Starting June 5, hikers and bikers in Carbon County will be able to enjoy a new trail that connects downtown Jim Thorpe with Lehigh Gorge State Park.
During the monthly meeting of the county railroad commission on Tuesday, the board announced that on Saturday, June 5, at 10:30 a.m., state and county officials, as well as other area organizations will gather at the end of the county parking lot to officially open up the new hiking and biking trail, a project officially known as rails-to-trails.
The new multi-use recreational trail will run from the county parking lot in downtown Jim Thorpe, through the old rail yard, across the Nesquehoning tressel and into Lehigh Gorge State Park, where it will connect with the current trail at the park.
The commissioners are happy that this project, which has been in the works since 2005, is finally complete.
"It's long awaited and much anticipated," Commissioner William O'Gurek said. "It will be a good thing to open that trail. We're pretty excited about it for all the people who waited and persevered for so long for this to become a reality."
Commissioner Charles Getz echoed O'Gurek's thoughts saying, "I'm glad it's going to be opened. It's going to be a big safety issue. It gets all those people (who park in the county lot and bike over to Lehigh Gorge State Park) off the highway."
Randall Smith, county administrator said he spoke with the engineer and everything is on schedule for the dedication next Saturday.
He added the D&L National Heritage Corridor is planning to tie in the trail's opening into National Trail Days and are in the process of planning events in Jim Thorpe that day.
Work on Carbon County's rails-to-trails project began last fall after commissioners awarded the multi-use recreational trail contract to low bidder, S&K Construction. The company submitted a bid of $318,622.50.
The project has been around since 2005, but numerous hurdles shut down any progress that could be made, and continually pushed back the completion date.
In 2009, the county and Reading and Northern Railroad reached an agreement on plans for the trail. Specifications for the project call for the path to come off the Nesquehoning trestle and be six feet away from the railroad tracks in that area, and arch out 100 feet until it is 15 feet away the requirement specified by the railroad. A four-foot high fence will also be installed 12 feet from the center of the trail as a safety measure.
Last August, the county purchased the last piece of needed land for the project from Frank Foster at a cost of $40,000 plus fees associated with the transfer of the lot. Negotiations for that purchase have taken place since at least 2006.
The county is using a $330,000 grant it received from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships program to complete the project.