On February 1, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined state Senator John Yudichak and representatives of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor in celebration of the Wolf Administration’s recent investment to support a new section of the trail.
“This grant represents the Wolf Administration’s continuing support of a project that has been many years in the making and is a demonstrated economic stimulus to the area,” Dunn told an audience of state and corridor officials gathered at Nescopeck State Park. “This support also is directly in line with two major DCNR initiatives: closing major existing trail gaps, and bringing the joy of hiking, biking, and walking close to people’s homes.”
Announced in December 2017, funding will support the development of almost five miles of the Delaware and Lehigh (D&L) Trail in Laurel Run Borough and Fairview and Hanover townships. The trail would stretch from the Mountain Top Trailhead in Fairview Township to East Northampton Street, Laurel Run Borough.
Specifically, the $84,000 grant will cover design work for development of about 4.7 miles of the 165-mile D&L Trail — from the Mountain Top Trailhead in Fairview Township to East Northampton Street in Laurel Run Borough. Work will include drawings, specifications, and related documents.
“Luzerne County looks forward to being a full partner in the historic build-out of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, from the Delaware River in Bucks County to the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre,” state Senator John Yudichak (D-14th) said. “Heritage tourism creates jobs and adds to the quality of life in our communities, and few trail projects add more value to beauty of Pennsylvania than the Delaware and Lehigh Trail.”
Also addressing the gathering, Elissa Garofalo, executive director Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Area, said: “Here along the D&L Trail’s most rural segment, the commonwealth’s support is vital. With our partners, the trail in Luzerne County steadily progresses toward completion, with residents and visitors alike experiencing the full mine-to-market story coming alive between Wilkes-Barre and Bristol.”
Dunn said that DCNR is committed to advancing a statewide trail “where every citizen is within 15 minutes of a trail.”
“To achieve this, we will focus on closing priority gaps in Pennsylvania’s current trail system,” Dunn said. “In coordination with its trail partners around the state, DCNR has identified 248 priority trail gaps. Through that effort, Pennsylvania’s Top 10 most critical Trail Gaps have been identified and efforts are underway to close them by 2019.”
The secretary said a top DCNR priority is to help the D&L National Heritage Corridor reach its goal of completing the corridor by 2020, making it the longest multi-use trail in the state. Its completion is directly in line with a goal of the 2014-19 Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to “develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation and healthy lifestyles.”
“In 2012, an economic impact analysis completed by the Rails to Trails Conservancy estimated the total user-spending generated because of the D&L Trail at over $19 million annually,” Dunn said. “With the eventual completion of the trail within our sights, we are anticipating the D&L Trail could approach $50 million per year. This is testament to the work of D&L Heritage Corridor staff and their many partners, including local municipalities willing to support trail efforts and maintain the trail.”
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a public-private partnership involving residents and volunteers working with local, regional, and national agencies to conserve cultural and natural resources in the five-county region of eastern Pennsylvania. It is a nationally significant historic transportation route that includes railroads, canals, rivers and trails.