Skylands CLEAN applies for grant

| 26 Jul 2012 | 12:19

WEST MILFORD — Skylands CLEAN, an environmental group dedicated to protecting the natural environment of the Highlands region, has applied for a $14,000 grant that will help them upgrade a nearly one mile tract of land between Pinecliff Lake and Bald Eagle Village into a community-accessible nature trail. Partnering with the Passaic River Coalition, which bought the 221-acre parcel now known as Emerald Forest, and the NY/NJ Trail Conference, Skylands CLEAN hopes to have the trail cleared and graded, and, with the help of students and faculty from William Paterson University and West Milford High School biology departments, provide environmental education for residents along the way. The property is in both the Pinecliff Lake and Greenwood Lake watersheds. The plan is to clear a trail - called Emerald Trail - for recreational purposes but also for add an educational element to it. "We want to bring in faculty and students from West Milford High School and William Paterson in the spring to do field projects on plant and tree identification," said Doris Aaronson, a trustee with Skylands CLEAN. Then, she said, the NY/NJ Trail Conference would provide educational kiosks along the route as well as 15 small plant identification signs. "It will be educational in a lot of ways." Aaronson said the entire tract is interesting geologically. But the biggest value is the protection of Greenwood Lake and Pinecliff Lake. "Much of this is Belcher's Creek wetlands," said Aaronson. "The biggest protection of Greenwood Lake and Pinecliff Lake is this property. The plants that are there are a part of this." In the request for the grant, Skylands CLEAN states that "Emerald Trail provides a unique opportunity for current and future generations to appreciate and protect their watershed environment, critical if the Highlands Act is weakened or eliminated." The funding, if received, would provide for a contractor to grade the property and cut away brush that's overgrown. It would also provide for benches, signs and educational kiosks planned. The students and faculty would be brought in to help with identifying the plant species on the trail. Ultimately, the plan is to have public access to this recreational and educational trail by November of 2013. Emerald Trail will provide the first connection between West Milford's town center and the trail network, with parking and accessibility from Union Valley Road. Rugged side trails, needing major work, can ultimately connect Emerald Trail to Wawayanda State Park trails, the Highlands trail network and consequently the Appalachian Trail. Skylands CLEAN favors environmental education projects, Aaronson said. Emerald Trail is the first joint project for Skylands CLEAN and the Passaic River Coalition. For more information on Skylands CLEAN, go to