Notes from the Field: Improving the Lenape Trail

March 18, 2018
Debra Kagan
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Notes from the Field: Improving the Lenape Trail
Lenape Trail Volunteers at a Trail Maintenance Workshop.


The 34-mile Lenape Trail connects the best of Essex County outdoors by connecting 12 communities.

On the evening of Nov. 2, the Trail Conference hosted the first Lenape Trail Gathering, held at the Robert J. O’Toole Community Center in Cedar Grove, N.J. The event, co-sponsored with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, celebrated the latest improvements to this unique urban trail, created by Al Kent over 40 years ago.

The 34-mile Lenape Trail is an urban/suburban network that ties together 12 communities in Essex County. As one of the Lenape Trail field managers, I’ve been following the trail’s yellow blazes from one park and township to another, meeting some amazing people along the way. The dinner was the first time we were able to get so many of the trail’s stewards in one location, and it made me appreciate once again the great diversity of landscape, wildlife, and people connected by the Lenape Trail.

Winding through parks like Branch Brook and Brookdale—both planned by Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York City’s Central Park—and providing access to the broad, scenic overlooks and quiet woods of Eagle Rock, South Mountain, Mills, and Hilltop reservations, the Lenape Trail offers green respite in one of the most densely populated counties in the country. All along the way you’ll find several small gems, like the Nutley Historic Museum, making the Lenape Trail a rich resource to get outdoors and engage with nature and local history.

The dinner brought together trail maintainers and members of local park conservancies, walking groups, and historical societies to celebrate the latest improvements to the Lenape Trail, made possible by a generous grant from Partners for Health. These upgrades include: a full inventory and assessment of trail conditions; increased access with new signage in four parks; and an up-to-date map available in digital and print formats. 

In the Works

One of the most exciting changes to the trail is the planned reroutes to include two historic landmarks: the spectacular blooms of the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and the sweeping vistas and profound tributes of the 9/11 Memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation. In addition, when new blazing is completed, the trail will include the Hilltop Reservation, the restoration of which was recently completed through the heroic efforts of local volunteers. They restored an amazing natural meadow, which is now seasonally filled with birds, butterflies, and a great variety of beautiful grasses. 

To ensure this unique trail remains accessible to all for many years to come, we need the help of people who believe in the power of connecting with nature—people like you. The Lenape Trail offers a wide range of opportunities for volunteering. Contact Peter Dolan ([email protected]) to learn more.