Bellefonte trail feasibility study hits slight delay

BELLEFONTE — Despite a delay, the future looks bright for the proposed three-mile recreational trail that will link Bellefonte to Milesburg.

The next steps with the trail, Bellefonte Mayor Tom Wilson said, are to complete a trail feasibility study and go into the next grant application cycle to fund construction of the trail.

There has been a recent delay with the feasibility study. The study was projected to be completed this year, and is now expected to be completed by spring 2018, Wilson explained at the Tuesday, Oct. 2 meeting of the Bellefonte Borough Council.

The feasibility study began in May, and the hope has been to break ground on the trail in 2020. The feasibility study has been funded by a $70,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and a local donation match of $15,300. The study has been undertaken by Pittsburgh firm Pashek & MTR, and will help determine preferred alignment of the trail, as well as document expected environmental, historic, prehistoric, and cultural impacts.

On the weekend of Sept. 24, Wilson said he and fellow local avid bicyclist and hiker Jack Schuster, who has put a lot of time into the trail project, attended the Pennsylvania Greenways and Trails Summit in Reading. At the summit, which was attended by 250-300 trail advocates across Pennsylvania, he and Schuster looked at grant opportunities in anticipation of the trail’s price tag. Wilson said there is “quite a bit of scramble” for trail funding, with trails as small as the proposed Bellefonte to Milesburg trail seeking funding and trails as big as trails that run from Rochester, N.Y., to Washington, D.C.

The reason for the scramble is fairly simple, Wilson said.

“The areas that provide recreational opportunities will be the areas that will attract the talent needed to attract the new companies and industries into our area,” he said. “The communities that ignore trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities will be the communities that will be ignored by the young families that could be the vibrant future of Bellefonte and Centre County. Plus, our overall population, including our active seniors, will benefit both mentally and physically when connected with the things that matter most, and that is the serenity of nature.”

The trail will be an important link in the future. Wilson explained there is a recent trail proposal in the works to receive funding to extend the 62-mile Pine Creek Trail, which would extend it from its southern end in Jersey Shore upstream to Lock Haven, and eventually from Lock Haven to Bellefonte, with the hope to end the trail in State College.

The trail does face significant challenges that Pashek & MTR is working to address, Wilson said. Among these challenges are working with nearby property owners, environmental concerns, an active rail line to the left going downstream, Route 144 running parallel on the right side, Spring Creek running through the middle, and historic preservation of an old canal.