Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced that the state intends to purchase a 9 mile, 135-acre stretch of land across eight tightly-packed municipalities in northern New Jersey, formerly the site of a decommissioned rail line and property of Norfolk Southern Railway.

And following "decades of local advocacy work" and three years of direct negotiation with Norfolk Southern, according to Dene Lee, senior director of the Open Space Institute's Northeast Land Program, a project known as the Essex-Hudson Greenway is finally ready to move forward.

The objective is to create a "multi-use, linear" park, as Lee put it, across Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City.

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A release from the governor's office said that the Essex-Hudson Greenway, when done, will become the first new state park in New Jersey since 2006.

Lee said that increasing recreational, open space is obviously a part of it, but devising new commuting opportunities is a top priority too, and that will help to put the "green" in "greenway."

"It will hopefully bring people out of their cars, and onto their bikes and walking to get to work, and you have many people in the communities that it traverses that maybe don't have access to cars," she said.

The plot of land is an eyesore right now, said Essex County Commissioner and Montclair resident Brendan Gill, but its development will be "transformative" and bring residents closer not only to their places of employment, but also schools and houses of worship.

"There's also a tremendous economic development upside to this project as well," Gill said, "This trail actually is a gateway to many of the downtown and shopping areas of the communities."

Those communities, Gill said, each have their own landscape and character, but they also have a lot in common, and he said the Greenway will showcase both of those truths.

There's no firm timeline for completion, according to Gill, but this is now a matter of if, not when — so the Greenway won't be open tomorrow, but as soon as it can be.

"This is a commitment from the state, and a down payment, that this project is going to happen," he said. "There's still work to be done to make it a reality."

Lee said projects like these are often handled in phases, so sections could be made available to locals in a piecemeal manner.

"Each step will take time and energy and effort, but this is really a moment to pause and really be proud of how far we've come," she said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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