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Eventually, the Barnegat Branch Trail will travel nearly 16 miles from Barnegat Township north to Toms River along a branch of the former Central Railroad of New Jersey. As of 2019, three disconnected segments of trail have been completed through the sandy soils of the Pine Barrens. From the 17th to the 20th century, people harvested and burned trees in this region to produce household goods, make charcoal, and control wildlife. Fire ecology is central to this region’s ecosystem and continues to shape the landscape into the 21st century.
Barnegat Township to Forked River: 7.6 miles
The 7.6-mile southernmost segment runs from Barnegat Township to Forked River. It features a stone-dust surface, though the path is paved where it crosses roads. From the southern trailhead parking lot at Railroad Avenue in Barnegat Township, head north 3.1 miles to this section’s midpoint in Waretown. This small town offers a convenience store and drug store for refreshments.
Continuing north 4.5 more miles toward the community of Forked River, the trail crosses the Middle Branch Forked River on a converted railroad trestle. After crossing Lower Lake, the trail parallels Railroad Avenue to this segment’s end, at Musket Road.
William Hebrew Park to Hickory Lane: 3.1 miles
A short section of trail, primarily stone dust, starts at William Hebrew Park in Lacey Township. As you head north, Dudley Park, at the southern edge of Berkeley Township, offers picnic tables, a covered pavilion, a playground, and a roller--skating rink. The park also includes an old railway relic called The Trestle, situated above Cedar Creek. Recently, a 150-foot bridge was installed to provide safe crossing over the creek for trail users, but some features of The Trestle were left in place as a reminder of the railroad’s important place in the area’s history. A popular spot for visitors and locals alike, The Trestle makes the perfect setting for everything from family cookouts to kayak excursions. This segment of trail spans just over 3 miles to the Ocean County Utilities Authority, also in Berkeley Township.
Beachwood Borough Trail: 1.0 mile
The oldest trail segment runs through the borough of Beachwood. Also known as the Beachwood Borough Trail, this 1-mile-long paved trail starts at Berkeley Avenue and spans the Beachwood community. It ends to the north near the border of the township of Toms River. Construction on an extension of the trail to NJ 166/Herflicker Boulevard in Toms River is expected to begin in 2019.
Parking access at the southernmost trailhead can be found just off of US 9/Main St. in Barnegat. From Garden State Pkwy., take Exit 67 (if heading north) or 67A (if heading south). If heading north, turn right onto W. Bay Ave. If heading south, turn right onto Lighthouse Dr., go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto W. Bay Ave. Go approximately 1.5 miles, and turn left onto Railroad Ave., an unmarked road that runs parallel to Memorial Dr. The southern trailhead can be found at the end of the parking lot on Railroad Ave.
Parking and trail access at William Hebrew Park can be found just off of US 9/Atlantic City Blvd. Turn onto South St. in Lacey Township, between Laurel Blvd. and Warren Ave. Follow South St. 0.3 mile to the park’s entrance and parking lot on your right.
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