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Friends of Rothrock Receives Grant to Develop New State Forest Trails

by on January 08, 2020 2:04 PM

Friends of Rothrock State Forest will begin the first phase of a 10-year plan to develop and maintain 60 miles of new recreational trails and trail-related facilities in the state forest, thanks to a $365,700 grant.

The nonprofit organization, a chapter of The Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation, received the grant from Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which provided funding from the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program.

Phase one of the plan addresses connecting the greenway leading from Whitehall Road across Route 45 and into Musser Gap through 7.5 miles of new trails. The phase has three sections, of new, multi-use trail throughout Musser Gap, over the Tussey Mountain ridgeline and ultimately leading to Pine Swamp Road.

“The Friends of Rothrock is excited to begin working towards a more connected forest utilizing state-of-the-art, sustainable trail building techniques," Chairman Dan Trew said in a news release. "This grant was made possible by all the hard work of volunteers with the Friends group; with actual miles going on the ground the need for more volunteers is paramount. Anyone interested in helping give back to the forest is invited to join us in shaping the future of passive recreation in Rothrock State Forest.”

Section one of the new trail will begin by departing from the current gravel trail in the Musser Gap area. It will feature multiple switchbacks for a more gradual, natural surface access that gains nearly 700 feet of elevation to reach the trails above the valley. 

Section two will have two segments. The first, to the north, will connect the existing trail network of the area to section one and the power line access road. The second segment will feature switchbacks to ease the elevation gain from the power line to the top of the Tussey Mountain ridgeline and the Mid-State Trail, at about 2,100 feet

Section three will lead from the ridgeline, traversing the mountain side until reaching Little Shingletown Trail, losing about 500 feet of elevation along the way. A separate spur will branch off and lead to an existing logging road that ultimately leads to the west end of Pine Swamp Road.‚Äč

Phase one of the Rothrock Forest trail assessment addresses the Musser Gap area.

Friends of Rothrock also received a $10,000 grant for the project in the fall from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

Construction of phase one is expected to begin early this year. Future phases are expected to connect to the Whipple Dam area and further expand and interconnect the Rothrock trail system.

Plans for the overall 60-miles of new trails were developed from the Rothrock State Forest Trail Assessment, which was completed in 2018 and uses multiple approaches to assess the current conditions and address the sustainability of the trail system throughout Rothrock State Forest.

“Investments in our parks and forests through private philanthropy and volunteer time is an important role that visitors can play to ensure the health and viability of our state lands,” said Marci Mowery, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation. “We applaud the Friends of Rothrock for their hard work and we extend our appreciation to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for recognizing the important value this project brings to residents and visitors alike.”

Friends of Rothrock's project comes as Penn State is also separately developing plans for trails and recreational space in the nearby area. The university announced in December it is moving forward with plans to conserve 355 acres of land it owns in the Musser Gap area for environmental protection and natural recreation.

Preliminary plans for the area known as Musser Gap to Valleylands — between Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township and Rothrock at Musser Gap — include sequential trails leading from the built environment in State College to the natural environment, as well as secondary loop trails, providing additional access to the land

It also will include managing approximately 90 acres of existing forest on land south of Route 45 by promoting native plants and trees and removing invasive flora; phasing approximately 65 acres south of Route 45 out of agriculture into naturalized land cover; establishing a buffer between the Musser Gap property and planned Whitehall Regional Park; improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety for crossing Route 45 from one section of the property to another; and adding to the riparian buffer along Slab Cabin Run.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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