On September 22 and 23, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) co-sponsored the first-ever New Jersey Trails & Greenways Summit. Featuring two keynotes and six panel sessions over two days, the free, virtual Summit celebrated New Jersey’s exemplary trail projects and highlighted opportunities for expanded trail and greenway networks throughout the State.

The Summit covered a range of topics, including how towns can plan, design, and fund trail projects; how professionals and volunteers can map them; and how trails can play an important role in the environmental justice work of our State. More than 530 people attended the Summit, demonstrating the increased popularity and demand for trails in New Jersey. Descriptions and recordings of all sessions are included below. Recordings are also available on the NJ Trails Action Network YouTube Channel.

Opening Keynote

The Summit kicked off with a welcome and opening remarks from representatives of NJDOT and NJDEP, underscoring the commitment of both agencies to advancing trail and greenway projects throughout the State. Robin Hutcheson from the United States Department of Transportation and Christopher Douwes from the Federal Highway Administration highlighted some of the trails-related work being done at the federal level. Joe Myers from the Camden Community Partnership then introduced his colleague Meishka Mitchell, who provided a keynote address that related her personal connection to the City of Camden and noted the role trails can play in the City’s future.

Moderator:
Joe Myers, Camden Community Partnership

Speakers:
Brandee Chapman, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Christopher Douwes, Federal Highway Administration
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Elise Bremer-Nei, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Meishka Mitchell, Camden Community Partnership
Robin Hutcheson, United States Department of Transportation
Shawn LaTourette, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

“Trails and greenways serve important transportation needs and help to build more equitable transportation networks by expanding travel options, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and providing alternative links between people and where they want to go.” –Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner, NJDOT

“New Jersey’s trails and greenways network lies at the intersection of recreation, conservation, and transportation…Trails provide connectivity — connecting us to the environment and to each other.” –Shawn LaTourette, Commissioner, NJDEP

Session 1:
Making Connections: Exploring New Jersey’s Regional Trails

In the Summit’s first session, panelists discussed New Jersey’s many regional trail and greenway initiatives that cross county and municipal borders to create safe, active transportation networks as well as recreational amenities that improve the health of New Jersey residents and visitors.

Moderator:
Tim Brill, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Panelists:
Alan Huff, South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization
Elise Bremer-Nei, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Joshua Osowski, NJ State Park Service
Shawn Megill Legendre, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Ted Ritter, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority

“Projects don’t have to be big to become something bigger.” –Ted Ritter, Manager External Affairs, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority

Session 2:
Finding the Money: How to Get Your Trails Project Done

The Summit’s second session outlined some of the many county, state, federal, and private funding opportunities available to help build trails and greenways. Panelists discussed both specific resources available and strategies to better position applicants when seeking grants.

Moderator:
Leigh Ann Von Hagen, Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers University

Panelists:
Brandee Chapman, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Denise Chaplick, Morris County Park Commission
Julie Bell, National Park Service
Laine Rankin, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Rebecca Taylor, BTaylor Public Affairs LLC & Lawrence Hopewell Trail

“Patience, persistence, use all the money that’s available, and include everyone in the process.” –Laine Rankin, Director of Local Aid, NJDOT

Session 3:
Building Trails for Everyone: Inclusive Planning

In Session 3, panelists discussed the importance of equity in trail planning and construction as well as how to best engage community members during the process. Speakers described policies and practices aimed at improving equity and discussed lessons learned from inclusive trail planning efforts.

Moderator:
Justin Dennis, The Trust for Public Land

Panelists:
Eleanor Horne, Lawrence Hopewell Trail
Kandyce Perry, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Peter Dolan, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
Renae Reynolds, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

“There is the potential to engage neighborhood residents to care for their own section of trail, to help maintain and design it to their liking. People want to feel that what is in their neighborhoods is for them…This has major implications for stewardship, advocacy, and other forms of support.” –Eleanor Horne, Co-President, Lawrence Hopewell Trail

Session 4:
Mapping New Jersey’s Trails: A First for New Jersey!

In Session 4, panelists described several trail mapping projects underway in New Jersey, including NJDEP’s groundbreaking initiative to map all trails in New Jersey, which aims to assist trail planners and users, aid search and rescue efforts, and promote equitable access to trails throughout the State.

Moderator:
Luis Diaz, East Coast Greenway Alliance

Panelists:
Brandee Chapman, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Doug Caum, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Shawn Megill Legendre, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Tanya Nolte, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

“Accomplishing this goal of the New Jersey Trails Plan is exciting news for trail planners, builders, and users alike.” –Brandee Chapman, State Trails Coordinator, NJDEP

Session 5:
Trails, Transit, & Complete Streets

Session 5 explored the vital connections between trails, public transit, and Complete & Green Streets. Panelists discussed trails’ important role within New Jersey’s active transportation network, how connections to and from trails are being made, how trails fit within a Complete & Green Streets policy, and how NJ Transit has integrated trails into its network.

Moderator:
Janna Chernetz, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Panelists:
John Boyle, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
Michael Viscardi, New Jersey Transit
Paul Gleitz, Monmouth County Park System
Sonia Szczesna, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

“Wayfinding and amenities are not only useful tools for our trail users, but they also raise awareness about local trails and connections, helping people reimagine how they use both transit and the trails.” –Sonia Szczesna, Director of Active Transportation, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Session 6:
Transforming Towns Through Trails

In the Summit’s sixth session, panelists examined how trails can revitalize communities and improve the economies of both small towns and big cities. Speakers also described the role of advocacy in building community-wide support for trails and how they can support local and regional tourism goals.

Moderator:
Michael Dannemiller, NV5, Inc

Panelists:
Anthony Minick, New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism
Debra Kagan, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition
Elizabeth Dragon, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Jonathan Busch, Metuchen Borough
Leslie Gimeno, County of Cape May

“Our Greenway has created an attraction for developers to come in and build the Metuchen of the future.” –Jonathan Busch, Mayor, Borough of Metuchen

Closing Keynote

At the end of the Summit’s second day, NJDEP Deputy Commissioner Olivia Glenn and NJDOT Assistant Commissioner Mike Russo provided closing remarks, recapping the Summit and laying out a vision for the future of trails and equitable, active transportation in New Jersey. Introduced by Laura Torchio, Amy Camp of Cycle Forward concluded the Summit with a keynote address describing some of the many benefits of Trail Towns and offering an inspiring picture of what the future of New Jersey’s trail and greenway networks could be.

Moderator:
Laura Torchio, Laura Torchio, LLC

Speakers:
Amy Camp, Cycle Forward
Leigh Ann Von Hagen, Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers University
Michael Russo, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Olivia Glenn, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Sonia Szczesna, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

“Trails and active transportation are a part of that recipe for healthy communities and regions.” –Amy Camp, Author, Cycle Forward

In order to continue the conversation around trails, members of the Summit’s planning committee have come together to create the New Jersey Trails Action Network. NJTAN seeks to build a community to collaboratively advance opportunities for the planning, funding, construction, maintenance, and promotion of trails in the State. If you’re interested in being a part of the conversation, sharing knowledge and best practices, or are curious to learn more, join the New Jersey Trails Action Network at njtrailsaction.org!