By Jay Cook |
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – The opening of a $1 million-plus rebuilt trail providing breathtaking views and tranquil paths along the shoreline could be pushed into next month.
After construction began in February on the popular Bayshore Trail, a 1.25-mile-long portion of the Henry Hudson Trail spanning Atlantic Highlands and Highlands, officials from the Monmouth County Park System (MCPS) say the project might not be completed until mid-October, instead of opening at the end of the month.
“It’s been a shame to close it,” said Joseph Sardonia, a MCPS supervising landscape architect. “To us, it’s a big priority to go and get this thing done.”
Compass Construction of New Egypt was retained for the construction after an $881,677 bid. Changes in design plans and necessary infrastructure upgrades since then bumped up the price to just over $1 million. Monmouth County’s portion cost $700,734; Atlantic Highlands contributed $356,214.
Andrew J. Spears, assistant director of MCPS, said he anticipates the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse about 80 percent of the project costs, leaving Monmouth County to fund $140,147, and Atlantic Highlands $71,243.
“Park System staff knew from the beginning that this would be a major improvement project,” Spears said via email to The Two River Times. “With cost sharing from Atlantic Highlands, and an authorized FEMA reimbursement, we knew we could minimize the direct impact on Monmouth County taxpayers.”
Sardonia said drainage improvements along the trail could push scheduling back. About a dozen sections of drainage are to be installed underneath the trail in places where water pools. Ken Thoman, a MCPS park resource manager, said the systems are similar to those used in golf courses.
New additions to the project’s wide-ranging scope include installing 80 precast concrete foundations in lieu of cast-in-place concrete foundations – where concrete would have been poured on site. The park system scrapped that idea. Sardonia added all bridge construction has been completed.
Smaller construction equipment and vibration monitoring equipment was implemented to reduce the impact on underground utilities. Also, about 441 tons of riprap stone was installed between Sandy Hook Bay and the trail to act as another level of protection.
Atlantic Highlands owns about a 1/5-of-a-mile section of the Bayshore Trail beginning at the borough-operated marina, located at 4 Simon Lake Drive. In that section, new bridge footings were ordered and installed for resiliency due to soil conditions there.
Adam Hubeny, Atlantic Highlands’ borough administrator, said Compass Construction has been working to complete paving in front of the harbor’s dredge pit, as well as beginning cleanup efforts.
“It’s come a long way, but we just hope that Mother Nature doesn’t bang us up too much,” Hubeny said.
While the trail has been closed to access on the Atlantic Highlands end, it has unofficially stayed open on the Highlands end, where it meets Popomora Point. Sardonia said that section of the trail is vastly popular for walkers, bicyclists and joggers. Despite all the construction, those trail aficionados have worked in ways to still use the bayside path.
“This is a typical issue we have with construction on all of our trails,” Sardonia said. “People still use them, and we recognize that. We try to warn people about it, and we also let the contractor know to not be surprised that people show up.”
After construction crews had departed for the night, well over a dozen people were using the trail recently as dusk began to fall. A pair of teenagers finished up the last leg of a bike ride, while others were just beginning their evening dog walks.
Jersey Girl, a goldendoodle and Atlantic Highlands resident, was moving right along on her unleashed walk with owner, Paul Lenskold.
“We come here every day,” Lenskold said. “This is our trail.”
He said the soft sound of crashing waves and the view along the water is what draws him back to the Bayshore Trail. He’s hopeful the remaining repairs will ultimately keep the graveled pathway safe.
“It’s a great trail,” he said. “So whatever they have to do to restore it, keep it up to date, then that’s a good thing.”
MCPS spokesperson Karen Livingstone estimates the 24-mile long Henry Hudson Trail, connecting Highlands to Freehold, gets used by about 202,225 annually. She said there are no specific numbers on the Bayshore Trail section.
According to the park system, the Henry Hudson Trail was called the Bayshore rail corridor, a 19th-century rail line serving towns from Aberdeen to Atlantic Highlands. In 1980, Monmouth County secured a grant to acquire the property from Conrail. In 1990, the county took control of the right-of-way and began rehabilitating the trail through federal grants a few years later.
The Bayshore Trail portion also hosts a local landmark: Henry Hudson Springs. According to Weird NJ, the spring outpouring was the drinking source of the Dutch explorer Henry Hudson before he embarked on exploring the New York waterway which would eventually bear his name.
Visit the Park Improvement Projects tab at monmouthcountyparks.com for more information and updates on the Henry Hudson Trail upgrades.
This article was first published in the Sept. 21-28, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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