WEST ESSEX TRAIL
Cedar Grove, Essex County, NJ
From Bloomfield Avenue in Verona, take Route 23 (Pompton Avenue) north for 2.0 miles; turn east on Little Falls Road in Cedar Grove; drive 0.5 miles to the Cedar Grove Community Park on the right; park and go up hill to the trail.
At the high trestle over Peckman River there are exposed ledges of Watchung Basalt.
1842 -- Host community Cedar Grove incorporated as a township with Verona in 1842. Thomas Jacobus purchased the entire valley from the Indians in the early 1700's. The families of Van Ripers, Personnettes, Canfields, and Bowdens developed large farm tracts here in the ensuing years.
The trail is situated on the former right-of-way of the Caldwell Branch of the old Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. The stations were from southwest to northeast: Cedar Grove, Verona, Caldwell, and Essex Fells.
1890-1892 -- the New York Suburban Land Company and the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell charter and fund the Caldwell Railway Company in order to develop their real estate holdings in Caldwell and today's Essex Fells.
1893 -- the railway fails and is taken over by the Greenwood Lake Railroad (which built the original line through Great Notch).
1898 -- the Erie Railroad takes over the Greenwood Lake Railroad and runs the Caldwell Branch.
1904 -- the Morristown & Essex Railroad (M&E) establishes a connection at Essex Fells.
1928 -- service to Morristown ends.
1966 -- end of all commuter service.
1976 -- freight services ends with the coming of Conrail.
1985 -- acquired through Green Acre funding.
Public debate delayed further acquisition long enough for the railroad company to sell off some intermittent parcels, effectively preventing the county from extending the trail as far as Grover Cleveland Park in Caldwell, as originally planned.
The 2.84 mile trail runs from the Passaic County line near the Lenape Trail, southwest through the Community Park by the Peckman River, across Route 23, across Fairview Avenue, past Verona High School, and on to Arnold Way. Though the trail is used presently by walkers and bicyclists, fiscal restraints have postponed implementation of the County's final grading and landscaping plans.
The Lenape Indian Trail crosses the West Essex Trail near the Passaic/Essex County line.
There is a trestle bridge 20 feet above the rapids of the Peckman River--unfortunately closed due to prohibitive cost of rehabilitation.
You also pass the Grover Cleveland homestead state park in Caldwell; the Kiwannis Oval Park; and the Grover Cleveland Park.
Source: http://www.co.essex.nj.us/west1.htm and Della Penna 1999:chapter 23.