Rail-trail in the works

Jeannette Craige and Ron Craige, seated from left, and Bob Hunter, standing, were among a group examining and labeling the maps for a new recreational Rail Trail that is in the works from Montrose to Forest City. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

BY PAT FARNELLI

Along the path of an old railroad bed, a new recreational trail for walkers, runners, bikers and equestrians is in the works.

Starting in the heart of Montrose, the 38-mile trail will run through Bridgewater Township, Heart Lake, and the Martin’s Creek valley, into Alfred Junction in New Milford Township, and concluding in Forest City.

The Rail-trail Council of Northeast Pennsylvania hosted a public workshop on the proposed trail Tuesday.

Executive Director Lynn Conrad opened the meeting, and two consultants, Andrew Strauss and Robert Thomas, presented slide shows of comparable railbed trails in Pennsylvania and other states, and of the Endless Mountains Trail’s landmarks and .

Roughly 80 persons attended the premiere event for the organization, which will be funded in part by a grant from the Pensylvania Department of Conservation and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

According to Conrad, the local organization is 20 years old, and has 1,700 members. The group purchased the former Bridgewater Riding Club trail property in 2006, and 10 miles of the trail are already finished with crushed stone.

“In order to move forward, we need to do a feasibility study, and we need funding,” Conrad said.

Thomas narrated his part of the slide presentation while standing with the aid of crutches, the result of a recent bicycling accident on black ice, which fractured his hip.

“Bicycling is extremely dangerous,” he quipped.

When asked for a show of hands for those who had already traversed the entire Endless Mountains proposed trail, two thirds of those in the room raised their hands. Many of the attendees were recreational users of the trail; some were property owners whose land is along the path.

The attendees divided into groups of 10, and each group was given maps of the trail sections. Each group chose a spokesperson, who commented on the group’s concerns and interest in the trail.

Some sections of the trail are completed; some are fairly simple to get underway; there are some obstacles and dangerous intersections.

 Spokespeople agreed that the heaviest use of the trail occurs from the Pump and Pantry in Bridgewater Township to Tiffany Corners. The Montrose High School cross country team uses this section the most. The most dangerous crossing is near Pump and Pantry, as well, where the trail crosses SR 706.

Bicyclists said a hard-packed surface might be needed on the section that connects Lake Road in Montrose to Heart Lake to avoid SR 706. There is a major obstacle at Tiffany Corners, a heap of rock ballast.

Several property owners voiced concerns about trespassers and property damage. Use by all-terrain vehicles was a frequently named concern.

Bill Lawrence, a farmer in Heart Lake, said that he had problems with ATV owners in the past.

“People think they own it, but they don’t own it,” he said, about his hayfields adjacent to the trail. “I’m tired of people from riding clubs telling me they can do anything they want. I’m not against it, but put yourself in our shoes.”

The Susquehanna County Commissioners recently granted property tax relief for landowners along the trail, but this was news to the property owners present.

The landowners also expressed concerns about drainage problems after the 2006 flood, and increased traffic and noise.

One spokesperson said that he was concerned about the surfaces, but was satisfied by what he saw in the slides. The program plans to finish the railroad bed with aggregates and stone dust.

Trail stewards will be appointed to have jurisdiction over the maintenance of the trail

Further information is available at trails@nep.net.

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