Project will rehabilitate former rail line into new, 11-acre public park
RUTHERFORD, NJ – The Open Space Institute (OSI) and officials from Bergen County today announced the acquisition of a former rail corridor linking the communities of Rutherford and East Rutherford. Permanent protection of the 1.2-mile-long property is the first step in building an 11-acre public park in this densely populated area.
The Carlton Hill Greenway property was previously owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway. Eyed for conservation for nearly two decades, the property will be converted to a linear park connecting Rutherford and East Rutherford with the Passaic River and the athletic fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and community garden of Rutherford’s Memorial Park.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to reclaim open space in one of the most densely populated suburbs in the nation and transform a long-abandoned rail-line into a vibrant 1.2-mile linear park that will engage, inspire, and empower our Southern Bergen County communities,” said Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco. “Today is a momentous day for Bergen County’s vast park system and demonstrates my administration’s continued commitment to the preservation of open space, protection of our environment, and enhancement of our park system for the enjoyment of passive and active recreation enthusiasts alike.”
"Preserving public lands, especially in an area already starved for open space, will always be a high priority," said Bergen County Commissioner Steve Tanelli, who serves as the Parks liaison. "We're incredibly proud to partner with the boroughs of Rutherford and East Rutherford to reclaim this under-utilized area and transform it into viable open space for residents of southern Bergen County to enjoy."
In their role as facilitator of projects increasing green spaces and access to nature, OSI negotiated the transaction and provided guidance throughout the process. The $1.9 million acquisition was funded by Bergen County, administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with the Bergen County Department of Parks and Recreation now taking ownership of the property. After structural and accessibility improvements are completed on the trail, New Jersey’s Green Acres program will reimburse Bergen County for half of the purchase price.
“Everyone deserves access to beautiful, accessible outdoor spaces,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO. “The pandemic reminds us how important open spaces are to our physical and mental health, especially for residents of densely populated communities. The Open Space Institute is proud to work with our partners at Norfolk Southern Railway, Green Acres, the leadership of Bergen County, and leaders in Rutherford and East Rutherford to bring this wonderful greenway a big step closer to reality.”
OSI’s facilitation of the acquisition of the Carlton Hill property comes on the heels of the September announcement by OSI, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and local leaders that nine miles of former rail property spanning Essex and Hudson counties had been officially acquired by the state. The $65 million project, was negotiated and assisted by OSI and similar to the Carlton Hill Greenway, will provide much-needed green spaces in some of New Jersey’s most populous regions.
The acquisition of the Carlton Hill Greenway will complement additional parkland development: East Rutherford previously acquired several acres of land adjacent to the Greenway with the intention of developing the land for recreational use.
“I’d like to thank County Executive Tedesco, the County Commissioners, Mayor Lahullier and the Borough of East Rutherford for creating this amazing opportunity for our two Boroughs,” said Rutherford Mayor Frank Nunziato. “The Borough of Rutherford appreciates the County’s ability to see an underutilized area and know what a positive impact revitalizing it can have on our communities. We look forward to working together to develop a much-needed open space that will be used for generations to come.”
"The governing body here in East Rutherford, as well as our residents are ecstatic over the County’s purchase of the abandoned railbed,” said East Rutherford Mayor Jeffrey Lahullier. “This is just another example of valuable county tax dollars being returned to our municipality. When completed, this linear park here in southern Bergen County will be enjoyed for generations to come."
“The Carlton Hill Greenway is another example of how DEP’s innovative partnerships can transform a former rail line into a dynamic recreational use that will connect communities, give people options to explore nature in new ways and help enhance eco-tourism," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said. “Like the Greenway project announced earlier this year by the Murphy Administration, the Carlton Hill Greenway will help provide much-needed green space for residents and visitors to appreciate the beauty of yet another area of New Jersey.”
The Open Space Institute (OSI) has partnered in the protection of 2.3 million acres across eastern North America from Quebec to Florida. Over the past 16 years, OSI has worked to protect more than 21,000 acres of New Jersey farms, forests, and local parkland. Motivated to make protected land more accessible and welcoming to all people, OSI led efforts to acquire the former Boonton Line in Essex and Hudson counties for the creation a new nine-mile Greenway in northern New Jersey and providing public access to the 1,200-acre Jersey City Reservoir in Boonton and Parsippany.
About the Bergen County Parks Department
The Bergen County Parks Department is dedicated to providing recreation opportunities for all, preserving open space, enhancing environmental health, and protecting significant cultural and historic sites for current and future generations. The Bergen County Parks System which has been connecting people to nature for 75 years, spans over 9,000 acres and includes a nationally accredited zoo, six golf courses, 21 parks, two horseback riding areas, an environmental center and nine historic sites.