A two-and-a-half mile bike trail connecting Bellefonte to Milesburg could become a reality, but it’s going to take a community effort — and lots of funding, according to a newly released feasibility study on the trail.
A Bellefonte-Milesburg trail, said Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins, could be a key tourist attraction and improve quality of life for residents in Bellefonte Borough, Spring Township, Boggs Township and Milesburg Borough. The trail also could be “the keystone” for a bicycle path stretching all the way from Wellsboro to Penn State’s Beaver Stadium — connecting the Pine Creek Rail Trail, Bald Eagle Valley Trail in Clinton County, the planned Brick Town Trail from Beech Creek to Milesburg and a planned trail from Bellefonte to Beaver Stadium.
John Buerkle Jr., president of Pashek+MTR, the landscape architecture and design firm that completed the study, said the proposed trail would not be an easy undertaking. There are many historical and environmental considerations, as well as a high amount of public and private property owners to negotiate with, many permits required and multiple stream crossings to navigate.
Buerkle said the trail could be split into six construction phases with three funding phases.
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The overall cost of the trail, he said, is estimated at around $6.1 million, with each of the three phases costing around $2 million.
In order to get the project off the ground, he said, Pashek+MTR recommends that municipalities come together to form a Trail Authority. The members of that authority would have to establish strong leadership, bylaws and meetings and informal get-togethers with all stakeholders in the trail.
Funding could come from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal transportation fund, the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the Department of Community and Economic Development Multimodal Transportation Fund, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships Program or the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s Act 13 Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program.
The feasibility study determined there could be two trailheads — one located in Bellefonte at the municipal parking lot on West High Street behind the CVS and the other located at the parking lot in Milesburg Community Park on Commercial Street.
The proposed bicycle path stretches from the Bellefonte trailhead along the Dunlap Street corridor, crosses the Gamble Mill parking lot and follows the western edge of Spring Creek, then crosses Spring Creek by bridge to the eastern side, continues behind Tussey Mountain Outfitters by the Fish and Boat Commission access point and passes Sunnyside Paddling Park.
The second phase continues into Spring Township onto Bellefonte Municipal Authority treatment plant land and follows Route 144 along the front of the treatment plant, makes a left and then continues onto McCrossin property.
Then, the trail crosses over a tributary that feeds into Spring Creek, crosses Spring Creek by bridge into a wetland area on the western side, crosses another tributary and continues into Boggs Township.
The fourth phase continues along the western side of Spring Creek, crosses by bridge to the eastern side of Spring Creek and then bisects the historic Harmony Forge property on the eastern side of the canal ruins (which is all Fish and Boat Commission property).
The final phase crosses into Milesburg Borough and curves right onto Church Street, where it passes the West Penn Power Transmission Station, then curves left onto Commercial Street, crosses the Commercial Street Bridge and ends at the Milesburg Community Park.
Most property owners along the proposed trail have been generally receptive, said Buerkle, but no one has made any concrete commitments. McCrossin has some concerns with the construction of the trail, but Buerkle said he believed those concerns could be overcome.
Though the process of putting in a trail may not be easy, Buerkle said, it would be worth it.
“It really is something that is very desirable,” he said. All in all, he said, an accessible bicycle path promotes tourism, encourages spending and provides access to a very well-known fly-fishing opportunity in Centre County.