Dozens of cyclists, hikers, and trail walkers poured into the Slatington Trailhead on Saturday morning to celebrate National Trails Day sponsored by the Delaware and Lehigh (D&L) National Heritage Corridor. The event celebrated the completion of 15 contiguous miles of trail that run from Bowmanstown to Cementon.
Elissa Garofalo, D&L vice president, led a "mixed group" of participants from the Bowmanstown boat launch in East Penn Township, while another group departed from Laurys Station, about a mile north from the Cementon Trailhead. Both trails connect in Slatington, so whether the journey seekers took the high road or the low road, they all met in the middle at the Slatington Trailhead on Main Street.
Cyclists from as far as Bucks County and others who live locally, like Dan Nickischer, a seasoned trail rider, were impressed. Nickischer, who after riding five miles on the Cementon trail, upon arriving at the Slatington Trailhead, jumped from his Bachetta recumbent touring bike and exclaimed, "This trail is beyond belief! It's fantastic!"
Most everyone agreed this piece of trail is truly beautiful because of the magnificent views of the Lehigh River.
"We want to make Slatington a trail town," said Allen Sachse, D&L executive director. Four major trails and a group of trails at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center make the Slatington and Walnutport area a mecca for people who enjoy hiking, walking or cycling.
The goal of turning Slatington into a "Trail Town" has already been embraced by many Slatington residents, business people and community groups who are working together to see that the Slatington Trailhead becomes a prosperous hub that attracts people from all over to enjoy the trails this area has to offer.
John and Bette Holdos, who live in Washington Township, spend a lot of time cycling and kayaking. For the Holdos the trail is a dream come true.
"After (hearing) lots of talk about this," John said, "We never thought we'd see it in our lifetime."
The Slatington Lions Club sees the potential at the Slatington Trailhead for fundraising. Club members put a food trailer in the parking lot that offers Lions Club member Steve Walden's famous Bandit Dawgs (a hot dog with a piece of smoked bacon, cheese and special sauce), and other interesting menu items, such as pulled pork and baby back ribs. Aspiring food critic, Dave Mulcahy, said Walden's sauce is "Sweet and spicy that plays with your taste buds."
By the crowd that formed at lunchtime, Mulcahy is probably right.
The proceeds from the food trailer will benefit the construction of a slate building at the trailhead that will house restrooms for folks who use the trail.
Another slate building is also under construction that will serve as a pavilion with a kitchen and meeting room. Once completed, the pavilion can be used by any community organization for any reason.
The Venture Group, a coalition of local community organizations and nonprofit groups work together on community projects that benefit the area. Both Slatington Trailhead structures are one of their projects.
There are 165 miles of towpath and rail trials that go from Bristol to Wilkes-Barre, which are part of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Many of the trails are completed, but several trail segments are works in progress. Visit www.delawareandlehigh.org to view the most current information.
Once the trails are done, "The challenge is in the maintenance," said Rayne Schnabel, the public relations director for advancement of the trail.
For example, with the recent storms that besieged the area, there are a number of trees down and there's erosion and flooding that has compromised some of the trials. The project, although challenging at times, is a success and provides many communities across Pennsylvania with an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
The D&L also works with each community to develop trails and beautify the trailheads and offer technical assistance and support.