You can’t see the old Morris Canal in Jersey City anymore, but it’s really there, running underground below parts of southern Jersey City.
The Morris Canal began operations in the 1930s to transport anthracite coal from the northeastern Pennsylvania mountains to the New York City metropolitan area.
While there are a few towns with parks and trails to commemorate the historic canal, most of the canal has been filled in, especially in Jersey City.
But that is about to change. City officials hope to make the public aware of the historic role the canal played by including its route as part of the Jersey City segment of the larger Greenway project.
Greenways are paths that connect neighborhoods with business districts, parks, and other communities. They are designed to provide residents with a safe, off-road option for recreation and movement. Instead of cycling or walking through sometimes dangerous streets, people can use the Greenway.
Jersey City’s segment
In early June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Jersey City $800,000 to begin the process of finding sites along the former route of the Morris Canal as part of the larger Greenway program.
The proposed Hudson-Essex Greenway will be unique in highly-developed northeastern New Jersey. Statewide, the Greenway path will pass through six counties.
Jersey City was one of 149 communities across the country to receive funding for brownfields site revitalization. The funds are to help local governments redevelop vacant and unused properties, transforming communities and growing local economies. Some of the properties include large tracts of vacant land in Ward A.
EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan announced the grant at Berry Lane Park in Jersey City, for which some of the EPA Brownfield funding is slated.
The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) has been purchasing property, including property in Jersey City owned by the City of Bayonne, for the Morris Canal Greenway property. The city proposes to buy land Bayonne owns which has an underground gas conduit running from Kearny through Jersey City to supply a power plant in Bayonne.
Connecting and cleaning up
“This funding will be significant in our plans to transform the Jersey City section of the Morris Canal Greenway, connecting our community with five other North Jersey counties, and providing a path with access to employers, educational resources, commercial and community centers,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “The grant will allow us to revitalize the historic pathway, make tangible changes, ultimately bolstering our transportation network and creating a lasting impact while preserving a historic asset in Jersey City.”
“These funds are the critical foundation that leads to the development of the Morris Canal Greenway,” said Diana Jeffrey, executive director of the JCRA. “The brownfield funding will positively impact Jersey City, as we use the funds to redevelop and clean the historic site, putting the property back into productive use and enhancing quality of life.”
The federal grant will be used to pay for the assessment of hazardous waste sites, develop cleanup plans, and clean up sites along 8.5 miles of the Morris Canal in Jersey City. The proposed reuse plan is for a pedestrian and bicycle pathway traversing the entirety of Jersey City, through Berry Lane Park, and along the footprint of the historic Morris Canal.
Grant funds also will be used to support community involvement activities and update a brownfields inventory of sites along the proposed path.
From down east to down south
The local segment will be part of the statewide 102-mile Morris Canal Greenway project for pedestrians and bicyclists that would stretch from the Hudson River in Jersey City to the Delaware River in Phillipsburg.
The Greenway will become part of a larger network of urban trails that links 25 cities along the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida. The Hudson County leg will also include development of three new parks in Jersey City and Hoboken.
Jersey City issued a Morris Canal Greenway Plan in 2013. When complete, about 41 percent of the 8.5 mile Greenway path will follow the actual canal path. The rest will include on-street and off-street pathways.
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org