By Paul Kearney, Greenway Action Advisory Committee
A one hour drive from New York City brings you to the bucolic settings of Vernon, New Jersey nestled in at 435’ above sea level. Vernon provides an ideal environment for those that love nature all year round.
A one hour drive from the 33’ above sea level of the streets of New York City brings you to the bucolic settings of Vernon, New Jersey nestled in at 435’ above sea level. Vernon provides an ideal environment for those that love nature all year round. Within the Kittatinny Valley which is a section of the Great Appalachian Valley that stretches 700 miles from Canada to Georgia, there are over 70 square miles within the borders of this community with an abundance of beauty for all to enjoy. In order to not only share the splendor but highlight it to encourage visitors, Vernon has implemented trail plans that are coming to fruition.
But first, a quick bit of history.
In 2003 the open space plan envisioned providing a network of pedestrian and bicycle paths which in time would connect residential neighborhoods with open space, community facilities, and commercial areas. A Greenway was envisioned to connect the Mountain Creek ski/water park resort to the trail system. The trails were mapped out by a consultant but due to cost restraints the project sat idle.
In 2009 the open space plan was updated which was to revise the Greenway project and facilitate inclusion of the proposed bike plan.
A 4 mile section of trail (Canal Rd.) had been established that is a flat easy walk and gets utilized by bicycles as well. It runs from the New York/New Jersey State line where it intersects with the Appalachian Trail.
This portion of the trail system is poised to connect to Maple Grange Park should a land acquisition become feasible. Although some preliminary work had been done financing always seems to be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Grants and funding were explored, easements were looked into yet there wasn’t much progress.
In 2016 a committee of volunteers was put together by the newly elected Mayor to look into giving these trail projects new life as well as a new name. This trail system has been dubbed the Black Creek Trail System which is a nod to the historical aspects of the area. The objectives are to promote the beauty of our town, to get people outdoors and to be active, and as people from out of town come to Vernon to traverse our trails an economic benefit could result. When people come for a day of hiking they will become aware of our farms and orchards, places to grab a meal, and utilize the Hotels, Spas, Resorts, and golf courses. The Greenway Action Advisory Committee (GAAC) began studying the old plans, looking into other options and areas to utilize. Township owned parcels were looked at to incorporate as well as areas for potential purchase in the future. In a hands on effort by the GAAC members as well as local landscapers, the Sheriff’s Department programs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Residents two new sections have been blazed. A 1.5 mile stretch designated as the Sandhill section goes through a wooded area and opens up to an beautiful open area surrounded by trees and wetlands. This section has had geocache planted along it which incorporates a fun aspect to your hike. A second section runs along a ridge with outstanding mountain views that was cleared by the GAAC that is approximately 2 miles long. The continuation of this trail will bring it to the parking area of the Ski/Water Park resort. When this leg is completed it can be incorporated for not just hiking but snow shoeing and cross country skiing.
In addition to these recently blazed trails an extremely popular portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through Vernon as well. Vernon has officially been designated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as an Appalachian Trail Community. The Pochuck Valley portion starts with a boardwalk that leads to a suspension bridge over a creek and then continues through some shaded woods, crosses the Canal Rd. section of trail, and leads you through a cow pasture. Yes, you may very well come across some large 4 legged bovine people watchers! This would end the relatively passive portion of the trail as you will now beginning the 1050 foot climb up the section of Appalachian Trail that is locally known as the Stairway to Heaven.
At the summit (Pinwheel Vista) you will be able to gaze across the valley as far as your eyes can see. From this point you can turn around and return or you can continue on the Appalachian Trail through Waywayanda State Park that has three components to it. Iron mountain which is a moderate hike, Lake Trail and Cherry Ridge Trail which are both easy.
Another popular area is the National Wildlife Refuge Section. These are considered easy trails that consist of the Wood Duck Nature Trail, Liberty Loop Trail (2.5 miles), Dagmar Dale Trail where Federal Duck Stamps are available for purchase, and the Timberdoodle Trail amongst others.
The trails of Vernon Challenge has been established where people can register and log their hikes and share photos and experiences with others. Utilizing social media enables the community to be aware, become involved in trail clearing events, and gets the word out of the beautiful surroundings Vernon New Jersey has to offer.
The aspirations of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee is to obtain easements, and land through grants and other funding with the goal to connect all of these parcels that have been blazed, clear some more areas, and have a community wide interconnected trail system. With ecotourism on the rise Vernon can benefit greatly with an integrated trail system that can connect the town center, the resorts that consist of skiing, horseback riding, snow tubing, golf, spas, water park in the summer, zip lines, a tree scape adventure park, among many other healthy activities. Expedia.com has ranked Vernon as one of the top destinations for nature lovers.
Keep on hiking and we’ll see you in Vernon New Jersey!