WEST MILFORD - For one day each year, the section of Union Valley Road from Marshall Hill up to Pinecliff Lake is teeming with people walking, shopping, pushing strollers, all during the annual Autumn Lights Festival in October.
Some township and business leaders want that walking accessibility for more than one day and are reigniting talks of getting sidewalks built along this thoroughfare and others.
Nancy Hunt, former president of the West Milford Chamber of Commerce for the past two years, told the council that many people in town would like the option of walking along Union Valley Road to support the local businesses.
"Everyone wants to know how can they support local businesses," said Hunt. "ALF is a great day. Why can't we have this route available to walk all year?"
Hunt referenced nearby Warwick, N.Y., which she said was a "run down town" 30 years ago. "They've done everything right," she said.
This route would allow walking access from the ShopRite Plaza up to Bearfort Shopping Center. It has 11 eateries, Hunt said, each of which has its best day during the Autumn Lights Festival
"Why not make it walkable all year?" said Hunt. "Build it and they will come."
She had allies on the council. Councilman Mike Ramaglia said he wants to meet with the Lincoln Avenue property owners. There have been talks of building sidewalks from ShopRite to the Lincoln Hill Village senior housing development but it hasn't happened yet. There is much support for it and the township has received grant money to go toward the project.
Councilman Joe Smolinski said Hunt "hit it right on the head."
"We have sidewalks that go nowhere," said Smolinski. "We should have sidewalks up to Bearfort. A bike path. A link between our businesses is vital."
Mayor Bettina Bieri called for the streetscape project to move forward.
"I've said we need to have the full loop, Lincoln Road to Union Valley Road," said Bieri.
It takes a lot of money, she said, Plus, a meeting with homeowners to discuss easements needed to proceed with the streetscape was never scheduled last year by former administrator Kevin Boyle.