“Today’s opening of a new Bulls Island Recreation Area trail is yet another reason why New Jersey’s parks are prime destination getaways for residents and visitors alike,” Assistant Commissioner Cecil said. “Bulls Island is a great place to enjoy nature and solitude. Whether you’re out for the exercise, a quiet moment of reflection, or to look for common and unique birds, this new trail at Bulls Island offers all those opportunities.”
The trail is situated along the Delaware River, which overlooks one of the most scenic and historic portions of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. The river was once a critical transportation route and now provides 100 million gallons of drinking water daily for 1 million residents in Central New Jersey.
More than 400 native trees and shrub species, as well as 250 native wildflowers, have been planted along the trail to help reforest the area with native flora. The plantings were done with assistance from a variety of partners including the Delaware Township Environmental Commission, Kingwood Township Environmental Commission, Lower Wild and Scenic Delaware River Committee, AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program, Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission and the New Jersey Forest Service.
From the trail in the northern section of the island, park patrons will be able to see white-capped water as it rushes over the Delaware River wing dam, diverting river water into the nearby feeder canal, and view the original towpath of the 188-year-old canal. The D&R Canal, listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, is valued for its natural beauty, recreational opportunities and the reliable supply of drinking water it provides to more than 1 million people per day. The canal region also is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, birds and plants.
“Bulls Island is a tremendously significant place for understanding the history and the engineering of the Delaware & Raritan Canal,” said John Hutchison, Executive Director of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission. “I am thrilled that the public once again has the opportunity to explore the northern end of the island and view these extraordinary historic resources.”
The canal is the heart of the 7,131-acre Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, which is widely regarded as the second most popular among the more than 50 parks, forests and recreation areas within the State Park Service.
The 79-acre Bulls Island Recreation Area is approximately three miles north of Stockton, within Delaware Township.
In 2019, the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission convened a working group of colleagues within the DEP’s Division of State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites to devise a plan that would allow the northern section of the island, previously a campground, to revert to its natural state while also giving visitors access to the canal’s priceless history and enhancing recreational opportunities. The new trail, shaped like a lollipop, was achieved with minimal tree cutting and encompasses an existing paved road.
To further enhance the new trail, the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission directed mitigation funds from other state tree-removal projects toward planting new trees including sugar maples, red maples, tulip poplar, white oak, flowering dogwood, Common hackberry and witch hazel. These new trees help provide a lush understory, supporting wildlife that migrate through or reside in the area.
The ribbon cutting comes one day before New Jersey celebrates National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4. Events are scheduled across the state that day to encourage people of all activity levels to try hiking, biking, running and more on New Jersey’s vast trails network.
As an initiative of the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day was first celebrated in 1993 to commemorate the enactment of the National Trails System Act in 1968. This annual event, now in its 30th year, recognizes and promotes the many benefits of trails.
In addition to the annual celebration, the intent of National Trails Day is to develop a public understanding of trails' importance and the perseverance required to establish, preserve, and maintain them throughout the year. Trails provide health and fitness opportunities, outdoor classrooms for nature study, greenways for wildlife conservation, links with New Jersey’s historic past and economic boosts to regional tourism. National Trails Day helps to bring these efforts and values into focus so more of the public is introduced to this type of recreation.
In March, the DEP in partnership with the Trails Task Force of the New Jersey Geospatial Forum announced the release of a first phase of a statewide inventory of public trails in New Jersey. The inventory uses information provided by government agencies and nonprofits to improve, expand and better connect the state’s expansive network of trails, thereby improving trails access for all New Jersey residents. Additionally, the inventory’s data will help planners and advocates identify areas of focus in the state, prioritizing projects and acquisitions that will link to larger trails and advance goals of the New Jersey Trails Plan.
The new Bulls Island trail also supports the goals of the Murphy Administration’s recently announced Outside, Together! recreational initiative, which will bring together the public, local leaders, conservation organizations and the ecotourism industry to develop a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.
Contact: Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 292-2994