Bellefonte-to-Milesburg Trail Study Complete, County to Decide What’s Next
The final report about the Bellefonte to Milesburg trail feasibility study has been accepted by county commissioners, and now the county must decide if and how to move forward.
The trail study, led over the past two years by consultant Pashek + MTR, 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.
“Today is kind of the culmination point for the Bellefonte to Milesburg trail feasibility study with the issuance of the final report,” said county director of planning Mike Bloom. “The conclusion is that the trail is technically feasible, but it would be a very complex and expensive project. It would require a strong and sustainable leadership and patience and persistence to move forward.”
The study indicated the project is estimated to cost more than $6 million. Bloom said the trail looks to cross seven properties owned by state, local and private individuals. The trail hops back and forth over the stream multiple times, so five bridges would need to be constructed.
Moving any aspects of the project would require negotiations between property owners, Bloom said. 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,” Bloom said.
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.
Board of Commissioners 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,” Pipe said.
Pipe added that the recently increased hotel occupancy tax that's used for efforts to encourage tourism in 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. But 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,’" Higgins said. "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 this point none of them are saying ‘over my dead body.’
“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 is available on the county website.