Paul Fogal of Penn Forest Township, a long time outdoor advocate, and for many years a member of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Board of Directors, has been named to the chairmanship of the organization.
Fogal, a co-owner of Pocono Whitewater/Skirmish USA, was elected chair of the D&L in January, succeeding Charles Petrillo, Jr. He was originally invited to join the board by board member Cliff David and former executive director and chair of the board, Allen Sachse.
"They asked me if I would be interested and I accepted," Fogal said.
The organization started in 1988 as the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Commission, a federal commission with a mission to develop a national heritage area and tell the story of anthracite transport from mine to market in Eastern Pennsylvania and to connect, revitalize and preserve the cultural, natural and historic resources along this corridor.
In 2007, with the commission's 20-year charter about to expire, and with significant work yet to be done to complete its mission, the commission reorganized as a nonprofit organization, dropping "commission" from its name, becoming the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
This decision was made by the board, which meets six times a year and oversees the operation of what is now the nonprofit Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. There are 11 staff positions including executive directors.
The board helps to set the direction of the organization and advises the professional staff. They also invite outside organizations such as DCNR to attend their meetings. Because the corridor extends 165 miles from Bristol to Wilkes-Barre, meeting locations are rotated throughout the corridor, with most being held at the Emrick Technology Center in Easton.
The D&L broke ground this week on a parking lot and future trailhead in Lehighton that, after completion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge, will extend southward to the Lehigh Gap portion of the D&L trail. They are working on a pedestrian bridge which will connect the Weissport portion of the trail to the trail in Jim Thorpe. They're also working on improvements of the trail in the Glen Summit area.
Over the past 25 years, the D&L has acquired about 98 percent of the land along the right-of-way between Bristol and Wilkes-Barre. The biggest gap along the way involves ownership issues in the Catasauqua and Northampton area.
"There is no timeline for completion of the trail," Fogal said. "Everyone's goal is to finish the trail, and I think it's stronger than a hope. I think it will get done.
"Our focus is shifting to be on just construction of the trail to promotion of the various sections of the trail," Fogal continued. "We have a grant from the William Penn Foundation to develop and coordinate three regions: Bucks County, Lehigh Valley, and the Lehigh Gorge State Park and northern region."
The organization has been sponsoring the Marathon and Half Marathon Race, and the educational program "Tales of the Towpath."
Fogal biked the trail bed, that has become the D&L trail, before either Lehigh Gorge State Park or the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor was created. In the 1970s, the road with friends along the abandoned rail trail.
This interest in biking grew into a bicycle rental operation at Pocono Whitewater in Penn Forest Township, and the second bicycle rental operation had to their Adventure Central store in Jim Thorpe. There are now five bicycle rental businesses in the Jim Thorpe area, and they rent bicycles that are largely used on the D&L Trail.
"The D&L Trail supports two interests," Fogal said. "One is as a promotional economic tool. The other is to advance the quality of life for the people in the community. For instance, four or five of us were go on a bike ride after work and have dinner in town. I like to be able to go downtown and ride down the trail."
Fogal noted that in the D&L Trail offers an easy way for local people to see nature and exercise, as well as being a safe place for kids to ride their bicycles.
As to the transition of the D&L from government to private funding Fogal noted, "It's getting tougher and tougher to get government funding so it was necessary to transition to a nonprofit so that money can be raised in the private sector."
"If people enjoy the trail, it would be helpful if they contributed, became members, or donated time to help on the trail maintenance crews," he noted. "That will be great."