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New Rail Trail on Horizon?

Dec 31, 2014 07:22AM ● Published by Erica Shames

An abandoned railroad bed between Paxinos and Sunbury is under consideration for conversion to a rails-to-trails bicycle and jogging path, according to the Shamokin News-Item.

The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) Authority acquired the dormant 75-acre property in Shamokin and Upper Augusta townships for $1 from Northumberland County. The portion of railroad bed stretches approximately 11 miles and is largely parallel to Snydertown Road.

The county itself owned the property since 1991 with the same concept in mind. The rails are gone, but the trail never materialized. Since non-motorized recreation is among the goals of the AOAA Authority, director Pat Mack said it is a worthwhile project to pursue.

"This will be a long-term project for the authority to undertake," Mack said Sunday. "It's really new for us. We have to get our heads around it and figure out what to do in the future and how to make it work for a recreational opportunity."

'Get it going again'

Among the rails-to-trails statewide, there are popular paths in Jim Thorpe and Pine Grove, and one that links Lewisburg and Mifflinburg. Bikers, joggers and walkers share the paths. Such projects are proven concepts, Mack said, and it would provide a recreational opportunity for all ages in Northumberland County.

The deed transfer was recorded Tuesday at the courthouse, and project details are few. There will have to be discussions with adjacent landowners about project feasibility and potential concerns about property rights.

Mack said the authority would turn to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for advice about development ideas, best practices and contacts. They'd also inquire about additional grant funding opportunities.

The AOAA already received approximately $220,000 from the state to develop non-motorized recreation. Michael Baker Associates engineers were contracted earlier this year for such plans.

A master plan will be developed for the rail trail project, Mack said. It will be less extensive than what was needed for the AOAA motorized park in Coal Township. He expects it to take several years if the rail trail is to come to fruition.

Frank Garrigan, the authority's solicitor, is an avid biker. He came across the railroad bed and looked into its ownership by the county before bringing it to the attention of the AOAA Authority. All three county commissioners agreed it would be a good idea for the AOAA to attempt to develop it, he said.

"We're hopeful to rejuvenate this thing and see if we can get it going again," Garrigan said Sunday.

Separate rail-to-trail authorities in other parts of the state have found it difficult to raise funds to maintain paths after initial project grant money is spent. Garrigan said the AOAA generates revenue and, if successful, could raise its own money to maintain a separate non-motorized path.

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