‘I honestly don’t see the benefit of this group’: Vernon abolishes Greenway Committee

Vernon.Councilman Harry Shortway defended the committee for providing valuable input while opening and clearing trails at no cost to the township.

| 23 Jan 2022 | 05:14

The Vernon Township Council on Jan. 11 abolished the township’s Greenway Action Committee, after questioning whether the group creates additional expenses beyond what it’s able to pay for.

Newly installed Council President Patrick Rizzuto questioned whether the group is necessary and whether the committee interacts with professionals that creates an additional expense for the township.

“I honestly don’t see the benefit of this group,” Rizzuto said. “Demonstrably I can see what’s happening with the Beautification Committee and the Economic Development Committee.”

The measure passed 3-2, with Councilmen Harry Shortway and Mike Furrey voting to keep it.

Furrey was the original chairman of the Greenway Action Committee fand said the group did a great job of trying to benefit the town by bringing trails and bike paths.

“I truly belief this is for the betterment of the local economy,” Furrey said. “It’s proven that these local trail systems and bike trail systems are a tremendous benefit to the community.”

Furrey said the committee had received a $2,000 grant from Sustainable New Jersey. However, the group didn’t receive many other grants.

Better grants and Highlands money

Councilman Harry Shortway had he was hoping to bring on a grant writer or someone trained to write grants to be more effective at helping secure them. He said the committee also gives the township access to Highlands money.

As far as projects going, Furrey said the committee could not act as an Open Space committee and the group was instrumental in putting the council in the right direction but did have any authority to authorize or approve projects.

Councilwoman Natalie Buccieri said she’d have a problem with a group pursuing projects that they could not fully fund.

“I think it’s wonderful that there’s a group of citizens that want to pursue avenues of fully funding any type of trail project as long as it does not fall on the taxpayers.”

Shortway said the group has valuable input and didn’t spend any money last year and opened up a trail behind Sand Hill Road and cleared a trail to Mountain Creek that is mowed by Fields of Green Montessori school.

“They did it all by themselves, and it has been maintained by volunteers,” Shortway said. “They’ve asked for nothing.”

Cherie Shortway, Harry Shortway’s wife and a member of the committee said she was insulted by Rizzuto’s opinion of the group and accused the council of alienating an entire group of volunteers.

“These are people that work hard and give up their time and give up so much over the six years,” she said. “It’s just mind boggling.”

Harry Shortway thanked the members of the GAC for their hard work over the last six years.

“We had a lot of political opposition connecting the present trails to the Town Center,” Shortway said. “But that was one great victory.”