The Burlington County Board of Commissioners is looking into possible enhancements at the County’s newest park, Willingboro Lakes.
Located off Route 130 and Beverly-Rancocas Road, the 105-acre park already has many amenities, including fishing piers, a playground, small-group pavilion and close to 3-miles of interior hiking trails. However, the Commissioners want to study potential improvements, including additional parking areas and boardwalk, and the possible creation of a new regional pedestrian and bicycle trail linking the new park with Willingboro’s nearby Mill Creek Park and the County’s larger network of regional trails.
The Board voted last week to apply for a New Jersey Department of Community Affairs grant for a feasibility study examining the possible 4-mile trail through Willingboro to County-owned property in Westampton.
Separately, the County is also seeking New Jersey Green Acres funding to create additional parking areas and boardwalk at Willingboro Lakes, including the feasibility of developing additional parking along Route 130.
“Willingboro Lakes just opened in the Fall and already it has become a go-to destination for outdoor recreation, nature watching, picnics and family fun,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “We’re extraordinarily proud of all of our County parks and we continue to improve and make them more accessible. Connecting our parks to local ones just makes things even better for everyone.”
Burlington County is seeking $500,000 in Green Acres funding for the additional parking and boardwalk and will apply for the grant through the Urban Parks program, which is dedicated to funding park improvements and historic preservation projects in communities with low-income or minority households.
The potential improvements at Willingboro Lakes are still being investigated, but county officials envision using the funding to construct new wood plank boardwalks within the park that could enhance the existing trails through the property and provide additional opportunities to view wildlife.
More than 100 different birds and 40-plus species of butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies have been sighted within the preserved tract, along with other animals such as turtles, frogs, deer, muskrats, foxes and even river otter.
Additional parking areas could be constructed near the park entrance off Beverly-Rancocas Road or near the two lakes, which were created at the turn of the 20th century from the sand minding that once occurred on the property.
A public hearing on the County’s Green Acres application is scheduled to be held on June 9 to solicit public input on the potential park improvements.
The feasibility study for the new regional trail is proposed to be paid for with a $310,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and would examine potential routes for a path for bicyclists and pedestrians from Willingboro Lakes to the former Rowan property off Bridge Street in Westampton. This pathway could be a trail or on sidewalks along the roads.
Burlington County has already created close to 50 miles of regional and park trails and is in the process of completing work on several additional trails projects, including a section of the proposed Heritage Trail along the Delaware River and a trail around Arney’s Mount in Springfield, which is the County’s highest elevation.
The proposed 4-mile trail through Willingboro would be the County’s first regional trail in the township and would both link Willingboro Lakes with Mill Creek Park and the other County trails and would also provide a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly alternative to motor-vehicles within one of Burlington County’s largest suburban communities.
The trail study would include extensive stakeholder outreach, data gathering, conceptual design, preliminary engineering work and a cost analysis.
“Willingboro Lakes has been a great addition, and we’re excited about the opportunity to partner with Willingboro Township to research developing a regional trail through the town,” Hopson said. “There’s a lot that needs to be looked at before we can move forward, but we think it could be a great addition that will enhance both our parks and benefit Willingboro residents and the entire county.”