The good news is that progress on a 150-foot long prefabricated weathered steel trestle inside the Barnegat Branch Trail continues to move forward, the bad news is that a portion of the trail remains closed because it's an active construction area and county officials want to keep everyone safe.

Work inside Ocean County’s Barnegat Branch Trail over the Cedar Creek at Berkeley and Lacey Townships is moving ahead but the portion of the trail affected by construction work is closed to the public for safety reasons.

The closure is in effect at the trail entrance from Dudley Park, around the Cedar Creek and a distance approximately 1,200 feet north of the trestle in Berkeley Township.

Parking is still available at Serpentine Boulevard and trail users are welcome to use the trail up to the barricaded area.

However, Freeholder Director Virginia "Ginny" Haines said that the work is also being marred by vandalism and graffiti.

“This area is closed to the public for a reason as it is an active construction area,” Haines said. “We have reached out to our Sheriff’s Department and requested more security in the area to stop the graffiti and vandalism. Anyone caught vandalizing the new structure or any part of this trail will be subject to fines and arrests.”

As for the work being done, Haines says this will be a trail the residents of Ocean County will enjoy soon enough.

“The placement of this new trestle above some of the pilings of the original trestle is the most significant work done to date to move this trail forward,” Haines, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, said. “I look forward to the completion of this section of trail. I am sure it will be well-used by residents and visitors alike.”

Haines noted the new trestle is the longest clear span of any of the county’s bridges.

“This was shipped in two 75-feet sections,” Haines said. “It was constructed in Alabama and made its way to Ocean County on two flatbed trailers.”

In order to set the trestle in place, the trailers had to be backed down the trail – one from the Berkeley Township side and the other from the Lacey Township side.

A crane on each side of Cedar Creek picked up a section and swung it over the creek where they were connected in the air with 170 high strength bolts.

Once the two pieces were joined the trestle was lowered into place.

“The assembly and placement took about four hours,” Haines said.

She said additional work needs to be completed in the area prior to it being open to the public.

Remaining construction items include creating the 10 foot wide stone dust trail on the Lacey township side, creating a formal parking lot at Hebrew Park and installing interpretive signage, benches, a railroad hand car display and picnic tables.

“We anticipate the majority of this work will be completed prior to the summer but a firm opening date has not been determined,” Haines said. “When completed this section will offer residents and visitors better access to Cedar Creek – an environmental jewel in the County.”

Cedar Creek drains into Barnegat Bay, and is part of the Barnegat Bay Watershed Management Area.

County officials say that the water of Cedar Creek is like most Pine Barrens streams in that it's “tea colored” because of tannic acid from the roots of the cedars lining the riverbanks.

The current phase of work includes an almost half mile section and extends from South Street at Hebrew Park to the Cedar Creek.

“This work, when done, will provide a connection to the existing 2.75 mile trail from the Cedar Creek to Hickory Lane in Berkeley Township where bikers and walkers and trail users will be able to safely cross Cedar Creek,” Haines said.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a contract for the seventh phase of the linear park to Midlantic Construction in the amount of $1,066,624.00 on November 7, 2018.

The work also includes the construction of 12 parking spaces in a paved parking lot near South Street.

A separate lane with a crossing over the trail will be provided for the existing canoe drop off and pick up on the Lacey Township side of Cedar Creek.

“The Barnegat Branch Trail continues to grow in popularity with our visitors and residents,” Haines said. “It is great for walkers, joggers, bike riders and people who simply want to enjoy the many natural areas of the County.

“The trail is a multi-department effort, with the County Department of Parks and Recreation, Planning Department, Engineering Department and Security working in cooperation with each other to provide the best trail possible,” Freeholder Deputy Director John "Jack" Kelly, who serves as liaison to the Engineering Department, said. “This linear trail will run 16 miles when completed and features exercise equipment in some areas and other areas are passive.”

The Barnegat Branch trail follows the existing right of way of the former Barnegat Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

The completed trail will span from Barnegat Township to Toms River Township.

Ocean County has completed six phases of the trail, which includes seven contiguous miles from Burr Street in Barnegat Township to Lacey Road in Lacey Township.

In addition, almost 2.8 miles from Dudley Park at the Cedar Creek in Lacey Township to Hickory Lane in Berkeley Township have been completed.

Freeholder Director Haines recently visited the most recent construction phase of the county’s Barnegat Branch Trail where she was joined by Michael Mangum, Director of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.

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