JERSEY SHORE - With the official opening Wednesday of the trailhead for the Rail Trail pathway here, local and state officials claim this borough is on the cusp of exciting new opportunities.
They gathered at the site on Railroad Street as Jersey Shore was named a Susquehanna Greenway River Town.
"This trail will help attract people and investment and promote sustainable economic development," said Trish Carothers, executive director of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.
Above, two individuals walk on the Rail Trail behind the Jersey Shore YMCA.
Carothers noted that Jersey Shore is one of just two of the state's 70 river towns to receive such a designation.
People can walk or bike the 65-mile trail from Jersey Shore northward to the New York state line, with the trailhead marking the borough as a destination site.
Most recently, an additional portion of the trail has opened, running from the rail head through the borough to the Susquehanna River.
Mayor Dennis Buttorff said the borough can be a "major gateway," just as it once was many years ago after the community's settlers arrived.
He said he can see the trail attracting more tourists and helping create small businesses.
State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan said recreational trails ultimately spur economic development.
"People will come here and see things. They will stop at restaurants. It also preserves the heritage of communities," he said.
Carothers said she could foresee small businesses such as bed and breakfasts, cafes and outdoor outfitters opening their doors in Jersey Shore.
As officials gathered for a photo, a lone walker passed along the trail, prompting SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority Chairman Jerry Walls to call out to him, "Glad to see you are using the trail."
"Thank you. I do every day," he responded.
Walls said the trail brings with it many benefits, including the sort of recreational opportunity that can help promote healthy lives.
"The healthy living aspect can't be over-stated," he said.
He said the trail, which will eventually link to the pathway from Williamsport, has been the culmination of many groups and people working together toward a common goal.
Bill Kelly, deputy director of the Lycoming County Planning Commission, gave special credit to his colleague, Mark Murawski.
Murawski, county transportation director, used his skills in securing grants, forging partnerships and working on details to bring things to fruition, he said.
"This allows for a world-class recreational destination," Kelly said.
The quality of life, he said, sustains the area.
And to share such resources with others is important.
Buttorff noted the trail has been open in around Jersey Shore for quite some time, but in recent months upgrades with respect to signage and water drainage have been done.
"It's been a long adventure," said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. "It's great to see the partnership come together."