Improving public access along the Raritan River fosters public appreciation of the River as a natural resource, while creating sustainable sources of economic development for surrounding towns and counties. Improving access to recreational opportunities, such as access points along the river for water-oriented activities and trails along the banks of the river for pedestrian walking, hiking, and biking is key to this aspect of the Action Plan. In 2009, the Subcommittee for Public Access and Recreation identified three priority needs to satisfy this goal:
- Increase awareness and use of current access points and river-oriented trails
- Upgrade existing access points and trails
- Develop a coordinated plan for development of additional river access and recreational areas
The recreational activities and public access points along the Raritan River are currently under-appreciated resources, as many people are unaware of their existence. The 30-mile stem of the Lower Raritan offers opportunities for boating, bicycling, and hiking that have only continued to increase and improve. Dam removals along the river in recent years have also made for more paddling opportunities and fish migration along the river as obstructions are removed.
The production of trail guides and informational pamphlets about recreation on the Raritan River, along with online information, will help generate public awareness and use of these spaces. In addition, river-oriented events, such as river festivals, help create public consciousness of the River’s resources. Since the Action Plan was published, there has been a great deal of information about recreation on the Raritan made available to the public, and an increase in river festivals and events along the Raritan.
As well as making the public aware of recreational access points along the Raritan River, these points should continue to be maintained and improved. Better signage will bring the public to access points, and many locations are in need of visitor amenities. In response, several greenways have been created for public use along the River. In March of 2013, the Raritan River Greenway opened, which extends from the confluence of the North Branch and South Branch of the Raritan River to the confluence of the Millstone River and the Raritan River, which covers about eight miles. The Greenway has increased access points, recreational opportunities, and visitor amenities along the River, allowing for a more public-friendly space. In 2013, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions took on a project to promote better signage at access points, and there are many instances of improvements along the river.
Reports and Links
- Public Access and Recreation. 2009. Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, Rutgers University
- Lower Raritan Interactive Public Access Map. 2014. Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
- Middlesex Greenway Access Plan Health Impact Assessment. 2014. Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers
- 2013 Dam Removals. 2013. American Rivers
- Open Space Preservation and New Jersey: the Economic Benefit for Municipalities. 2011. Jordan Hollander, Trinity College, Dublin.
- Riverkeepers Map of the Lower Raritan. 2009. Outdated, but still of value! Note that three of the dams on this map — the Roberts Street Dam, the Nevius Street Dam and the Calco Dam — have all been removed!!
- Raritan Riverfront Strategy Plan. 2003. HDR for Middlesex County and Middlesex County Improvement Authority