Friday, July 04, 2003

Wash. Twp. officials 'pedal' bike, walking path plan

Friday, July 04, 2003

By Shawn Menzies

WASHINGTON TWP. -- Township officials here say a plan to increase public safety by decreasing the amount of bicyclists and pedestrians on local, Gloucester County and state roadways is in the works.

By constructing paths, or bike and walking trails, officials want to connect recreational parks and athletic fields with the help to fund the projects from state grant and not local tax dollars, officials here said.

Mayor Randee Davidson said the primary reasoning for the paths is to make parks and fields in the township more accessible for residents.

"Safety is a huge issue here," Davidson said. "We want people to be able to go to one park and be able to move throughout the park system"

"This came up as an issue because we wanted to get the bike riders and pedestrian traffic off roads near parks and athletic fields like Egg Harbor Road and East Holly Avenue that do not have sidewalks," said Robert Gruber, chief Ranger for the Washington Township Park Service.

Plan so far call for three paths.

One path would be built from near the rear of the James A. Yates Memorial Amphitheater in the Washington Lake Park through woods and into a local parks and recreation field that is only accessible now from East Holly Avenue, officials said.

A second path would then go from the athletic field to Route 47, where across the state highway that has a signal traffic light and pedestrian crossing lanes, is the James G. Atkinson Memorial Park formerly Bethel Mill Park.

A third path that has been proposed would be a 2-mile bike and walking trail from Washington Lake Park through existing greenways in the Heritage Valley Development to Quay Park on Langley Drive.

The total cost projected for all three paths is approximately $524,000.

The cost for the path from the Washington Lake Park to the athletic field is $198,000, of which $150,000 has already been approved for through a grant, officials here said.

The path from the athletic field to Route 47 is estimated at $31,000 and the third path from Washington Lake Park to Quay Park could cost approximately $295,000.

The 468 acre Washington Lake Park, Gruber said, already has 2.5 miles of path trails.

Gruber said no time frame has been set for the overall project to be completed and local officials are awaiting on word on the grants.

"We keep applying for different grants," Gruber said. "Locally, with taxes and all, we really are strapped."