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Rails to Trail study complete, county to decide what’s next

by on June 20, 2019 10:22 AM

BELLEFONTE — The final report about the Bellefonte to Milesburg Rails to Trail feasibility study has been accepted by county commissioners, now the county must decide if and how to move forward.

The trail study looked at the feasibility for the proposed approximate 2.5 miles of multi-purpose trail that would follow along Spring Creek and the historic alignment of the Bald Eagle and Spring Creek Canal.

The study indicated the project is proposed to cost more than $6 million. Bloom said the trail looks to cross seven properties owned by state, local and private individuals. He said the trail hops back and forth over the stream multiple times, so five bridges would need to be constructed.

He said moving any aspects of the project would require negotiations between property owners. The trail is envisioned as being a catalyst for a future corridor between State College and Lock Haven and a connection to the Pine Creek Trail.

“This is one piece of the puzzle that would allow that to happen,” said Bloom.

He also said it would add to the livability and quality of life in the region and promote tourism, health and wellness. It also gives an opportunity to highlight historical and environmentally important areas.

Commissioner chair Michael Pipe said that breaking it into sections while engaging the public might be the best way to get the project done.

“Personally, if we can break this into chunks and be mindful about it and say that in 10 years we want to achieve this and we just want to work on it slowly but surely and engage the community. I don’t know if that is a feasible thing, but I think it is the only way to do it. How do you eat an elephant? One chunk at a time,” said Pipe.

Pipe added that the new hotel tax that looks to encourage tourism to the county could be a potential way to fund the project.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that three other potential trails in the area are not moving forward because they are not feasible. He said that this project has been determined as feasible so there is hope.

“I know three other trail projects that are not going to move forward because there are property owners whose response to the concept is ‘over my dead body.’ And that is what is so great about this project is that we have now proven that it is technically feasible. You can engineer it. You can pave it. You can build it. There are only seven property owners, and certainly we want to work very closely and carefully with those property owners, but at his point none of them are saying ‘over my dead body,’” said Higgins.

“I know people in Bellefonte were initially a little resistant to the whole Waterfront Project. Everybody loves it now. It is so wonderful down there. I think, in a way, this would be something like a river walk for Bellefonte, for Spring and Boggs townships and Milesburg. And after it is built, say 10 years from now, people will say it is wonderful. This is amazing. We are now going to push on for Lock Haven and Milesburg and State College, because Spring Creek Canyon is gorgeous, but maybe not that accessible. This is almost as nice and very easily accessible.”

The study was funded in part through a Greenways, Trails and Recreation grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development — Commonwealth Financing Authority and through donations from Bellefonte Borough, the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau, ClearWater Conservancy, Centre Foundation, Centre-Bike, Nittany Mountain Biking Association, State College Cycling, Tussey Mountain Outfitters and the Michael and Alice Young family.

A steering committee will continue to look at the project. The full study will be available on the county website.

 



Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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