Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan Helps Communities Connect Healthy Living and Local Businesses
A new, multi-use trail system that supports healthy communities and ecotourism in the greater Lake Hopatcong region is becoming reality, thanks to private-public partnerships and a belief in the power of connecting people with nature.
The Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan envisions a recreational trails system covering Jefferson Township and Mount Arlington Borough in Morris County, N.J., that will provide an attraction for visitors to the lake and an amenity for those who call Lake Hopatcong home. The trails will accommodate walkers, joggers, hikers, and bikers and provide both an alternate route for travel around the lake and a resource for recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors. The trail system will tie neighborhoods together and provide access to the area’s municipal parkland, county parks, state parks, and the state wildlife management areas. When complete, the system will stretch from the Mount Arlington NJ Transit Rail Station in the south to the Mount Paul section of Kittatinny Valley State Park in the north.
The vision was spearheaded by a local resident who is an avid bicyclist, jogger, and hiker—a private donor passionate about getting outside and enjoying nature. It was during the height of the pandemic that he saw the potential in addressing the area’s lack of trails to bring the local community together through the natural beauty of Lake Hopatcong. When considering how to connect nature with business and health, he began a partnership with consulting firm Greener by Design to find solutions.
Greener by Design completed the comprehensive Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan in January 2021. The plan takes an inventory of the existing trails in the region, lays out the routes for new sections, identifies key properties for acquisition, and estimates the costs involved in the construction of a complete system of trails. As trusted partners in trail systems design, care, and management, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference was enlisted to provide expertise and support for the Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan in July.
“The Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan aligns beautifully with the Trail Conference’s mission, values, and vision for the future,” said Trail Conference Executive Director Joshua Howard. “As more people seek nature, providing improved access is essential. The kind of connectivity this plan provides shows real forethought in caring for both the natural areas of the Lake Hopatcong region and the people who live, work, and recreate there. We are proud to be a part of this exciting endeavor.”
The plan proposes 16 new trail segments in Mt. Arlington Borough/Jefferson Township that total just over 24.5 miles. Most of the land within the trails plan is already publicly owned, managed by various municipalities, Morris County, or the state. That means little land acquisition needs to take place—a big hurdle already cleared in completing the proposed trails system. So far, the newly formed Trail Committee in Jefferson Township has worked on improvements on one segment, with plans to perform further trail work to the Prospect Point Preserve Trail System.
The key segment in the plan is transforming Compton Gobel Road, an existing logging road, into a multiuse trail suitable for bikes, strollers, and foot traffic from Route 15 to Paderewski Road. Frank Pinto, who worked on the plan through Greener by Design, says its direct access to Route 15 allows for a trailhead with ample parking off a major state highway, which is important in attracting visitors. Jefferson Township has additional plans for ecotourism-friendly improvements in this area, including a parking lot and pump track for bikes. Pinto hopes to receive bids for construction on this segment’s first 1.5 miles soon.
“It’s wonderful to work with the Trail Conference and Jefferson Township that see a common vision of enhancing the Lake region’s attraction as an ecotourism destination through this ambitious trail network,” Pinto said. “Future plans being considered would link the trail system through Wharton Borough to Dover, a regional transportation hub.”
The Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan is made possible through the cooperative support of the following: The Morris County Park Commission, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection: Green Acres Program, NJDEP Division of Parks & Forestry, NJDEP Division of Fish, Game & Wildlife, NJDEP Recreational Trails Program, New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Highlands Council, Jefferson Township, Greener by Design, and the Trail Conference.