When rail traffic ended on the West Shore Railroad corridor in 1997, community leaders in Mifflinburg saw potential for the unused rail line.
According to Jim Buck, chairman of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail committee, as those leaders discussed the issue with Union County officials, a feasibility study began for the rail trail.
"The county also began a new comprehensive plan in 2007 that identified a strong desire in the community to have a trail for walking and biking," he said.
A rider adjusts her coat as she approaches Bull Run Crossing from Lewisburg on the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail on May 4.
A pile of old railroad ties are heaped beside the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail near Vicksburg.
The Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority started talks with the West Shore Railroad, which owned that section, about acquiring the line, and then signed an acquisition agreement in 2008.
Many organizations and individuals joined together to see the project through. Along with LARA, Lewisburg Borough, East Buffalo Township and Bucknell University were involved. The Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau also helped.
"The bureau was asked to sit on planning meetings and to provide input and feedback from the tourism perspective. (We were) excited about the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail from the minute we first learned of it. We knew it would enhance the region's wide variety of things to do for residents and tourists alike," said Andrew Miller, executive director of the bureau.
The bureau has promoted the rail trail in 80,000 annual guides, a website, brochure distribution at the visitor center and at points throughout Union, Snyder and Northumberland counties, plus on a new mobile app, he said.
"The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been another key partner, furnishing a large fraction of the funds to acquire the trail from West Shore Railroad and all of the funds to design the rail trail," Buck said
The state Department of Transportation awarded a $3.7 million grant for construction of the trail's Phase I, which began in 2010 and was finished in November 2011.
Larson Design Group designed the trail and Eastern Industries, of Center Valley, built it.
Buck said LARA owns another mile of land-based rights-of-way, plus a long bridge over the Susquehanna River at Lewisburg. He said development of these assets is the early planning stage and they eventually will connect to the trail.