A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held along the west bank of the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe on National Trails Day to open the recently completed Carbon County Trailhead.
National Trails Day is a nationwide celebration of America's trail system that takes place each year.
The 1.4 mile segment of the Delaware & Lehigh Trail will allow bicyclists and hikers to access Glen Onoko and the Lehigh Gorge State Park directly from downtown Jim Thorpe.
Not only will this route be faster and more convenient, it will eliminate the need to travel over the Route 903 bridge and the busy streets of the county seat.
This new section of the trail will also offer walkers and bikers a spectacular bird's-eye view of the Lehigh Gorge from atop the lofty Nesquehoning Trestle.
The Delaware & Lehigh Trail retraces the 165-mile route along which anthracite coal once traveled from mine to market and helped power and build a growing nation.
Dignitaries from the state, county, and Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor addressed those present at the dedication ceremony before conducting a ribbon-cutting to officially open the trailhead to the public.
After a welcome from Carbon County administrator Randall Smith, speakers included William O'Gurek, chairman, Carbon County commissioners; Allen Sachse, president, Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor; Brenda Barret, director, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and H. Scott Everett, D&L stewardship and trail manager.
The keynote speaker for the dedication ceremony was Rep. Keith R. McCall, speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who was instrumental in the trail's completion.
Speaker McCall noted that "tourism is such a vital part of Carbon County's economy and the (D&L) Trail is a world-class combination of the great outdoors and history."
The D&L Trail is expected to grow even more during the next two years with plans calling for a pedestrian bridge to be built over the Lehigh River at the south end of Jim Thorpe.
The bridge will link the trail in Jim Thorpe with an existing trail segment on the west side of the Lehigh River that continues south to Parryville.
Another 8.5 mile segment is due for completion north of White Haven by the end of 2011, and a third stretch is due for completion within the next year in East Penn Township, Carbon County.
Piece by piece, the trail is increasing in size to its planned final length of 165 miles, which will allow trail users to travel unimpeded from Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, to Bristol in Bucks County.
The trail is being built on former railroad beds and canal towpaths, two modes of transportation that carried anthracite coal from mines to markets during the 19th and early 20th centuries.