Confusion over road ownership subsides into promises of repair

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Residents who frequent Mayapple Hill Park have expressed frustration regarding the condition of Cedar Lane, an entrance and exit to the section of the South Mountain Recreation Complex that leads to Pleasant Valley Way. The long, tree-lined road is filled with potholes and gravel, leaving parkgoers concerned about safety as well as their car tires.

The road belongs to Essex County, but during initial talks with the Chronicle on June 29, the Essex County Department of Public Works denied ownership and said it was the township’s responsibility to pave and repair Cedar Lane. In addition, Cedar Lane is not featured on the map of county roads on the Essex County Department of Public Works website.

But West Orange Business Administrator Jack Sayers told the Chronicle in a June 27 phone interview said Cedar Lane is a county road, since it is part of the county park.

“We don’t know — or do — anything with it because it’s in the park, so it would be a county road,” Sayers said.

Leonard Lepore, the West Orange township engineer, agreed that Cedar Lane is a county park road, and therefore not the township’s responsibility to repair or pave.

“In my opinion, it’s a county park road,” Lepore said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on June 29. “If you go up there, there’s a basin with a sign that says ‘Essex County Roads and Bridges,’ leading me to believe it goes to the county.”

Anthony Puglisi, the public information officer for Essex County, told the Chronicle in a July 9 email that Cedar Lane is a county road, based on the fact that it is in a county park. But he clarified that the reason the county had initially denied ownership was because “county roads” are different from “park roads,” although both are owned and maintained by the county.

“County roads are streets and thoroughfares that carry a lot of traffic,” Puglisi said. “Park roads are in county facilities and are maintained by the county, but are classified differently so they appear on two lists.”

Some potholes on Cedar Lane were filled in with gravel and tar recently, maintenance that was provided by the county, according to Puglisi. More paving and road repairs will be completed in the future, he said.

Philip Kayal, a West Orange resident who lives nearby, said that use of the road has declined in recent years.

“It’s been deteriorating since I’ve lived here for the last 10 years,” Kayal said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on June 28. “They put stones and tar there, but I don’t know what jurisdiction it’s under.”

Kayal said he has contacted both the West Orange administration at the Essex County Department of Public Works about Cedar Lane repairs, but has not received a response from either.

“I’m flabbergasted that this is an entrance to the park,” he said. “No one is using the parking lot. It used to be pretty crowded, but I’ve noticed less use of the park.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic and Courtesy of Philip Kayal