New Jersey is looking to expand its open-air spaces.
On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state will be purchasing a nine-mile stretch of land in Northern New Jersey for $65 million to create a "greenway" for walkers, runners, hikers, and cyclists.
"I think when we look back 30, 40 years from now, this is a top five accomplishment," Murphy said during a news conference. "I really believe that. This is a big deal that folks will benefit from for a long, long time."
The Essex-Hudson Greenway will be New Jersey's first new state park since 2006.
The property, which spans about 135 acres, was formerly part of the Boonton Line railway owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. Passenger service was discontinued on this portion of the line in 2002, according to the project's website.
The land connects Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City.
The State of New Jersey is securing purchase rights for the former Boonton Line to create the 9-Mi Greenway that will connect 8 towns! To learn more, click the link below. https://t.co/EuYmfQulqh#essexhudsongreenway #newjersey #njtrails #celebration pic.twitter.com/Oxi3H0Krml
— Essex-Hudson Greenway (@EHGreenway) November 12, 2021
The initiative to transform the railway into a linear park began with the Open Space Institute, which negotiated a sales agreement for the land last year.
The goal is to create a safe, off-road trail that provides alternative commuting options and "much needed greenspace to urban communities that are traditionally and negatively impacted by infrastructure development."
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"Spanning an average of 100 feet or more in width throughout its route, the project has the potential to offer significant benefits, especially in light of the current health, environmental and fiscal crises," a press release announcing the state's funding said.
The railway has been off limits for nearly 20 years, Gov. Murphy said on Friday, adding that the greenway will take time to come to fruition.
"We can't snap our fingers and create a park," he said. "We are purchasing a gem, but please make no mistake it is a rough cut one at the moment."
Officials did not detail an exact timeline for the finalization of the park.