Bellefonte residents speak out against greenway trail route

Borough votes to write letter to county, asking route not be considered

BELLEFONTE – Some Bellefonte residents are not happy about the proposed route for the future Bellefonte to Milesburg greenway trail.

According to a proposed route, the trail would begin at the historic Gamble Mill’s parking lot. Some concerned residents spoke out against the proposal at the Monday night meeting of the Bellefonte Borough Council, concerns that are in addition to that of the prospective Gamble Mill owners. These concerns led members of council to unanimously pass a motion to write a letter to the county planning office, asking that the proposed trail route be denied. Council member Renee Brown was absent from the meeting.

The Conklins, who have been long-time Bellefonte residents, said their concerns lie with protecting their historic property, which Ted Conklin restored in 1970. Their property is the Thomas Homestead, also known as the William Thomas House, on North Thomas Street. They are also concerned about the safety of pedestrians by the Gamble Mill.

Ted Conklin, who has been a long-time supporter of historic properties in the area, said the proposed route will build a bridge in front of their property in Bellefonte’s Waterfront District. In 1972, Conklin restored the Gamble Mill, and afterward, placed it on the National Historic Register.

During the meeting, Ted said he was originally excited about the meeting, but opposes the proposed plan brought forward a couple of weeks ago at the first public hearing on the trail. He said he has a responsibility to protect his historic property and having the proposed bridge in front of his property is unacceptable.

“We cannot live with the idea if we allowed that bridge to be placed there under our watch,” Conklin said. “We will do everything in our power to stop it.”

One of the visionaries behind the trail, Bellefonte Mayor Tom Wilson, said that the route was simply a proposal and that adjustments can be made, if possible. He said he will make sure that the trail engineers look at an alternate plan.

An alternate route proposed by Ted would begin at Krauss Park, located across the street from the Gamble Mill. Wilson said that is still a possible route, but complications do exist.

According to Wilson, if the route began at Krauss Park, the downstream area would be too narrow and would lead to a change in designation from greenway to bike trail. This would not be suitable to walkers, he said.

Also expressing concern was Carla Conklin. The Gamble Mill lot was packed with cars when it was open, Carla said, and she foresees the same to happen when it reopens, leading to local residents to further struggle with parking. This was not pedestrian-friendly, she added.

“As someone who’s a pedestrian regularly through that area, sometimes with three dogs in the past, I can attest to the danger and difficulty,” Carla said.

Another Bellefonte resident opposed to the trail route is Joseph Griffin.

Griffin said he believes having a trail routed through a property that will have a boutique hotel and a microbrewery is “reckless.”

He added, “If we don’t adjust the route of the Bellefonte to Milesburg trail, we will profoundly disrespect the Homestead and simultaneously make a successful revival of the Gamble Mill at least somewhat less likely,” Griffin said.

Council member Randy Brachbill said he agrees that there needs to be a better route for the trail.

A complication not previously recognized is that SEDA-COG owns the Gamble Mill lot, Wilson said. This is not an issue between the proposed owners and the borough, but an issue between the proposed owners and SEDA-COG, he explained.

Moving forward, there will be another public hearing held on the future of the trail after costs are determined.