In Princeton, we have an incredible choice of large parks and open spaces to explore. We can thanks groups like Friends of Princeton Open Spaces for working to preserve these green spaces. But many of our large parks are not as accessible as they could be. Our recent trip to Autumn Hills Reservation revealed many trails that
were completely impassible. In Herrontown Woods Arboretum, trails have also fallen into disrepair. Thankfully, a group of local volunteers, acting entirely on their own initiative and unpaid, have worked to clear the trails. Nonetheless, there are no maps of the park for visitors, and the trail markings are vague. You may want to bring pocketfuls of pebbles if you want to be sure of finding your way home!
A new initiative called Princeton Ridge East Conservation Area Partnership is now calling for public input on a comprehensive plan for stewardship of green spaces in north-east Princeton, including Autumn Hills Reservation and Herrontown Woods. This is great news. Gradually, conservation advocates have managed to add to preserved land so that we now have an almost continuous ‘green belt’ around this side of town. But what should we do with it?
Right now, the parks at the East Princeton Ridge are mostly used by foxes, squirrels, and the occasional coyote. Apart from a few dog-walkers and hardy trekkers, not many humans venture in. This stands in contrast with another local park- the D&R Canal State Park. Along the much-loved D&R Canal Trail, a gravel path and clear signage present an outstanding opportunity for many local residents to get outside, take exercise, and enjoy the sights of nature. The canal trail is also an extremely rare local example of an off-road bicycle trail. Cycle paths that are separated from roads are known to promote cycling as a means of commuting, and bike commuters can indeed be observed on the D&R canal trail. The D&R Canal Trail therefore preserves nature, offers excellent recreation opportunities and helps keep cars off the roads.
This is exactly what we should be aiming for in the East Princeton Ridge. By adding more entrances and gravel trails, we increase accessibility of the parks for joggers, cyclists, wheelchair users and families with strollers. Enabling these extra users to enjoy the parks is entirely compatible with the other goals of land preservation- protecting native flora and fauna, and easing pressure on watersheds. Please fill out the short online survey and ask the Conservation Partnership to enhance our parks with gravel greenway trails suitable for all non-motorized users!
You can access the survey here. It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out and the deadline is this coming Friday, November 15. Thanks for supporting a more walkable and bikeable Princeton!!
While I don’t know about bike commuters on the (unlit) towpath, I do know that the question you pose is important to those of us interested in getting more people enthusiastic about bicycling around here, and feeling safe doing it.
Viewed from high above, there are 3 big clumps of open space. They are the battlefield/IAS area, the Mountain Lakes area, and what’s being called Princeton Ridge East, as circled on this map: http://tinyurl.com/Pton-open-space
While the IAS tracts aren’t open space, what isn’t circled on the map is, as you point out, the incredible linear open space which is the D&R canal state park, kind of a unifying element.
Around a year ago, our pedestrian/bicyclist advisory committee had brainstormed a list of improvement project ideas which were thought to be “within the realm of the possible”. Our list can be viewed at the link below, and of its 14 items, 4 of them pertain to the vicinity of Autumn Hill Reservation. We know there are people who work in town but reside in Montgomery Woods, Rocky Hill, and beyond, who would consider commuting by bike if suitable facilities existed. SK
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