Wednesday, January 19, 2011

D & R Canal Commission on the block. Why you should care.

You learn something new everyday.

Just recently I learned that the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission has been proposed to be eliminated by NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin under the premise that the functions that the Canal Commission performs are replicated in the DEP's State Historic Preservation Office and the Land Use Regulation Program.  That may be so on paper but the Canal Commission has a superb track record of efficiency and since their sole purpose is to protect and maintain the water resource, historic nature of the D&R Canal and the recreation opportunities that the Canal and park provides, it is only natural that the Commission would be able to do a better job at protecting the Canal and maintaining the towpath since that is all they focus on.
Could beautiful sights like this along the D&R Canal become a thing of the past?

A press release by the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association has this to say about the role the Canal Commission plays in maintaining the recreation opportunities along the D&R Canal:

Although the EO 15 report is correct in that the Division of Parks and Forestry is responsible for the Canal Park’s operations, since 1974 the Canal Commission has generated in excess of $20 million in direct improvements to the Canal Park through its regulatory and planning program. In 2009 alone, the following improvements were made to the park through mitigation required by the Canal Commission for project approval: restoration of the East Millstone Canal House by Canal Walk developers, a negotiated $2 million contribution for a reproduction historic swing bridge from the DRJTB Commission; restoration of the Hanover Street Canal House by Thomas Edison College; improvements at the 5-Mile Lock access area and funding for pedestrian bridge at Easton Avenue by PSE&G; and NJTA stream corridor mitigation.

These projects could not have been accomplished with the Division of Parks and Forestry’s budget for capital improvements. The Canal Commission has also forged a path with its sister agencies to complete improvements that would not have happened without its leadership, such as the pedestrian bridge over Route One and the “missing link” path segment in Trenton that now makes the Canal Park a continuous 60-mile recreational path (emphasis mine).
I highly doubt those improvements in trail access and historic character would have happened if the overworked and under-equipped staff at the DEP offices were in charge of reviewing the applications (trust me I used to work there, so I know).
I first investigated the Canal Commission due to it's importance in regulating water quality in the D&R Canal itself, which is the primary water source for my town of North Brunswick.  However I was not quite so aware of the Canal Commissions role in helping to maintain the Delaware Canal Towpath, that many in Central New Jersey and beyond have come to rely on as a great recreational resource and bicycle transportation corridor.  Don't forget the tow path between Trenton and New Brunswick is a critical part of the East Coast Greenway in New Jersey and the longest contiguous section of ECG formally dedicated anywhere!

1 comment:

Clever-title said...

The Canal Society of NJ has an excellent article on the Commission in their most recent newsletter:
The commission provides valuable integrated management of both the utility, historic, and recreational uses of the canal, as well as regional water management (versus a patchwork of local stormwater regs). It's worth your effort to write a letter to the governor on this one. It is not tax-supported, and does not suffer of the headline-grabbing corruption of some of the other commissions.