County to secure grant funding for Rail Trail

By SARAH PAEZ, spaez@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — Thanks to a possible state grant, Clinton County may see progress on the Rail Trail bridge between Wayne Township and Pine Creek Township.

County Commissioners will approve a resolution on Thursday backing a grant application to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that, if awarded, would provide a 50-percent funds match to the county for converting the bridge to a bicycle and pedestrian passage.

It’s one step in a six-part plan to develop the 11.2 miles of rail trail in the county for pedestrian and bicycle use, and link it to the Pine Creek Rail Trail trailhead in Jersey Shore. Some of that plan has already been put in place, like the development of Wayne Township’s portion of the trail. Currently, the county is developing the portion of the trail connecting Castanea and Wayne Township.

According to county Planning Director Katie de Silva, the county has found an experienced engineer to complete the design portion of the bridge project.

“They’re very highly recommended by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority,” said de Silva. “(The project) is complicated and needs a skilled professional.”

At most, the bridge project will cost $170,000, leaving the county to come up with $85,000 if they receive the DCNR grant. Commissioners verified that, due to the timeline of the grant award, they won’t have to put any money into the bridge until the 2019 budget.

Commissioner Paul Conklin asked if the county could cover its portion of the project with grant money from other sources. De Silva said that for certain grants, they could, but others have strict guidelines for how the money is used.

Recently, the county applied for a PennDOT construction grant for the bridge, which would cover 100 percent of the $1.1 million building cost. De Silva said the county will know if it has been awarded the grant by the end of June.

By using the county planning department for much of the rail trail project organization, the county has been able to save money and manpower. The planning department will also apply for a Commonwealth Financing Authority Multimodal grant through the state Department of Community and Economic Development in the fall to help finance the rest of the Rail Trail project.

“We’re embarking on a project here that we think is good for our county,” said Commissioner Pete Smeltz.

De Silva said she was confident the county has made a strong case for the DCNR grant. Though the county has not submitted the grant application yet, Thursday’s resolution will move the process along.

All the commissioners agreed that the Rail Trail connection could create a draw for outdoor tourism in the county.

Julie Brennan, tourism director at the county Tourism Promotion Agency, lauded the county’s effort in spearheading the bridge project.

“This Rail Trail connection can’t come soon enough,” she said. “I see it having a huge boost to our economy.”

She said it would support new and existing businesses, from lodging and dining to outdoor equipment shops and convenience stores.

“(The trail) is a very healthy way to get outdoors,” she said. “We’re really excited for the possibilities this will bring to our community.”

COMMENTS