County rail trail gets a new name

By SARAH PAEZ

spaez@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — What’s in a name? For Clinton County, it’s history, geography, tourism potential and a landmark attraction–the bald eagle.

County Commissioners and county Planning Director Katie de Silva announced yesterday that the Clinton County Rail-Trail will now officially be known as the Bald Eagle Valley Trail.

Commissioner Pete Smeltz gave several reasons for the name, the first being that there are no Bald Eagle trails in Pennsylvania; therefore, the name is unique to Clinton County.

In a way, Smeltz said, the name was almost too obvious. The proposed trail is located in the northern end of the Bald Eagle Valley and runs parallel to Bald Eagle Creek.

On any given day, you may spot bald eagles flying overhead and perching in trees along the trail. They also have nests in some of those trees.

The northern border of the Bald Eagle State Forest nearly touches the trail. And the official Bald Eagle Mountain is located just south of the trail, near the Keller Reservoir in Wayne Township and through which the Pine-Loganton Road runs.

De Silva said there are eventual plans to link the Bald Eagle Valley Trail to the Brick Town Trail in Centre County. That trail, which is still in the planning stages, would connect Curtin Village to Howard Borough, winding through Bald Eagle State Park onto Blanchard and Beech Creek, going up through Monument and ending in Orviston.

Any link from the Brick Town Trail to Clinton County would probably happen at Beech Creek, following the Bald Eagle Creek corridor to connect to Mill Hall, then the Castanea trailhead, said Mike Bloom, assistant director of the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office.

But Bloom said it would be a bit of a challenge to get the project out of the planning phase.

“Implementation has been much harder than planning,” he said. “We would love to (link the trails) if we could find a way to connect the dots.”

According to de Silva, most of the municipalities, the Clinton County Tourism Promotion Agency and the county favored the Bald Eagle Valley Trail for its all-encompassing name.

Smeltz said the county originally wanted to do a public survey for names and put the best to a vote, but realized it would take more effort than it was worth. While brainstorming names, he said, commissioners looked into Native American history, county geography and old county lore. But at the end of the day, they took the TPA’s recommendation to find an easily searchable, tourist-friendly name.

“Let’s face it, we want to attract tourists,” said Smeltz, adding that the county also wants to cater to its locals.

Bald Eagle Valley Trail, da Silva said, “pinpoints the geography just in name.” And, it is verifiable by primary source documents, unlike several proposed names such as the Widow Smith Trail. Widow Smith was an early Clinton County settler in the 1770s who lived in McElhattan and supposedly walked to Philadelphia many times to argue that land taken from her after the American Revolution be returned.

Commissioner Paul Conklin suggested incorporating some of the earlier name submissions to more fully reflect the county’s diverse history.

“I’d hate to see people be discouraged by our project because their name didn’t get selected,” he said.

To make up for the lack of a name contest, commissioners talked about a possible trail logo contest. That way, they said, they could encourage people to get excited about the upcoming rail-trail and submit their best designs.

De Silva floated the idea of featuring an eagle, a mountain and a waterway on the logo. Chief Clerk Jann Meyers also put in a suggestion to feature moccasins, to show that the trail is walkable.

The construction of the Castanea portion of the Bald Eagle Valley Trail is set to finish this month and will be open to the public soon.

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