BOONTON — A plan developed by the Open Space Institute (OSI) to protect and improve passive recreational access to the Boonton Reservoir has been formally approved by the Jersey City Council. With its endorsement, OSI and the Morris County Park Commission will proceed to the next phase in their creation of the “Jersey City Reservoir Protection and Trail Project.”
The plan, approved on December 4 and accessible here, will create a new, 7.7-mile trail around the 1,300-acre Jersey City Reservoir, which has been the primary water supply of Jersey City since 1904. The trail will be open to the public, including the approximately 15,000 residents who live nearby. The project will also safeguard drinking water supplies by enhancing security, while installing new drainage solutions and native plantings to reduce stormwater runoff.
OSI will secure permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for the trail and work with engineers to lay the groundwork for its creation, while the Morris County Park Commission will undertake the actual construction. The Commission expects to open Phase 1 of the trail within a two-year timeframe.
“The Open Space Institute is proud to further a legacy of creating life-changing public recreational assets and of safeguarding drinking water resources for generations to come,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Strategic land conservation goes hand-in-hand with providing healthy communities safe, reliable drinking water and places to play.”
“We’re grateful to OSI for creating a plan to preserve the environmental integrity of the entire area,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “Increasing quality to the environment and to the drinking water is of top priority, but this plan additionally provides our Jersey City students a new opportunity with future educational field trips – similar to our plans underway for Jersey City Reservoir #3 in the Heights.”
In September 2018, the Jersey City Council passed a city ordinance authorizing the execution of a 40-year lease agreement with the Morris County Park Commission to develop and manage a trail at the Reservoir. The ordinance also authorized OSI to create a master plan to determine public use of the property. While developing the project, local consultants Greener by Design and Amy Greene Environmental were instrumental in developing and conducting outreach around the initial plan.
The Jersey City Reservoir site is located in Boonton and Parsippany-Troy Hills Townships. Fed by the Rockaway River, the 700-acre reservoir serves as the primary source of drinking water for Jersey City. On its way to Jersey City, the water passes from the reservoir through a treatment facility which purifies an average of 50 million gallons a day.
For decades, OSI has been a leader in conserving land for drinking water protection. OSI has protected over 11,000 acres through easements in the Beaverkill Valley and over 20,000 acres of New York City’s watershed lands in Delaware County — including around the Ashokan Reservoir, New York City’s deepest drinking water reservoir, which is also ringed by scenic, celebrated hiking, and biking trails.
Within the Delaware River Watershed Basin, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, OSI has also built upon this decade-long experience using scientific knowledge to drive on-the-ground land conservation work.
Through its Delaware River Watershed Initiative, OSI has approved grants totaling over $7.6 million to protect almost 20,000 acres of land to ensure water quality in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In addition, OSI has supported efforts to integrate watershed science in public and nonprofit planning initiatives to channel funding to protect important watershed lands.