This Saturday, June 18, the Burlington County Freeholders will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a three-mile segment of the Kinkora Trail at Mansfield Township Community Park. The two-way, multi-use paved path will connect Mansfield and Springfield Townships. With more than ten miles remaining to finish the Kinkora Trail, however, significantly more support–financial and political–is necessary to fill in this key off-road segment of the Burlington County Bicycle Master Plan, along with many other Circuit Trail projects in New Jersey.
- Trenton Wellness Loop (construction), D&R Greenways Land Trust – $195,000
- D&R Canal–Delaware River Heritage Trail Gap (design), D&R Greenways Land Trust – $110,000
- Rancocas Creek Greenway (design), Burlington County – $300,000
- Cooper River Trail, Pub Connector (design), Camden County – $37,820
- Gloucester Township Bike Path (design), Camden County – $217,000
- Harrison Trail (design), Gloucester County – $400,000
These grants are critical, considering the Regional Trail Program includes design funding that often receives lower priority to construction-ready projects in other competitive grant programs. Nonetheless, the program alone is far from sufficient to build the entire trail network across four counties.
A potential funding source to complement these grants and to ensure a dedicated revenue stream would be a DVRPC Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) line item. The agency already included a $500,000 line item for Circuit Trail plans in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Last year, however, New Jersey Freeholders rejected such a proposal for New Jersey projects. Other potential trail funding could include New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Grants or the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust.
Pennsylvania will open eight trail sections in 2016, but the Kinkora Trail opening will be just the first of two ribbon-cuttings in New Jersey this year. One reason for this may be Pennsylvania’s additional trail funding with programs such as the Department of Community & Economic Development’s Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program (GTRP) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’s Recreational Trail Program Grants. Compared to New Jersey’s counterpart grants, these programs offer substantially larger awards. For example, a typical New Jersey Recreational Trail Program grant cannot exceed $24,000. Meanwhile, the GTRP awards up to $250,000, and the DCNR grants upwards of $500,000 for a project.
Without adequate and dedicated funding for New Jersey-based projects, the Circuit Trail will struggle to become a truly regional network. Multi-use trails have a wide range of benefits to surrounding communities, but New Jersey will miss out if it fails to invest in these projects.