Committee discusses Pine Creek Rail Trail

MORRIS – Rangers from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and community partners met Tuesday night to discuss concerns and improvements along the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

Concerns in the Tioga State Forest portion of the rail trail include one act of vandalism near Rattlesnake Rock, dogs off leashes and horses being ridden improperly on the trail. All incidents dropped from 2011 except motor vehicle incidents, including one impatient motorcyclist who decided to use the rail trail instead of Route 44.

“Gas activity has gone up but there has been no conflict with the rail trail,” said Jeff Prowant, Tiadaghton State Forest district forester.

New campsites, an access road and a boat launch will be constructed in Tomb Flats, a day-use area just south of Slate Run. Starting July 1, Tiadaghton Campground also will get a makeover. Rangers will tear out and replace the fire pits and picnic tables.

Trail use rose from 2011 to 2012, but numbers fell this year. Tioga State Forest Chief Ranger Brian Caldwell attributed the drop to the cold winter.

“The third quarter of the year is when trail-use activity is at its highest,” Caldwell said.

Members of the PA Wilds Planning Team discussed a new supplement to the Oil & Gas Design Guide, a set of voluntary design standards aimed at minimizing the visual effects of drilling. The new supplement will be presented to representatives from the gas industry on May 5. The guide should be finalized and ready for use by the end of the summer.

“We’ve had a great response from the gas industry. They’re interested in how they can work with us to protect the character of the region and be stewards,” said Jerry Walls, of the PA Wilds Planning Team.

The Marsh Creek Greenway Committee is struggling with a state Department of Environmental Protection permit review for a stream relocation and restoration project along the Wellsboro Junction to Wellsboro Connection portion of the rail trail.

“Our concerns about DEP permitting for oil and gas have come back to haunt us. They’re using the same procedure on the local folks trying to get permits,” said Jim Weaver, Tioga County planner.

The committee will continue to seek permit approval.

The Jersey Shore rail trail extension has gotten great use since it was finished last September and Lycoming County planners want to keep the positive momentum going.

“How can we achieve a vision where Pine Creek is the centerpiece of a trail system between Rochester, N.Y., and Chesapeake Bay in Maryland?” asked Mark Murawski, Lycoming County planner.

Murawski believes a good step toward achieving that vision is to connect the Susquehanna River Walk in Williamsport to the rail trail extension in Jersey Shore. Since cash is short, the planners are in the process of applying for several state and federal grants.

“We want to get a truly multi-state trail system in place that could be the best in the U.S.,” Murawksi said.

Representatives from Jersey Shore YMCA, the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Pine Creek Challenge also were on hand to talk about their organizations’ upcoming events. The SPCA will host “Tails on the Rail Trail” 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 21. The second annual Pine Creek Challenge will take place Sept. 7 and 8. Jersey Shore YMCA will hold a walk and ride event Sept. 29.

The rail trail continues to be a recreational gem for the region.

“There are more comments about the rail trail than any other state forest program and all the comments are positive,” Caldwell said.