A state Department of Community and Economic Development grant may help the idea of a greenway between Bellefonte and Milesburg become a reality.
Bellefonte Mayor Tom Wilson, joined by resident Jack Schuster, described their plan for creating a three-mile-long bikeway/greenway connecting the boroughs of Bellefonte and Milesburg to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
“I know that’s not a lot,” Wilson said, “but I think it’s a worthwhile start.”
Wilson said he’d attempted to create a bikeway in previous years, but that he and Schuster renewed their efforts about a year ago. Since then, he said, they’ve met with several townships, boroughs, organizations and biking groups to gather support.
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While attending a greenways trail summit, Wilson said, he got a chance to see a map of the greenways in Pennsylvania. Other than the State College area, he noted, not much is going on.
There’s a huge initiative both statewide and nationwide to create and improve bikeways, he said, which create both health and economic benefits. The Bellefonte/Milesburg area makes this particularly attractive given its proximity to both Interstate 80 and Interstate 99 where travelers can come and use the trail.
Schuster said he was happy that the county was willing to hear their ideas and look into the feasibility of connecting some of the area’s towns and villages. He noted that the Spring Creek corridor and Bellefonte waterfront project would be natural tie-ins for the greenway.
We found that a lot of people are leaving Centre County to recreate in Lycoming, Allegheny, Blair and surrounding counties that have a lot of these greenways and bikeways. We have a nice core in the State College area, but we don’t have the connectors that connect the surrounding towns.
Bellefonte resident Jack Schuster
“We found that a lot of people are leaving Centre County to recreate in Lycoming, Allegheny, Blair and surrounding counties that have a lot of these greenways and bikeways,” Schuster said. “We have a nice core in the State College area, but we don’t have the connectors that connect the surrounding towns.”
Schuster mentioned the benefits to real estate values as well as the effect having bikeways could have on alleviating parking problems.
Vice Chairman Mark Higgins echoed Schuster’s real estate comments, saying the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County recently completed a survey of the young professionals of the region, 40 percent of whom said they want bikeways or greenways near their homes or apartments.
Wilson said according to a Pennsylvania real estate study, being close to a greenway or bike path ranked as the second highest priority for those looking for homes in the state, preceded only by quick access to their place of work.
Higgins also discussed the economic value of such paths, saying the connection to the waterfront project and Talleyrand Park would create additional traffic to the various businesses of downtown Bellefonte.
There’s so much going on in Bellefonte right now and this just adds to the activity in a positive way.
Vice Chairman Mark Higgins
“There’s so much going on in Bellefonte right now,” he said, “and this just adds to the activity in a positive way.”
Wilson and Schuster said they have sought the help of the Centre County planning office to submit an application for a grant through the DCED Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program. The program, according to the DCED website, requires a 15 percent local match for the total project cost.
The grant would help cover the feasibility study and planning for the pathway project, Wilson said. A final total construction cost would be determined once a plan was made.
Wilson also confirmed that Bellefonte has agreed to provide $10,000 toward the local match. He and Schuster are seeking out other partners as well as the county to help cover the remaining $27,500 that would be needed if the grant exceeded $66,000.
The application deadline for the project is June 30, the DCED website said.