Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Connecting Destinations and Neighbors, Without the Traffic

Project Name: Lawrence Hopewell Trail

A 22-mile walking and cycling trail connecting a variety of destinations, the result of a broad volunteer collaboration among community leaders, area employers, and local residents

Partners: Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation; Bristol-Myers Squibb; ETS; Township of Hopewell; Township of Lawrence; Mercer County

 


Northbound view at exit from loop in Village Park, Lawrence, NJ March 19, 2011.

In a society structured around cars and electronic screens, it can be hard to get people outside. In 2002, Bristol-Myers Squibb set out to improve quality of life by establishing a public biking and walking trail. Seventeen years and multiple partnerships later, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail has become a 22-mile network of biking and walking trails that benefit around 1.2 million visitors annually.

The trail is unique in that it extends across both public and private properties, none of which are owned by its managing nonprofit organization, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation (LHTC). Rather, the trail represents a rare collaboration among businesses, employers, individual landowners, schools, and other nonprofits that have contributed portions of their property to this public pathway. Bristol-Myers Squibb and ETS served as the earliest trail locations and financial supporters. The LHTC was established as a nonprofit in 2004, and it worked to create partnerships with a wide variety of groups, including Mercer County, Lawrence and Hopewell townships, the D&R Greenway Land Trust, the Watershed Institute, and the Saint Lawrence Rehabilitation Center.

The trail connects key destinations in Lawrence and Hopewell, including major employers, historic sites, recreation areas, downtowns, preserved land, and residential developments. It provides a safe and attractive route for traveling among these destinations via biking and walking. A survey of trail visitors found that 60 percent are walkers and 40 percent are bikers. Almost 10 percent use the trail to commute, reducing their car travel and thereby reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to providing a transportation alternative, the trail brings its visitors close to natural areas and water, helping create awareness of how these undeveloped lands absorb stormwater. The trail surface is constructed of porous pavement, which allows stormwater to filter through it into the ground.

The trail was developed to align with local and regional planning guidelines, including those set out by Mercer County Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the state Department of Transportation, and Lawrence and Hopewell townships’ Master Plans. It also connects to Circuit Trails, which allows users access to access the Delaware and Lehigh trail in Pennsylvania, as well as the East Coast Greenway.

Financial support for the trail has come from numerous organizations, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, ETS, Mercer County, the Mercer County Park Commission, Lawrence and Hopewell townships, the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Watershed Institute, D&R Greenway Land Trust, the Lawrenceville School, Prism Capital Partners, Capital Health, and individual donors.

The LHTC has survived through multiple challenges, including finding funding and not having full-time staff. While it is easy to create excitement around initial trail construction, it is harder to find funding and volunteers to sustain and maintain them on an ongoing basis. However, by recruiting the right people, learning from technical experts, and most of all, staying true to the vision over time, the organization has succeeded in making the trail a reality.  The Lawrence-Hopewell Trail has become more than just a travel corridor–it is destination that connects people to the outdoors and to each other.

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail connects the following destinations:

  • Mercer Meadows
  • Mercer County Equestrian Center
  • The Watershed Institute
  • Downtown Pennington
  • Lawrenceville Main Street
  • Bristol Myer-Squibb, Hopewell Township (two locations)
  • Bristol Myer-Squibb, Lawrence Township (two locations)
  • Bristol Myer-Squibb, Princeton
  • Princeton Pike Corporate Center
  • Mt. Rose Preserve
  • Carson Road Woods
  • Educational Testing Service
  • Maidenhead Meadows Park
  • Village Park
  • The Lawrenceville School
  • D&R Canal State Park
  • Mount Rose Distillery
  • The Brearley House
  • The Historic Hunt House
  • Princeton Meadows Farms development

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