The walkers, dogs and bikers who joined officials and businesses for the dedication of the Lehighton-East Penn section of the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Corridor were "a great representation" of what the trail is for, said Elissa Garofalo, director of the Corridor.
The dedication took place under the turnpike bridge on Friday. The new section is 2.5 miles long. It includes drainage, fencing over culverts and swales and seeding and stabilizing the high banks along the trail.
It came at no cost since it was installed as part of the construction easement between the borough of Lehighton and Walsh Construction, contractor for the turnpike bridges.
Several individuals eceived special recogniion.
Paul Fogal, of Pocono Whitewater and chairman of the board of directors for the D&L, provided the bus to shuttle people to the ceremony from the cul-de-sac in East Penn Township. Garafalo said he provided many things for the project and that his family was very generous with their assistance.
Jim Birdsall, a semi-retired engineer from Hanover Engineering, helped when there were questions not requiring a full-fledged engineering company.
Judy Borger, Director of Development for Carbon County and a past chair of the D&L helped deal with organizations and municipalities.
Garofalo credited Allen Saches, a former chairman of the D&L, with getting the project started and making her work easier.
Becky Cunfer of the Carbon County Conservation District stepped in and helped when there was anything to do with water.
"This is a great story, the very best exampled of a creative partnership," said Garofalo.
Adam Mitchell was the trail contractor working with Walsh Construction. He was recognized along with the many others who worked on the trail.
"It provides a tremendous benefit. The trail follows the historical transportation path for coal: a towpath to rail to rail-trail," said Garofalo.
Scott Everett, D&L trail manager, said 3-1/2 years ago he was invited to a meeting in Lehighton with the municipal sewer authority. He thanked everyone who helped.
"I thank Jim Deebel (manager of the authority). This section is owned by the Lehighton Sewer Authority. It was a great idea to put in the trail. He and the borough get credit," he said.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was a great help. A grant application is being applied for to help finish the rest of the trail on the south side.
Loren Possinger of the DCNR asked if the assemblage knew which state had the most miles of rail-trail. From the manner in which he asked everyone was able to answer, "Pennsylvania."
"It's not my trail. It's Lehighton and East Penn's, the trail tenders, the legislators. I can ride it but it's your project," he said.
The turnpike commission received a bid for $100 million for the bridge construction from Walsh. The trail was not envisioned at that time. One hundred fifty local employees were employed on the project.
"Without everyone here this trail wouldn't be here," said the Walsh representative.
Garofalo said Lehighton has been a tremendous partner.
Sen. David Argall said many years ago he interviewed Garofalo. She explained that these projects aren't just good for these people but for the economy and revitalization. He and his family will be back to ride the trail.
"We are fortunate to have him in the legislature for so many years," said Garofalo.
Tim Berger, representing Rep. Doyle Heffley's office, said it is a personal asset. A lot of tourists stop in our office. You can spend two weeks in Carbon County and never do the same thing twice.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said he is irritated when people say tourism is not economic development. We're getting there. It's been a long road with many partners.
Commissioner Tom Gerhard thanked everyone for coming out. Look at the bridge, the trail, it certainly is exciting.
Garofalo said things are changing. "We have become a nonprofit and we need help from each of you."
Dale Freudenberger, Anthracite Region coordinator for the D&L, got everyone lined up for a ribbon cutting. Jim Deeble, head of the Lehighton Sewer Authority which is the landowner, cut the ribbon and the bikers headed north.
Under construction are the Lehighton trailhead, a Lehighton spur and a Slatington pedestrian crossing. Still to come are a new Mansion House Bridge, Weissport to Lehighton connector and an East Penn pedestrian crossing.