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New Brunswick, NJ’s trail of terror…and/or shame September 4, 2015

Posted by Brian in New Brunswick, New Jersey, NJ, pathway, recreation, running, trail.
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Scary segment of Delaware and Raritan Canal trail between Route 27 and Route 18 (marked by distance ruler) in New Brunswick, NJ. (Google Maps)

Scary segment of Delaware and Raritan Canal trail between Route 27 and Route 18 (marked by distance ruler) in New Brunswick, NJ. (Google Maps)

Since I started working in New Brunswick, N.J., a little over a year ago, I have tried to squeeze in some running two or three mornings a week before my work day actually begins (usually depending on which train I catch).

So far, I’ve found three routes (each approximately three miles) that have suited my needs. Recently, I became aware of a park – Buccleuch Park – about a mile away from where I work and saw on Google Maps that one of the paths I use – the one that runs along Route 18 and through Boyd Park – actually extends beyond Route 27 to an area near the Route 18 overpass where someone can access the pathway that goes around Buccleuch Park. I thought this would be great for a longer run.

I tried it this week…it wasn’t great. In fact, it was frightening – even for 9:30 in the morning.

It was, by far, the most harrowing run I’ve ever been on. Basically, once you go under the Route 27 bridge separating New Brunswick and Highland Park, you are cut off from the world with a graffiti-faced barrier wall on one side and overgrown, trash-filled brush and weeds on the other. Sure, you’re running along the Raritan River, but you can barely see it through the vegetation. Holes in the fence along the river bank had me thinking dead bodies were being hidden back there, so you’re not really inclined to look in that direction in case those suspicions are correct.

The one saving grace was that I was alone – at least, at first. But then I realized if something happened to me, I might never be found. The path didn’t look like it had been patrolled or maintained in any significant manner since…well…forever.

At one point (and I kid you not), a black cat literally walked across the path in front of me, which had me really freaked out – and that was before I noticed dozens of plastic bowls, once presumably filled with cat food, placed there by a person (or persons) caring for the feral cats of the forsaken trail (at least someone was paying attention to something back there).

Anyway, about halfway between the Route 27 and Route 18 bridges, I did come across some people on the pathway. One was a semi-passed out individual on the steps leading to a pedestrian crossing over Route 18. There were two more people riding bikes, but they certainly didn’t look like they were doing it for fitness or even recreation…and they appeared to be waiting for someone (make of that what you will).

So, despite the heat and the fact I haven’t been running much lately after breaking my left hand in early July), I picked up my pace and just kept running.

As I neared the area where Route 18 curves and goes over the river, I knew the path would be ending soon. But, according to Google Maps, there appeared to be a way to get across (or even under) an exit ramp so you could connect to the nearly adjacent Buccleuch Park. Well, I soon found out this was not the case, meaning that this path just ends…and, after the experience I had running that stretch of it, I realized the only fitting destination for that path would be a dead end*. I had to run on a somewhat busy exit ramp with essentially no shoulder or walkway for a good 1,000 feet or so before I could safely cross and get to the pathway in the park.

(* – There very well may be a point to cross on that exit ramp to reach a path that leads to a crossing into the park, but it’s not marked for trail users to see. There definitely wasn’t a designated crosswalk. Google Maps not only shows this “mythical” connector path, but satellite view shows something that appears to be some kind of path on the other side of the exit ramp.)

It’s an embarrassment that a city like New Brunswick can’t even do the minimum to maintain what should be a key recreational path connecting Boyd and Buccleuch parks. The path is also part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail**, which means the state of New Jersey hasn’t done anything for this stretch of the path either.

(** – The path is also part of the developing East Coast Greenway trail network spanning Maine to Florida.)

I’m not sure what can be done at this point, as the pathway has reached such a state of disrepair that it would likely cost millions of dollars to clean up and refurbish. And that’s not even factoring in some kind of redesign that would allow users of the path to be less isolated for security reasons. But it’s a shame that the only recreational trail linking Buccleuch Park to downtown New Brunswick is in such a sorry, scary state. If anyone in the area feels strongly about this issue and has any ideas about what can be done, please feel free to include them in the comments below.

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1. Brian - September 4, 2015

Reblogged this on Brian Kelley: Portfolio.


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