BOONTON — Boonton officials and participating partners cut the ribbon on the newly installed interpretive panels, located at the trailhead in Grace Lord Park. The panels tell the story of the region’s growth and development that was catalyzed by the opening of the Morris Canal and the Boonton Iron Works Complex, ushering in a vibrant era of the iron industry in Boonton and in other towns along the Canal in the iron-rich Highlands. The panels are the first of many historical features and amenities planned for the Boonton Heritage Trail, Boonton’s segment of the Morris Canal Greenway, a recreational trail connecting the Hudson River at Jersey City, with the Delaware River at Phillipsburg, along the 102-mile route of the Morris Canal.
The Boonton Heritage Trail follows the Rockaway River through the dramatic natural beauty of the Boonton Gorge where the River drops 100 feet in less than half a mile, providing the water power that operated the bellows for the Iron Works’ two blast furnaces, and turned the turbine that lifted Canal boats 100’at Incline Plane 7E. The Stone Arch Bridge that crosses the River provides a stunning view of the white water, falls, and cataracts. Renovation of the Arch Bridge and stabilizing the remnants of the two anthracite furnace cauldrons are two upcoming projects planned for the Boonton Heritage Trail.
Senate and Assembly representatives in Trenton as well as representation by the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders pledged their support to help fund the long term plan to fully develop a heritage trail that will tell the story of the Morris Canal and Boonton Iron Works, which brought people to Boonton and established the community as we know it today.
“There are many towns across the length of the Canal with remnants of a furnace or foundry,” explained Elliott Ruga, Chairman of the Boonton Trails Committee, which coordinated the ceremony and convenes the many interests that have stakes in moving the project forward, “what makes Boonton unique, is the fact that these historical resources are located in the Boonton Gorge, a landscape of incomparable natural beauty.”
The Boonton Trails Committee includes members of the Boonton governing body, the Canal Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, the Boonton Historical Society, the Boonton Recreation Department, and residents of Boonton.
“The Boonton Historical Society and Museum are very happy to have this informative panel in place. This section of the Rockaway River attracts many people to enjoy its beauty and now our visitors will understand the historical significance of the area as well,” said Monica Scozzafava, Archivist at the Museum. “We thank the Canal Society of New Jersey for their generous donation.”
Boonton Mayor Rich Corcoran said, “The Boonton Heritage Trail will connect Boonton’s rich history with its downtown merchants and restaurants, making Boonton a regional destination that will help revitalize the local economy.”
State Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25), a Boonton resident who recalled playing in Grace Lord Park as a child said, “the new interpretive panels installed at the trailhead of the Boonton Heritage Trail share the rich history of our community in a way that is easily accessible to those who traverse our segment of the Morris Canal Greenway,” said Senator Anthony M. Bucco. “I commend the work of the Boonton Trails Committee and other local partners for working to engage and educate visitors in such a visually interesting manner.”
Similar support for the development of the Boonton Heritage Trail was expressed by State Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and Morris County Freeholder Tafun Selen.
Canal Society of New Jersey President Joe Macasek, whose organization designed and donated the interpretive panels said, “Boonton has a fascinating and compelling story to tell about how our entire region developed, and the Town has been a great partner in committing resources to make this project happen.”
“These panels are the first step of a plan that includes restoration of the Arch Bridge, repairing the slope subsidence, extending a pedestrian trail across the railroad trestle, and stabilizing the two furnace cauldrons, as well as cleaning out the non-native invasive plants and interpreting other Morris Canal and Boonton Iron Works remnants,” said Elliott Ruga. “We also intend to connect with the planned reservoir trail by going under I-287,” continued Ruga, referring to the joint Boonton, Parsippany, and Morris County plan to create a recreational trail around the Jersey City Reservoir.