Our area deserves its fair share of state tax revenues
We hear those who oppose spending tax money on the Bald Eagle Valley Rail Trail in our area.
We respectfully disagree.
We believe the recent announcement that PennDOT will provide an additional $621,259 toward a critical phase of the 11.5-mile Bald Eagle Valley Trail is part of what’s due in state funds to our area from the money that property owners, motorists, employers and employees pay in taxes to Harrisburg.
But more than that, we must embrace these outdoor, quality-of-life assets and recognize their power to deliver a range of benefits to our area, including better health, economic strength, environmental sustainability, more tourism, social cohesion and mobility.
Trails increase the value of nearby properties.
Trails boost spending at local businesses.
Trails make communities more attractive places to live.
Trails influence business location and relocation decisions.
Trails reduce medical costs by encouraging exercise and other healthy outdoor activities.
Walking and biking trails developed along railroad rights-of-way contribute $930 million annually to Pennsylvania’s economy, the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy estimates based on case studies.
Unlike our neighbors, Clinton County has no mega-university to grow its economy, nor does it have a national youth sports organization that pumps millions into its economy each year.
We are a rural county with great natural beauty.
Let’s capitalize on that by growing our land and water trails to attract quality tourists who love the outdoors.
We can grow those tourist numbers from the trail runs that already have given the county a positive image as a mecca for outdoor recreation and competition.
We are heartened by county and local officials’ vision to invest in trails.
We understand the latest phase of the BAVT involves rehabilitation of what likely is a dilapidated but historic railroad bridge that crosses the West Branch of the Susquehanna River just south of U.S. Route 220.
The county reports that it has obtained $250,000 in funding from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; $100,000 in Act 13 natural gas well fee money collected for the county by the state; and roughly $1.7 million in PennDOT funds, most of it we assume drawn from the state gasoline tax.
It would probably cost close to $1 million in public funds to tear it down.
So let’s rehabilitate it for outdoor fun.
We certainly don’t like the state’s 58.7-cent-per-gallon, wholesale gasoline tax in Pennsylvania, but it was approved under former Gov. Tom Corbett starting in 2014.
This area deserves its share of that revenue.