The pedestrian and bike path that runs along the recently reconstructed Route 52 Causeway linking Ocean City and Somers Point is now fully open for public use.

Local residents, particularly avid cyclists and runners, have already been making use of the path.

"They made it a complete street package," Mitch Rovins, 55, owner of Beacon Cycling and Fitness in Northfield said.

The Linwood resident is an avid cyclist who attempts to be out on the road at least five times per week during the warmer months. Rovins doesn't mind sharing the road with vehicles and admitted to having ridden on the shoulder of the causeway.

"Now, it makes it easier to zip through or cycle through to Ocean City," he said. "You can stop there and leave via the new path."

The 2.2-mile, shared-use path opened less than two weeks ago. Its opening is one of the final pieces of the $500 million Route 52 causeway reconstruction project. The next step will be the opening of the two-story visitor center in Ocean City, which is complete and set to open sometime next month.

"The visitor center is done, the furniture is being delivered next week and we should be in there sometime in April," said Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian, whose staff's offices will be housed in the new center.

Cyclist and pedestrian traffic had been prohibited on the old causeway because of safety issues. With the new bridge and its pedestrian/bike path, crossing without a car is encouraged.

"It's easier access," said Somers Point Police Chief Michael Boyd. "We wouldn't let people ride over that bridge because of heavy traffic. Now, recreationally, you can leave wherever you're staying in Somers Point or Ocean City to get to the other side to have breakfast or do whatever you have to do."

Barbara Cresse, president of the South Jersey Triathlon Club and a resident of Cape May Court House, said the path has been the buzz in the local running circle.

"We been talking about it for the past two weeks," Cresse said. "We're so excited. It's so beautiful, and it's a perfect path because a lot of (South Jersey Triathlon Club members) run in events with a lot of hills, and we don't have many hilly paths near us."

The Route 52 causeway has a steep incline right at the beginning, leaving Ocean City, and another at the end of the bridge near Somers Point.

"Now that the weather's breaking that path is going to be packed, and that's not a complaint. It will be the best thing that ever happened," Cresse said.

Rovins, a member of the Linwood Environmental Commission, has already begun to plan a fall bike event for the group to celebrate and promote the new path.

Boyd has seen three applications from local charities hoping to hold walk/run/bike events using the new path in late April and May.

"It's a pretty good ride - overlooking the water. It's a scenic route," Boyd added "It's a positive all the way around."

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