By Davitt Woodwell, President, PA Environmental Council
While we work on a wide variety of environmental and conservation issues at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, our largest single area of focus is on trails and outdoor recreation.
Because through this work we connect people to natural resources; encourage stewardship of those resources; focus on community and economic development, public health, and alternative transportation; and live up to our motto of “conservation through cooperation.”
Thinking and working daily on trail plans, projects, and promotion does not mean that I, or other PEC staff, always get to enjoy those same assets.
But, over the course of the last six weeks, I managed to steal several days on parts of a number of the trails that make up the networks on which PEC works.
Perhaps surprisingly, the trails were not just in Pennsylvania, but also included stretches in Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey. That is the result of the fact that we are working not only on specific trail sections and alignments, but also on connecting networks of trails with dozens and dozens of partners in those states and more.
Networks of trails include the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail Alliance, the Circuit in Philadelphia, the Northeast (PA) Trails Forum, the 911 Trail, the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, and the East Coast Greenway, through all of this, PEC is proud to be part of some of the most exciting trail efforts in the country.
Add in the Pennsylvania Water Trails Program that we coordinate with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), PA Fish and Boat Commission, and the National Park Service, and you have well over four thousand miles of trail network, most of it built.
This number does not include the additional thousands of miles of hiking and single tack miles in Pennsylvania parks and forests, or the tens of thousands of additional miles of waterways.
So where did I get lucky enough to ride, walk, and paddle?
-- The Three Rivers Heritage Trail as part of my commute to the office
-- The Redbank Trail (looking forward to the completion of the Climax Tunnel)
-- The Justus Trail outside Franklin and part of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail
-- The Sandy Creek Trail
-- The Schuylkill River Trail during the Independence Day Regatta
-- The Great Allegheny Passage, Ohiopyle to Confluence to Ohiopyle
-- The Mon River Trail in Morgantown, W.Va.
-- The Canalway Towpath in Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio
-- The Butler-Freeport Trail
-- The Lakeshore Trail in Cleveland
-- The Youghiogheny River Water Trail in Ohiopyle (photo)
-- The Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail in New Jersey and D&L trail in PA as part of PEC’s Environment Ride.
There are many more to go, including Northeastern Pennsylvania later this month following meetings in Wilkes-Barre. Getting to the trails is not that hard, it is making the time to do it and being willing to add a ride or a paddle to a business trip or a weekend’s to-do list.
My thanks goes out to all of the people and groups that have made these trails possible. Creating the trails and keeping them maintained is, in most cases, truly a local undertaking that demands commitment and perseverance.
At PEC, we are lucky enough to get to work with so many of those people. I also want to thank the PEC staff who get up everyday to make a difference in Pennsylvania and give so much of themselves to all of our programs and projects.
Finally, recognition of my daughters Maggie and Liz who accompanied me on most of the trail travels of the last month and served as unwitting models in many of the images.
For more information on PEC’s trail work and that of our partners, we encourage you to browse the rest of our website. You can also take a look at our planning tool, GoToTrails.com.Visit the PEC Blog, follow PEC on Twitter or Like PEC on Facebook. Click Here to receive regular updates from PEC.