Essex County – It’s official! New Jersey now owns the land that will become the Essex-Hudson Greenway.

In a major milestone to create a multi-use recreation trail spanning Essex and Hudson Counties, Governor Phil Murphy announced Thursday that the State has successfully acquired the inactive railway in northern New Jersey stretching nearly nine miles from Montclair to Jersey City. The acquisition of this former rail line property sets the stage for a transformation – New Jersey’s newest linear State Park. The $65 million state investment marks New Jersey’s single largest conservation project ever and the largest transaction aimed at securing a non-motorized transportation corridor.

The Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition, comprised of the Open Space Institute, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, and the September 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, which coordinated and advocated for the project over the last four years, today celebrated the acquisition that moves the project closer to becoming a reality.

“This acquisition by Governor Murphy and the state of New Jersey brings us one step closer to creating much-needed green space to the most densely populated and diverse region in the entire nation,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, which secured the purchase agreement for the 135-acre former rail property and provided extensive transactional support for the acquisition. “OSI is proud to have played a role in bringing this transformative project to today’s announcement and looks forward to building on our public-private partnership and fulfilling the promise to create a word-class linear park that will greatly enhance local communities and be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The newly acquired state land spans Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City. Measuring close to 100 feet wide in areas, the park will offer residents ample space for off-road transportation and recreational biking and walking. The Greenway has the potential to support new and existing businesses, create enhanced access to a healthy, thriving green space for historically underserved communities, and offer the communities adjacent to the property with significant flood control and environmental solutions to resolve longstanding issues.

“The acquisition of the land for the Greenway is a historic step on the path to transforming our region with equitable and safe active transportation options and much needed open space. We want to thank the many advocates who persevered over so many years to fulfill this dream, and to thank Governor Murphy for securing this land and his commitment to creating it as New Jersey’s next state park,” said Debra Kagan, Executive Director, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.

In 2021, the September 11th National Memorial Trail received unanimous federal legislation for the trail route connections the National Memorial and Museum in New York to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, VA, to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA, creating a triangle shaped 1,300 mile trail route that is 50% trail today. The Essex-Hudson Greenway will comprise a portion of the 1,300-mile, multi-use trail.

“Many people don’t realize that in addition to providing nearby residents with new green space, the Essex-Hudson Greenway also has national significance as a component of the 9/11 Memorial Trail,” said Andy Hamilton, Chair of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance Board of Directors. “It’s exciting to see that we are one step closer to realizing this full potential of this project and we remain committed to supporting the State of New Jersey and our coalition partners as the project moves forward.”

Essex County Commissioners join Governor Murphy. Pictured from left to right – Essex County Commissioner Brendan W. Gill, Governor Phil Murphy, Essex County Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson, Essex County Commissioner Patricia Sebold, Essex County Commissioner Leonard M. Luciano. Photo: Essex County Board of Commissioners.

Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, a leading advocate for the Greenway since its inception nearly 15 years ago, spoke to the history of the Essex-Hudson Greenway and the benefits it will provide. “Residents of underserved communities adjacent to the line will now have more access to recreational areas, which will foster an appreciation for the outdoors, encourage exercise, and improve the overall health and quality of life for future generations. I believe, upon its completion, the Essex-Hudson Greenway will serve as a blueprint for future projects nationwide. It will demonstrate the positive effects large-scale, environmentally friendly transportation projects can have on our community.”

The local communities along the line have been very involved in advocating for the creation of a shared walk and bike space. The project follows the right-of-way of the eastern portion of NJ Transit’s former Boonton Line. Passenger service was discontinued on this portion of the line in 2002, following the completion of NJ Transit’s Montclair Connection and the diversion of Boonton Line trains onto the transit carrier’s Morris & Essex Line. After the termination of NJ Transit’s commuter service, limited freight service continued until the last rail customer ceased operations in 2015.

Soon after the rail service ended, residents of communities all along the line began campaigning for a linear park that would serve as a “shared-use path” for people walking, riding a bicycle, running, rollerblading, or just relaxing. Groups including the Bloomfield Open Space Trust Fund, the Friends of the Ice & Iron Trail, and groups in North Newark, Jersey City, and Hoboken have long advocated for the Greenway.