“The initiative to develop a recreational trail around the Boonton
Reservoir owned by Jersey City has been a phenomenal partnership between
public, private and non-profit entities which will realize exceptional
hiking opportunities and ensure the continued protection of drinking
water for Jersey City residents,” said Dave Helmer, Executive Director
of the Morris County Park Commission.
The Boonton Reservoir Protection and Trail Project design was
developed to meet New Jersey’s environmental permitting and trail
building requirements. Once the project receives its environmental
permits, OSI will hand the project over to Morris County who can
undertake the actual construction and management. The Morris County Park
Commission expects to break ground on Phase 1 of the trail in 2022.
The heart of the design is a 7-mile loop trail, to be made of natural
pervious materials, and to be constructed in phases. Also included are
gateway signage for the trail, three parking areas, and a new pedestrian
bridge trail across the outfall of the reservoir’s historic dam.
Public access to the site will be limited to a narrow trail corridor
and permitted uses will include only passive activities such as walking,
running, and cross-country skiing. For water quality, OSI’s plan
includes installation of new green infrastructure to provide drainage
solutions. Native plantings will help filter stormwater runoff and
create additional wildlife habitat.
Allowing the public to enjoy limited use of the site will facilitate
cooperation between one of New Jersey’s great urban centers and the
communities that support the protection of its drinking water supply.
This project is an example of how public-private partnerships can be
leveraged to increase public access to nature, especially in densely
OSI’s work on the Boonton Reservoir Enhancement and Trail Development
Project has been made possible by the following generous funders:
Atlantic Health System, F.M. Kirby Foundation, the Community Foundation
of New Jersey, the Highlands Council, The Luzzi Family, The Randy &
Barbara Ann Frankel Foundation, S. Dillard & Adrienne Kirby
Philanthropic Fund, Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, The Geraldine R.
Dodge Foundation, Township of Parsippany, and Kim and Finn Wentworth.
About the project
The 1,300-acre Boonton Reservoir property is located in Boonton and
Parsippany-Troy Hills Townships. Fed by the Rockaway River, the 700-acre
reservoir serves as the primary source of drinking water for Jersey
City. On its way to Jersey City, the water passes from the reservoir
through a treatment facility which purifies an average of 50 million
gallons a day.
The plan aims to improve the quality of incoming storm water runoff
through new drainage solutions and the addition of native plantings.
The Reservoir is home to red-shouldered hawks, northern goshawks,
great white herons, and American eagles. It will provide a venue for
daily outdoor exercise; educational opportunities to learn about the
water supply; woodland hikes with water views; leaf peeping in the
Autumn; and flashes of Revolutionary and Civil War history. The path has
the potential to link with new regional connections to the Rockaway
River Greenway, Morris Canal and Patriots Path.
In September 2018, the Jersey City Council passed a city ordinance
authorizing the execution of a 40-year lease agreement with the Morris
County Park Commission to develop and manage a trail at the Reservoir.
The ordinance also authorized OSI to create a master plan to determine
public use of the property. While developing the project, local
consultants Greener by Design and Amy Greene Environmental were
instrumental in developing and conducting outreach around the initial
OSI then created a comprehensive Property Management Plan for the
enhancement of the Boonton Reservoir and, after a series of public
meetings held in 2019, the Jersey City Council formally voted to move
forward with the project. Now, OSI has unveiled the Boonton Reservoir
Protection and Trail Project permit-ready design with the goal of
providing Morris County with the design details, environmental permits,
and other approvals they need to implement this ambitious but achievable