With shoes laced up and tight grips on handlebars, cyclists rode together in Trenton last week as D&R Greenway Land Trust celebrated the Trenton Wellness Loop. On Thursday, November 8th, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, City Council Members, D&R Greenway and project partners gathered at the Trenton Battle Monument, 348 North Warren Street to dedicate the new 1.5 mile Wellness Loop.
Back in the 1940s, a segment of the D&R Canal – now Route 29 – was filled, but the canal ran all the way out to Crosswicks Creek into the Delaware. “If you’re at the Battle Moment in Trenton, you can go up one way to New Brunswick or you can go the other way through Lambertville and Frenchtown – a remarkable green spine running through the state,” said John S. Watson, Jr., Vice-President of Land Preservation & Stewardship at D&R Greenway Land Trust. “William Penn Foundation, through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), gave us funding to figure out how to reconnect the primary segments of the D&R Canal to the southern portion and into Bordentown and the Delaware River Heritage Trail.”
At the start of the Trenton Wellness Loop is Trenton’s Battle Monument. Standing tall above Broad Street (Route 206) and Pennington Road (Route 31), this Revolutionary sentinel marks the site of the American victory at the first Battle of Trenton that took place on December 26, 1776. Located in an area known as “Five Points,” it was here that the American artillery were placed, preventing the Hessians from organizing a counter attack.
“This project has been planned for years and is finally on the ground,” said Watson, who spearheaded implementation of the design created by the City of Trenton and the Partnership for Healthy Kids. The new trail includes on-street bike lane striping, signage and wayfinding through Trenton’s downtown.
“This is truly a dream come true,” continues Watson. “For nearly two decades the State, Mercer County and the City of Trenton were looking for ways to complete trail connections along the D&R Canal and the Delaware River.” Watson’s leadership brought the partners together. “Building on our preservation work and close partnership with the City and Mercer County, we were able to bring D&R Greenway’s strategic know-how and efficiencies to the table to get this project done.”
The Loop will connect to a larger trail segment, currently under design, that will reconnect the D&R Canal towpath through Trenton’s streets to a section of the D&R Canal in Hamilton Township that was “orphaned” from the larger canal system when the canal was filled by the WPA in the 1930s. That stretch of former canal is now State Highway Route 129 and trackage for the RiverLine train.
“The D&R Canal State Park is one of our State’s most visited parks. Reconnecting this segment that runs through the Abbott Marshlands to the main trail system creates linkages to the Delaware River Heritage Trail and the Circuit Trail that is currently in creation,” says Olivia Glenn, Director of Parks and Forestry for the NJDEP.
The Circuit Trail is a system of connected public trails in the Greater Philadelphia and South/Central New Jersey Region. When complete it will include 800 miles of multi-use paths for cyclists, walkers, runners, commuters and families for recreation and active transportation. Plans are underway to connect the Tulpehaking Nature Center, Abbott Marshlands and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail to the Circuit network. Trenton, near the northernmost end, is an important hug in the Circuit Trail, one of the largest trail networks in the nation.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora looks forward to this improvement to the Capital City. “I am very excited about these projects in our city, making bicycling safer for our residents and visitors,” says Mayor Gusciora. “Many of Trenton’s residents move around our city by bicycle as their primary mode of transportation. Creating bike lanes to integrate them into the proper traffic patterns will serve to protect them and inform motorists to share the roadways.” New bicycle lanes will be identified along Warren Street, North Broad Street and Assunpink Boulevard.
The Wellness Loop was originally proposed by the Partnership for Healthy Kids. “New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton partnered with Trenton officials,” says Marissa Davis, Senior State Program Manager, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, “with a goal to help residents of the city gain active lifestyles and increase physical activity, as well as access to natural environments.”
Barry Seymour, Executive Director of the DVRPC, concurs. “Our commitment to projects like these is part of DVRPC’s vision for the Greater Philadelphia region: a safe and modern transportation system that protects and preserves natural resources while creating healthy communities.”
“The Wellness Loop is yet another way D&R Greenway is working to enhance the health of the Capital City,” said Watson. D&R Greenway’s Capital City Farm provides fresh produce to residents, as well as jobs and education; D&R Greenway has been working to restore the Natural Area Meadow in Trenton’s historic Cadwalader Park; and D&R Greenway has been working with the Trenton Bike Exchange to provide bicycles to Capital City residents. “In addition to making the streets safer for Trenton’s many bicycling commuters, the Wellness Loop is a great way for families to spend time together outdoors, get a cardiovascular workout, see our preserves and reap the health benefits of nature.”