Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Delaware & Raritan Canal Towpath severely damaged

As part of my work with the East Coast Greenway Alliance I spent some of my time last week inspecting the flood damage wrought by Hurricane Irene here in the New Brunswick area.  While the stretch that goes through Johnsons Park in Piscataway and Highland Park escaped relatively unscathed, the Delaware & Raritan Canal Towpath section just outside of New Brunswick suffered sever damage.

For much of its length the D&R Towpath lies in the flood plan of both the Raritan and Millstone Rivers leaving it highly susceptible to flood damage.  Unfortunately with record setting rains and high winds from Irene, it is no surprise that the damage was really bad on the section between Landing Lane in New Brunswick to Easton Ave at South Bound Brook.  This six mile section of the trail was barely passable last week.  What normally takes me less than half an hour to ride took me over two hours due to numerous blow-downs and sever scouring and erosion of the once smooth trail surface. It's safe to say that this section of the Towpath and East Coast Greenway is closed for the foreseeable future.

One of the more imposing blow-downs made more interesting by the poison ivy covering the blown down tree trunks.

The once beautiful and smooth red shale installed and reported about here last year was almost entirely swept away.  The erosion was so bad in places that the levee that the trail travels over was almost breached in about 6 different locations, nearly causing the canal to spill into the river. The levee is clearly structurally unsound in these locations and the trail unsafe.

September 2010.

This same exact section August 31st 2011.
Just one example of the severe erosion that nearly breached the canal, almost sending its waters into the Raritan
Finally the bridge that provides access to the towpath and ECG at Demott Lane was washed into the canal leaving no access at this point. This never happened before with any of the previous flooding events over the past 20 years and is an indication of how bad the flooding was with Hurricane Irene.

Only the bridge footings remain at the Demott Lane trail access.  The bridge itself can be seen in the background.
Damage to the D&R towpath extends well beyond just this section.  It is safe to say that just about every yard of the towpath from New Brunswick to Trenton has been negatively impacted by the flooding even though it may still be open and passable.  With that in mind, DO NOT expect the open sections of the trail to be as easy going as they were before Irene.

For more information about the D&R Towpath see the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry Website.  For the complete photo survey of the damage along the East Coast Greenway in Johnsons Park and D&R Towpath, see the slide show below.

1 comment:

Neil said...

This is the primary route I use to get to band rehearsal. We basically have to use River Road now, although that's not an option either when there's any kind of flooding. There's the so-called Easton Avenue "bike lane", which is largely a torn-up sidewalk with a few bike route signs. There really is no reliable bicycle route between these two towns.