The History of The Commons on the Wye Park
The “Wye,” as The Commons was originally called, is located on upper Main Street across the street from the starting point for the Columbia Trail. Parking is available at The Commons, which is within walking distance of the Borough’s Main Street shops and restaurants. The Commons grounds covers approximately seven acres; the open park area is only part of the entire parcel. The western end of the Wye angles all the way back to the former well house at the end of Woodland Terrace.
Initially the Wye was owned by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and it handled all rail traffic from the main line (now used by commuters) going northeast toward Dover. It contained a track for train turnaround referred to as a “wye.” Triangular in shape, the wye enabled a train to literally make a “K” turn to reverse its direction. Beyond the park area, some of the old rail lines are still in place.
The history of the Wye would not be complete without mentioning the fact that the Freedom Train passed through the Wye in July of 1976.
When the Central Jersey Railroad was dissolved, the Wye became part of NJ Transit and was later purchased by the Borough. The old rail line that connected High Bridge to Dover was purchased by the Columbia Gas Company, and a transmission line was laid underground. The Columbia Gas Company sold the above-ground rights to the County for passive recreation on December 3, 1996, thus the name “Columbia Trail.” The Borough then removed most of the old rails within the Wye and developed what is now the park area complete with a gazebo, outdoor stage for summer concerts and movies, and ample parking, creating an attractive trail head for the Columbia Trail that brings many visitors to town.
The picturesque gazebo was donated by the North Hunterdon Rotary Club in 1998. The Borough dedicated the gazebo to George A. Cregar, Rotarian and lifelong High Bridge resident, and a descendant of one of the area’s founding families. The Cregar family farmed the area where the park is now. Their original homestead is the large white house with an expansive front lawn facing Church Street.
Over the years, trees were planted around the perimeter of the park area by the Borough Environmental Commission and the High Bridge Elementary School Environmental Club. A fence separating the park from the natural recycling area was erected in 2006 using Clean Communities Grant funds in an effort to curb illegal dumping.
A paver walkway around the gazebo was created by local Girl Scouts Rachel Fortier and Maggie Whitman for their Gold Award Project in 2006. Over the years, other Girl Scouts added bushes and plants to the gazebo area.
In the open Commons area, there are several benches and picnic tables, which were donated by the “I’m for High Bridge“ organization and one was donated as part of a scout project. From 2005-2009 The Garden Club of Somerset Hills awarded the Borough Environmental Committee several garden grants to enhance The Commons Park. The current perennial bushes and flowering plants were a result of these generous grants.
The High Bridge Borough Environmental Commission, the High Bridge Elementary School Environmental Club students, and local scout troops, with assistance provided by the Borough Department of Public Works have spent many years slowly working on the transformation of this area. These groups will continue to watch over and care for this area for all to enjoy.
To see a slideshow of this area, please click on the Slideshow of The Commons Park in High Bridge, NJ.
Councilwoman Lynn Hughes, 2013