A teen in Grays Woods will soon be able to hop on a bicycle and ride safely to nearby Circleville Park. His or her parents can pedal a little farther and go shopping or even head to work.
The Patton Township neighborhood is set to be the latest to tap into an ever-expanding, extensive trail system in the Centre Region.
A proposed 1.2-mile bike and walking path, which is in the final planning stages, will run along Circleville Road from its intersection with Scotia Road to the entrance of Circleville Park.
The gap is an important piece in connecting Grays Woods to nearby recreation, shopping and employers, but also in the continued push to link the Centre Region, according to local officials.
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“We need to connect people with places — connect where people live with where people work, recreate,” said Trish Meek, a senior planner with the Centre Regional Planning Agency.
“Circleville path is a great example of connecting (those things),” she said.
Meek, who has been working with Patton Township officials on the project, said the stretch will provide a safe way for people in Grays Woods to get to Circleville Park without driving.
From there, people could take residential streets through the Park Forest neighborhood and eventually connect with the Tudek/Circleville bike path, which continues on to Penn State.
“It provides another link to getting us to a much larger shared use path in the region,” Meek said. “It’s a key link to expanding.”
Patton Township officials previously identified the stretch as top priority for a bicycle and pedestrian path, and listed it as such on the township’s most recent bike plan.
“A shared use path along Circleville Road will provide an invaluable link between Circleville Park and Grays Woods and would vastly enhance the township’s network of paths,” township officials wrote in the 2010 report.
“The path would not only create a linkage with Grays Woods, but would terminate in close proximity to other paths, existing and proposed, including a major route already located in the adjacent Ferguson Township,” according to the report. “There would be a greater opportunity for recreation, but also multi-modal commuting for many residents of Grays Woods and other areas in Patton Township. ...”
Township officials heard an update on the project Wednesday from Mark Wilson, of Wilson Consulting Group, which is handling engineering work on the project.
Wilson told the Board of Supervisors that the project is in a final design phase and that preliminary engineering is complete. He described a 10-foot-wide paved trail that will follow Circleville Road. There will be a buffer of more than 5 feet between the trail and the roadway.
The project was originally to include a section of Scotia Road to its intersection with Grays Woods Boulevard. Wilson said the work might now have to be done in phases, with the Scotia Road portion coming later when the township can secure more funds.
A chunk of federal Transportation Enhancement money awarded to the township is covering construction costs for the project, and there is only enough in this round to do the longer, 1.2-mile stretch along Circleville Road, he said.
Wilson said there have been unexpected environmental issues on the project. A stretch of the path has to navigate a piece of land identified as wetlands.
When the state Department of Transportation did a study of the land, state officials discovered it’s the habitat of the spadefoot toad, listed as an endangered species in Pennsylvania.
According to the state Fish and Boat Commission, the toad spends most of its time underground, surfacing largely when there is heavy rainfall in the spring and mid summer to forage or mate.
It’s often found in wetlands, and the Fish and Boat Commission said the goal is to protect the toad’s remaining habitat.
Wilson said additional planning is necessary to find a way to accommodate the creature and provide a safe way for the toad to cross the trail.
“We have to provide a mechanism for the toads to safely cross the road,” he said. “There will be a structure for the toads to crawl through to get to the other side. We are going to give them something to do that.”
Construction on the trail project has been expected to start sometime later this year.
Meek said it should prove to be a well-used corridor, thanks to its proximity to Grays Woods and Circleville Park.
“It will be popular,” she said. “There are quite a few people who use the park.”