Dedication Held for two Segments of Rail Trail
Story and Photos By Duane Good, EDITOR
Pictured at the June 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Millersburg’s
Riverfront Park/Gateway to the Lykens Valley Rail-Trail project are
(from left) WGAL-TV meteorologist Doug Allen, who did a live remote
broadcast; Joy Breach, borough council member; Jeff Haste,
chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners; Chris
Dietz, president of borough council; Lori Yeich of the state
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Rick Ibberson,
Millersburg mayor; and Kathy Wolfe, borough council member.
The first two segments of the Lykens Valley Rail-Trail project are now open to pedestrians and cyclists. Both segments – about three miles in Lykens Borough and Wiconisco Twp. and about 2,000 feet in Millersburg Borough – were dedicated in public ceremonies June 6 and were open to the public immediately afterward.
The segments are part of what rail-trail advocates and organizers hope will eventually be
a uninterrupted 20-mile path starting in Millersburg and continuing east to the Dauphin-
Schuylkill County line and perhaps beyond, utilizing the right-of-way of the former Lykens
Lykens-Wiconisco segment. The three-mile segment in Lykens Borough and Wiconisco Twp. takes walkers and cyclists pasts existing local landmarks such as the restored railway passenger station in Lykens, the borough’s park and swimming pool, and the iconic L&W Ballfield on its route through the borough eastward into Wiconisco Twp. Vehicle parking is available at the park and ball field areas.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, John Coles, chairman of the Wiconisco Twp. Board of Supervisors, said there were times when rail-trail advocates wondered if this day would ever come. However, lots of teamwork among many different people is the reason that the first part of the trail is now a reality, he noted.‘
‘This happened because everyone worked together,’’ Coles said.
He thanked officials at the state, county and local levels – including neighboring municipality Lykens Borough for their cooperation and support. He
also thanked Marlin “Turtle’’ and Jane Grosser – on whose property part of the trail runs through – for coming alongside the project after initially having reservations about it.
“They had concerns, we worked through them and now we are best friends,” Coles said with a laugh. “Getting the property-owner on your side makes the process so much easier and they deserve credit for their support.”
Among the many individuals Coles thanked for moving the project forward were Larry Jordan of Lykens Borough; the Lykens Area Chamber of Commerce; Jim Hepler, formerly of the Northern Dauphin Revitalization Project; Carl Dickson, director of the Dauphin County Parks and Recreation Department; and the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners.
Pictured at the June 6 ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lykens-Wiconisco rail-trail segment are (from left) Marlin “Turtle” and Jane Grosser, on whose property part of the trail runs; Jeff Haste, chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners; Gary Bopp, president of Lykens Borough Council; John Coles, chairman of the Wiconisco Twp. Board of Supervisors; Lori Yeich of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Larry Jordan of Lykens, who worked with Coles on the project.
Commission Chairman Jeff Haste said the rail-trail project is intended to benefit all of the communities along the route. He said studies have shown that people prefer living in communities where there are recreational opportunities near to them. These communities draw more businesses and tourist revenue and have higher long-term property values, Haste said.
Millersburg segment. Millersburg’s segment is part of what borough officials call the Riverfront Park/Gateway to the Lykens Valley Rail-Trail Project.
It begins at a welcome center at the park’s north end, then continues south to the ‘‘Swinging Bridge’’ that connects the Riverfront and MYO parks across Wiconisco Creek. There is a canal path in MYO Park that is suitable for travel by mountain bike, according to borough council President Chris Dietz.
The Riverfront Park segment is intended for pedestrians, cyclists, in-line skaters and parents with their children in strollers, Dietz said.
“We want to encourage people to be courteous. The walkers still have the right of way,’’ Dietz said. At this time, the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art also has trails available on its land for hiking, cycling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
According to Dietz, the borough and the Upper Paxton Twp. Board of Supervisors are working on a trail segment that would link the Riverfront Park and Ned Smith Center segments; however, signage and other safety markings are yet to be installed, so its use is not being encouraged at this time, he stated.
While the Riverfront trail is ready for use, Dietz noted that some other aspects of the Gateway project will be finished no later than the end of July or the beginning of August.
This includes the welcome center, additional bike racks and a circular area dubbed the Bicentennial Plaza highlighted by a compass made to resemble a ferryboat wheel – an homage to Millersburg’s historic ferry system.
The welcome center, which includes restrooms and a concession area, was designed by Millersburg resident Craig Zimmerman, an architect with the firm of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, who volunteered his time.
As work is finished, items that were removed during construction – including benches and picnic tables – will be returned to the Riverfront area, Dietz said.
“We moved things to protect them while the work was being done,’’ he said.
During planning for the project, borough officials listened to as many concerns as possible and worked to accommodate those concerns. Efforts were made to make the streets accessible for truck traffic to local businesses. Another goal was to not disrupt the health of what Dietz called the ‘‘beautiful, majestic trees’’ in the park.
‘‘I would say, for the most part, that we have had positive feedback,’’ Dietz said.
The Riverfront project is the first phase of Millersburg’s Master Parks Plan to be completed. It includes the “link” to the Ned Smith Center trails and improvements to MYO Park. As Coles had done with the Lykens-Wiconisco segment, Dietz thanked borough, county and state officials for their efforts and support, as well as all the entities who donated toward the project. His list included, but was not limited to, borough council; Parks Committee Chairman Brett Boyer; borough Manager Chris McGann and his employees; Carl Dickson; the county commissioners; and DCNR.
Commissioner Haste also spoke at the Millersburg ceremony and encouraged the community to build on the successful completion of the local segment of the trail. He said the local trail’s presence is a springboard for the creation of many new businesses – such as Bed and Breakfasts and specialty shops – of interest to tourists and visitors to the area.
Lori Yeich of DCNR spoke at both dedication ceremonies and, like Haste, said she believes community leaders should not stop at the success of the first two rail-trail segments.
‘‘This is just the start; I challenge you to keep going,’’ Yeich said at the Millersburg event. Haste and Yeich both encouraged development of further segments within the next few years.
Doug Allen, a meteorologist with WGAL-TV (Channel 8), did a live remote broadcast from the event and led the audience in the countdown to the cutting of the ribbon.
Background. Development of the trail project began more than a decade ago. As with other rail-trails in Pennsylvania, the route utilizes the right-of-way of a railroad that no longer is in operation (in this case, the Lykens Valley Railroad).
The trail is designed for walking, running, bicycling cross-country skiing and nature observation, according to organizers. Horseback riding will be permitted in certain segments.
The Lykens Valley Rail-Trail Association was formed a few years ago ‘‘to assist local and county governments with the development, maintenance and promotion of (the trail),’’ according to a statement in an association newsletter.
The association’s website, www.lvrt.org, includes a map of the proposed route and a copy of the association’s most recent newsletter, as well as information on how to join the group.
Funding assistance for both completed segments was provided by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Lykens/Wiconisco project – which cost about $355,000 – also received funding from Lykens Borough and Wiconisco Twp. and the state Department of Transportation. The Millersburg segment (approximately $530,000) received additional assistance from Dauphin County gaming funds.