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Harvest Fields Trails Project to Commence

by and on May 26, 2020 5:05 AM

After a delay due to COVID-19 pandemic, Harvest Fields Community Trails, a new multi-use trail system in Boalsburg, is set for construction by the end of May.

Phase one of the project is expected to take two months to complete, and with many looking for ways to recharge during the current crisis, the timing is just right for trails that will help people experience all the area has to offer when it comes to the outdoors.

“As most of the community can see, the sidewalks are full, the dogs are happy and the trails are, dare we say, positively crowded,” said Josh Stapleton, a proponent of the project. “The whole community is eager for outdoor rec that is accessible and refreshing. I am seeing a lot of people discovering amazing outdoor recreation opportunities that we are blessed with here in Central PA. However, the lack of beginner trails is a true hindrance to kids and adults getting out to enjoy mountain biking. The timing of HFCT could not be better for individuals and families to get introduced to progressive mountain biking trails in a safe environment.”

The idea for Harvest Field Community Trails took root when Stapleton decided to take the plunge into mountain biking. He quickly realized that the region has an “amazing trail system,” drawing in people from all around to ride, but there were almost no trails suitable for beginning riders.

Around the same time, Stapleton’s daughter also got involved with the local youth mountain biking team, the Centre County Crows.

“Seeing the number of kids interested in the sport with no good places to practice got me thinking about what we as a community might be able to do to create opportunities to get more kids on bikes and off screens,” Stapleton said, referring to mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets.

A member of Calvary Church, Stapleton was also aware of the church’s desire to get the broader community to enjoy the Harvest Fields property.

“For more than 20 years, the vision for the property now known as ‘Harvest Fields’ was that it would be a gift to the community," Calvary senior pastor Dan Nold said. "Beginning with Steve and Kay Heinz, who initially bought the land and gave it to a nonprofit foundation and then continuing with Calvary, it’s been our desire that the community see this as their space, not just our place.” 

The church had previously worked with Harris Township to develop a park and a disc golf course on the property.

“So when Josh Stapleton approached Calvary’s leadership with the possibility of building beginner mountain biking trails, it was an easy ‘yes,’" Nold said. "We are offering our property for use and many people and organizations have donated to the construction costs. We are looking forward to being part of another great outdoors offering for families and individuals in Centre County.”

With a location identified, the project quickly gained momentum and soon the Nittany Mountain Biking Association was onboard and began to pour energy into all areas of the project, from design and fundraising, to construction management and long-term maintenance.

Former NMBA president and current board member Scott Sheeder said the group was “thrilled” to be a part of the project.

“We have many miles of trail in Rothrock and other surrounding state forests to enjoy; however, existing trails are typically rocky and technical in nature, which constitutes a significant barrier to entry into mountain biking for local residents,” Sheeder said. “This new system will provide an ideal environment for those eager to learn to mountain bike but not willing to endure the bumps and bruises that learning to ride in Rothrock typically requires.”

Sheeder said the group is also glad to be able to support youth mountain biking in Centre County.

“Mountain bike racing is one of the fastest growing youth sports in the country and the HFCT will provide a venue that can be used by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League to host events,” Sheeder said.

A whole team of supporters joined up to make this dream project come to fruition. With the support of the Harris Township Lions Club, NMBA and Calvary, the nationally renowned outdoor recreation planning design and management firm known as Applied Trails Research was brought in to help with the design phase, which wrapped up last spring.

“From there, the movement continued to build and folks began to catch the vision,” Stapleton said. “We have been unbelievably fortunate to have an incredible group supporting this project. Last fall, Freeze Thaw Cycles donated 10 percent of sales for an entire month to the project and many other local businesses are also supporting the project. These businesses are part of our local DNA and we need to do our part in these trying times to support them.”

Nearby, EnergyCAP was one the first founding partners for the project. CEO Steve Heinz said having the trailhead so close to its headquarters will be a benefit for all employees and their families.

“Much scientific research has proven the benefits to cognition, creativity and attentiveness of engaging in physical activity during the workday to get the blood and oxygen flowing to the brain. A trail ride or walk is the perfect antidote to the afternoon slump and better for you than a Snickers bar,” Heinz said.

He also said it will be a benefit to the whole community with easy access to the outdoors. Heinz said his wife came up with the Harvest Fields name for the property back in 1998 and “her vision of a place of play, peace and prayer has already come to be, and the trails will add a new dimension to that — pedaling.”

Phase 1 of the project is now fully funded and the group hopes to wrap up raising the additional $35,000 needed for phase two by early summer. Those interested in learning more about the project or contribute can do so at www.nittanymba.org.

Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. is one of the most recent supporters to come on board. Its contribution completed phase one fundraising and enabled the signing of a contract with a professional trail builder for phase one construction.

“The Hawbaker team takes pride in supporting the communities in which we work and when we heard about the Harvest Fields Community Trail project, we saw a great opportunity to not only invest in a local neighborhood, but also help promote an active and healthy lifestyle,” the Hawbaker family said in a statement. “The planned bicycle and pedestrian trails are uniquely suited for both avid and novice cyclists, as well as a great place for a stroll off of the beaten path, allowing for a great place for the whole family. When completed, we think this trail system will be an excellent addition to the countless other outdoor opportunities that make Central Pennsylvania such a great place to live and work.”

 



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


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