One Citizen Leads the Charge to Construct Two Bridges in Monmouth County
Persistence and public advocacy pays off when a Lincroft resident gets to see her long fought quest to get Pedestrian bridges constructed materialize this year.
Melanie Elmiger, who lives across the street from Thompson Park, once called a paved trail on the the scenic park acreage "the path to nowhere". That's because the trail was broken up by the Marlu Lake and the Thompson Pond preventing pedestrians from walking into Holmdel on a continuous loop. To make matters worst, pedestrians were forced onto a very busy Route 520 also known as Newman Springs.
Elmiger says in 2005 the need hit her when she left her house one day and noticed something disturbing, "I saw two kids from C.B.A (Christian Brothers Academy) with their I-Pods on walking shoulder to shoulder on Route 520 right where the bridge section is for the cars to go over and I thought, you know, this is like a tragedy waiting to happen."
Elmiger says she took her concerns to the Lincroft Village Green Association, which she now Directs, asking them for help. "They really helped me navigate through the red tape and they taught me, you know, the different levels of government, who I'd have to speak to and different things to try to get the attention of the Freeholders, the Park system, local government."
Elmiger says it wasn't all smooth sailing. She says both spans were held up for different reasons. "There were some wetlands issues over by Cross Farm and there was some water issues and there was a damn underneath the bridge over by C.B.A. that was of concern to the State." She says all these issues created somewhat of a standoff among Park Officials, the State, County and even C.B.A.
Elmiger says It really took Freeholder Director John Curley to get everybody who was touching this project into the same room. "They hammered it out. They put all the issues on the table. They discussed what the problems were and by being a peacemaker he really got everybody to move on. I mean, this could have taken ten more years going back and forth." She says "it really took just one person to act quickly to move this on."
Emiger says the bridges were built by two different Government entities. The first bridge (over Marlu Lake), the longest span was constructed by the Monmouth County Park System. The second span (over Thompson Pond) was built by the Monmouth County Division of Engineering. She says surprisingly, both spans were constructed almost simultaneously.
Now she says the difference is remarkable and she really can't believe how many people are actually using the bridges. "Well let me put it to you this way, my husband went out there on Saturday to go for a walk with my daughter. We walk our dog in the park everyday and he walks out to the trail and he looked around and there were so many clusters of people walking, he thought it was a crop walk or a walk-a-thon because there were so many people on the trail. I am amazed about how many people are using it now! It was desolate. no one ever walked there and now people from Holmdel can get into Lincroft. People from Lindcroft can get into Holmdel and they can do the entire loop instead of turning around."
Elmiger says the bridges were funded by Federal grants aimed at making communities more pedestrian friendly.
The bridges were recently dedicated during a ceremony hosted by the Monmouth County Park System.