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Eldred commits to trail feasibility study

Eldred Township supervisors joined their counterparts Wednesday night in support of the Rail Trail Feasibility Study regarding the former Rails to Trails project from the 1990s. The trail was intended to be used for hiking, walking and biking.

Today, the trail is in poor condition with potholes and overgrown with vegetation. It runs along a railroad line previously owned by the Chestnut Ridge Railway Co. with a small section in Eldred Township. It then runs into Lower Towamensing Township and Palmerton. The majority of the trail lies in Lower Towamensing Township where the Wildlands Conservancy owns a 20-acre parcel of it.

Eldred Township’s supervisors approved giving Lower Towamensing Township a Letter of Support for the project. This will enable them to apply as a co-sponsor of the project for a $40,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources to pay for the study. The study would look into various issues that could impact the redevelopment of the trail including cost, usage, and economic impact.

Vice Chairman Joann Bush said the total cost of the study is expected to be about $80,000. The grant would cover half, but the remainder has to be acquired via donations and municipal contributions. She said Lower Towamensing Township plans to put $22,000 toward the study; Palmerton, $3,000; Monroe County Conservation District, $2,500 and services worth $2,500; and Blue Mountain Ski Area, $10,000. She suggested that Eldred Township donate $1,000 from the Parks and Recreation Fund to help with the cost.

“I felt uncomfortable with everybody else contributing,” she said. “They didn’t ask for it.”

“I would support a contribution toward the feasibility study, because Eldred Township residents would have an opportunity to use (the trail),” said Supervisor Donna Mikol.

Bush said the study could take a couple of years to complete, and then refurbishing the trail could take several years.

“The project, if it goes forward, is going to be basically for our children and our grandchildren. It is really a great opportunity for us to participate in something that could be very beneficial to the community,” she said, adding that it would give people another reason to come to town.

“We would be quite foolish, I believe, truly, if we did not participate in it.”

Chairman Gary Hoffman said, “We know that there are property owner concerns.”

He said he wants the people doing the study to talk to the property owners near the trail.

Bush said that the people involved with applying for the grant already plan to talk with them.

Hoffman said that would be perfect. “We just need to make sure these people are approached in the right way with respect, and they understand - before anything, before one spade of ground is broken. There’s a lot of passion out there about this.”

Bush agreed.

Don Moore, a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee, said, “Regardless of this feasibility study, the GIS map says there’s a trail.”

He said one of the property owners has placed gates across the trail blocking it where it runs through land that the man says is his property.

Moore said he went out to look at the trail and someone shot at him.

“I could be dead right now. That person could have missed by a couple feet from where he was aiming and could have hit me. I’m really upset about what happened,” he said. “I don’t care necessarily about criminal prosecution, but I care about Eldred, you guys, supervisors, getting straight with your citizens about whether you have a trail or not, and whether you believe you’ve got a right to open that property.”

Moore had also spoken about what happen to him on the trail at the beginning of the meeting during the public comment portion. He said he doesn’t believe it was accidental, because “there was a verbal interchange” with the person afterward. Hoffman told him the township reported it to the Pennsylvania State Police to investigate.