By DON STINE
A comprehensive plan to connect Ocean Township through a network of walking and bicycle trails has been on the drawing board for about 10 years and at least one resident said she would like to see the plan reintroduced to the public.
The plan, developed 10 years ago by Urban Engineers, based in Baltimore, Maryland, was called “Township of Ocean Pedestrian & Bicycling Network Plan”- also called “The Greenway at Ocean.” The plan calls for a network grid of interconnecting trails that would allow bicycles or pedestrians to access commercial, residential, religious and recreational areas throughout the township. The paths would be primarily “off the grid,” or away from major streets and highways.
Ocean Township’s plan, and those from other municipalities, were submitted to the state Department of Transportation for review and possible funding ten years ago.
Township resident Jacqui Wenzel said she thinks the plan should be presented to the public again and considered for adoption into a revised Master Plan.
Wenzel said that, due to the Covid-19 virus regulations and restrictions, she sees more people than ever walking or biking in the township’s parks and paths. She said she would like to see the township move forward with the “Greenway” plan, seeking state and county funding to help move it along. She also wants to know if the township received any DOT grant money toward the plan.
“This is a good time to reintroduce this and put it in the Master Plan. It promotes walking, breathing fresh air, and getting exercise. I think the plan needs to be more transparent and presented again. It has not been shown for ten years,” she said.
Siciliano said that The Greenway at Ocean is “a great plan.”
“It is very concise and detailed and I think about 80 percent of it is doable but about 20 percent may be a little stretch. And, with some effort, it could be realized. We still talk about it,” he said.
The mayor said that heavily pursing paths from east to west in the township is difficult, especially since four-lane Route 35 bifurcates the entire township.
“And that’s one of the problems. It’s a tricky part of the plan,” he said.
In the meantime, the township has completed about 75 percent of the sidewalk element in the plan; 22 percent of the bike paths- all using some grant monies. The township got up to $300,000 in state DOT funding for the sidewalk projects but that funding was not related to The Greenway plan.
Siciliano said that while he supports the plan, it has not been adopted into the Master Plan. He said that originally up to $1 million in DOT funding was potentially available to implement it, but the township never received any related state funding
“I would know if we got that kind of money. Plus, we would be competing with other municipalities, including inner cities, in the state- so little, if any, funding may be available to Ocean Township,” he said.
Siciliano agrees that the plan should get public attention again.