The Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which is a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly path, was honored by New Jersey Future at its annual Smart Growth Awards ceremony in Newark on June 5.
The Lawrence Hopewell Trail was one of seven winners of the 2019 Smart Growth Awards, which recognizes projects that illustrate sustainable growth and development. The off-road path links Lawrence and Hopewell townships.
New Jersey Future, which was founded in 1987, is a nonprofit group that promotes smart growth and redevelopment efforts.
Representatives of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the Educational Testing Service, Hopewell and Lawrence townships, and Mercer County were on hand to accept the award.
The 22-mile-long trail was first envisioned in 2002 by BMS and ETS as a trail that would link Lawrence and Hopewell townships. The goal was to provide a safe and environmentally sound means of transportation between the two townships, whether on foot or by bicycle.
“The goal from the beginning has been not only to create a safe and walkable trail, but also to make it easy for people in our communities to get together, to meet each other, go to events, and have a nice ride or walk,” said Becky Taylor, co-president of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp.
Taylor is a founder and co-president of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp., along with co-president Eleanor Horne. Taylor was employed by BMS and Horne was the corporate secretary and vice president at ETS when they proposed the idea for the trail.
Leslie Floyd, director of the Mercer County Planing Department, supports the goal of linking the two townships. She pointed out that since 20 percent of the land in Mercer County has been preserved from development, the task has been to find ways to make connections.
“One of the things that I am most pleased about with the Lawrence Hopewell Trail is the degree to which it connects neighborhoods that were otherwise isolated. There are neighborhoods on county roads without safe ways for residents to make connections with neighbors and friends,” Floyd said.
Taylor, meanwhile, credited current and former members of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp.’s board of directors, plus elected officials and career staff in both towns, with helping to turn the Lawrence Hopewell Trail into a reality.
Of the 22-mile-long trail, 20.5 miles have been completed. About seven miles of the 8.6 miles in Hopewell Township have been completed, and 13 miles have been finished in Lawrence Township. Less than two miles remains to be completed.
The trail attracts a steady stream of users – through attendance at special events, and by residents who may use it to commute to their jobs at BMS or ETS and other businesses near the trail.
A survey of trail users found that 60 percent use it as a pedestrian trail and 40 percent use it to ride their bicycles. About 10 percent use it to commute to their jobs, leaving their cars at home.
The Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp. does not own any of the sections of the trail. It formed partnerships with landowners – both public and private – to build the trail on their property and to make it available to pedestrians and bicyclists.