An idled segment of the Old Boonton Line stretches nearly nine miles from the quiet streets of Montclair in the west to Jersey City, New Jersey in the east. Along this length it passes through leafy woodlands, along elevated vistas, over two major rivers, through urban and residential corridors, and into the expansive ecological wonder of the Meadowlands. The rail line spans Essex and Hudson Counties and links eight distinct municipalities. The hundred-foot wide corridor traverses a rich ecological and land-use spectrum which encompasses residential landscape, urban industrial districts, upland woodlands, and maritime wetlands. It is a varied and dramatic landscape that links equally rich and diverse communities.
In the year since the cessation of rail service, community members and trail enthusiasts advocated for the conversion of the rail line to create a much needed east-west bicycle and pedestrian connection. However, advancement of this goal proved elusive. In 2020, MNLA worked with the Open Space Institute and New Jersey Bike Walk Coalition to develop a framework plan to help civic leaders understand the immense potential of this project, facilitate the purchase of the land, and to serve as a starting point for broader community engagement and visioning sessions.
The Framework Plan, led by MNLA, focuses on establishing a design framework for The Hudson Essex Greenway, evaluates existing bridges, and studies stormwater management needs. The plan also articulates opportunities for the greenway and the communities along its length, and provides analysis of ecological, experiential, and planning aspects of the project. The analysis and visioning illustrate the incredible potential for the greenway to become a source of community pride and enjoyment. Through the lens of experience, environment, and connectivity the framework plan illustrates the magnitude of the opportunity presented by this project and aims to be a catalyst for the community engagement and dialogue that will shape the design and implementation moving forward.