The Burlington County Commissioners took another step toward creating a new regional trail that would link two popular parks in Willingboro.
The commissioners voted last month to approve an application to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Local Recreation Improvement Grant Program to fund engineering and design for a four-mile trail linking the county’s Willingboro Lakes Park with the municipality’s Mill Creek Park.
Both parks are located off Beverly-Rancocas Road and are among the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation in Burlington County.
“The county opened Willingboro Lakes a few years ago and the park quickly became a favorite of Willingboro residents and others from across the county. And Mill Creek Park is one of the oldest and most iconic destinations for recreation and family fun in the region,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “Both parks offer accessible outdoor spaces and amenities that residents of all ages and interests can enjoy and linking them with a trail makes sense. It will make them both even more attractive to county residents and visitors.”
The existing amenities in the Willingboro Lakes include two large lakes, fishing piers, a playground, small group pavilion and approximately 3-miles of interior hiking and bicycle trails. More than 100 different birds and 40-plus species of insects and wildlife have been sighted within the park’s 105 acres.
Mill Creek Park was created five decades ago and covers about 180 acres. It has walking paths and trails, a recreational hill, pond, soccer fields, baseball diamond, pavilions, exercise stations, playgrounds and tennis courts. The park is also a popular destination for many events, including the annual Willingboro Jazz Festival.
Burlington County has already created more than 50 miles of regional and park trails throughout the county, including the recently completed first leg of the Rancocas Greenway Trail through Delran, Riverside and Delanco, and the new Arney’s Mount Trail in Springfield.
The proposed four-mile trail through Willingboro would be the county’s first regional trail in that municipality. Eventually, the county envisions extending it further through Willingboro into neighboring Westampton, where it could connect to a planned park at the former Rowan property off Rancocas Road and Bridge Street.
Burlington County has already received a $50,000 grant from the Department of Community Affairs to study the feasibility and potential routes for the proposed larger pathway.
Like all the county’s regional trails, the path would be built so that it is 100 percent wheelchair accessible and would provide a safe pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly alternative to motor-vehicle travel.
“Mobility is a basic right, and we want our residents to have additional safe options to move around our county and enjoy the incredible outdoor spaces and community parks that exist here,” said Commissioner Allison Eckel, the liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation and Parks. “Linking these two popular parks in Willingboro will make them even more accessible and provide a great resource for pedestrians. bicyclists and all our county’s outdoor enthusiasts.”
Besides the proposed trail, the county is also planning additional enhancements within Willingboro Lakes, including more parking and wood-plank boardwalks. In 2021, the County was awarded a $1 million Green Acres grant award to fund about 50 percent of the proposed improvement costs.
“Burlington County Parks System is one of the best in the nation and has proven to be integral to the high quality of life Burlington County residents enjoy,” Eckel said. “We’re always looking for cost-effective ways to make our parks even better, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to make improvements to Willingboro’s parks and other locations across the county.”