Eligible: Any of the thirty-nine municipalities in the County of Morris, New Jersey. Cities are limited to one application per funding cycle.
Permissible Uses and Projects: Construction of new trails for both motorized and non-motorized uses and trail enhancements, including improved trails to accommodate increased volume and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Funding is considered only if the land on which a trail is to be constructed is:
- Located in Morris County
- Owned by the municipality in full and or via permanent easements
- Permanently preserved public parkland or private land with dedicated easements for public recreation use
- On land with a permanent easement for public trail/recreational provided to the municipality
- In full municipal control of all land and/or easements on which trail(s) are to be funded