Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rail Trail a Boon to York County for Over 10 Years

Despite years of effort, the hopes for a rail trail along the old Enola Low Grade Line in the southern portion of Lancaster County, the vision has still not come to fruition.

The municipalities went so far as to sue the county to prevent the 23-mile stretch of land running through their backyards from being converted into a recreation area.

Many residents seem to fear that the trail would become a collection point for trash and for unsavory activities of various kinds.

But this doesn't seem to be the case just next door in York County.

County and non-county residents alike have benefited from the presence of York County's Heritage Rail trail since the project began to take form in 1994.

After the railroad operator, Penn Central Railroad, declared bankruptcy in 1970, the County of York purchased the rail corridor in 1990 through an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, according to information published on Web site of the York County Parks Department.

The first mile of rail trail was completed in 1994 with the help of two Boy Scouts working on Eagle projects, said Gwen Loose, project coordinator for the York County Rail Trail Authority.

Today, the completed trail is 21 miles long, running from Lafayette Plaza in the City of York to the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line near the Borough of New Freedom.

According to a 2004 survey of rail trail users commissioned by the Parks Department, 93.6 percent of respondents rated the cleanliness of the trail as "Excellent" or "Good," 79.2 percent "Strongly Agreed" that "York County parks and trails are important to your community and a wise use of your tax dollars," and a full 99 percent said they "support the development of additional multi-use trails in York County."

The York County Rail Trail Authority reported that 300,000 people used the Heritage Rail Trail in 2004.

The average duration of a trail outing is two hours, and biking is the most frequent trail activity with 71.7 percent of respondents calling it their primary activity, the 2004 survey revealed.

Could we Lancaster County residents reap similar benefits from the 23-mile stretch of abandoned rail line in the southern end of our county?