Buffalo Valley Rail Trail Politics

I’ve been trying to keep up with the status of the proposed Buffalo Valley Rail Trail. There’s been some pretty hilarious shenanigans underway, so I thought I’d summarize what’s been going on best as I can piece it together from various sources.

A few months ago, the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority acquired about 11 miles of abandoned railroad tracks between Mifflinburg and Lewisburg.

OpenCycleMap of Buffalo Valley Rail Trail

Over the summer, the railroad tracks and ties were removed, and it looked like some of the trail would be open by spring 2010. A “friends of the trail” group was organized. I went to the first meeting of this group and signed up for the mailing list. We were supposed to register as a 503(c) non-profit, and get to work picking up trash, posting signs, etc.

I never heard from the group after that meeting, and I’m not sure if it still exists.

At some point, the trail was named the “Buffalo Valley Rail Trail,” and there was some sort of a kick-off meeting in late October.

Then things got weird.

Most of the rail trail actually lies outside of LARA’s jurisdiction, so LARA wanted to give the project to Union County. Pandemonium ensued.

Republican County Commissioner Preston Boop fired off an email to the Chairwoman of the Republican Committee, where he asked her for support from local Republicans to oppose the “Secret agenda and meetings of local elected Democrats,” and “wasteful spending of precious funds.”

Chairwoman Yvonne Morgan obliged, emailing her supporters, calling the trail a “Joke” and “Frivolity,” and even making a nasty personal attack on County Commissioner John Showers. This email exchange was promptly leaked to the press, and I have a copy of it here: (click for big)

The email exchange

If you’re so inclined, you can even watch a video of County Commissioner John Showers reading this ridiculous email into the public record. Keep an eye out for Yvonne Morgan sporting a pig hat.

Yvonne Morgan in a pig hat

In any event, LARA has a $3.7 million transportation grant from PennDOT for construction, but they can’t get that money until the design phase is done. They’ve applied for a $500,000 grant to do the design work, but they don’t know if they’ll get that money or not. In the meanwhile, it looks like they are going ahead with design work on credit.

I hope all this nonsense is sorted out before the end of the summer, because I’d really like to be able to ride my bike out to the Purple Cow for some ice cream.

8 thoughts on “Buffalo Valley Rail Trail Politics

  1. I hate politicians. As someone with Libertarian leanings, even I can see the benefit to reclaiming abandoned infrastructure and re-purposing it for recreational use. Building and maintaining public parks and trails is a legitimate role for government to play, especially in light of what is otherwise an obesity epidemic. Even if the Big Brother Public Health argument is too much; data exists to show that quality of life features like this are factors considered by businesses looking to relocate; they improve property values in the area; and they do stimulate local economies when “marketed” as a package. Further, it’s highly unlikely you could offer a comparable recreational experience via private means, even though private ventures such as restaurants and bike rentals would benefit. We can fund baseball stadiums to line the pockets of millionaires, but we can’t agree on funding rail trails to benefit everyone.
    Finally, I’ll throw in the transportation angle with the idea that you’re creating a bike route for commuting between two population centers.
    This is a slam-dunk no brainer for that region.

  2. I visited this rail line before the tracks were torn up a couple of years ago.
    A farmer who had planted on the public road right of way right up to the
    asphalt came out and yelled at me for “trespassing” on the tracks. Plainly
    a number of the locals wanted no trail at all. A visit a year later after the tracks
    were removed revealed that there were no trespassing signs at every road crossing
    west of Lewisburg. Mennonite bicyclists I talked to were interested in the bike
    trail as a way to get to Mifflinburg without riding on Pa 45.

  3. @Thomas
    Those no trespassing signs were put up by LARA. I think it was to cover their butts from a liability angle while the trail was under construction. The signs were still there last week when I looked. I see people using the trail anyhow. I think the only work remaining is the parking lots and the restrooms. The trail is scheduled to be open this October sometime.

  4. I think it is great to have a walking trail from Lewisburg to Mifflinburg, but how many people are actually going to take a walk like that when they can just jump in the car. For bikes it is a nice idea but did we have to spend so much money on paving that strip of land over and over and over again? I think I saw workers paving it four times. can someone explain why it could not have been kept as a dirt trial? I am sure they were out there other times that I did not see them. Also, other than one icecream place, there is not much along that trail. My biggest complaint about this, is that the path is straight! Once you reach a point, you have to turn around and see the same things you just looked at. As a kid, I always loved paths and trails that turned and twisted. They were more fun. This was such a waste of money.

    1. I think it is great to have a walking trail from Lewisburg to Mifflinburg, but how many people are actually going to take a walk like that when they can just jump in the car.

      From what I’ve seen, there are already a lot of people talking walks on the trail, despite the “No Trespassing” signs. The trail isn’t even open yet! If I had to guess, I think there will be plenty of walkers and cyclists on it when it does open.

      For bikes it is a nice idea but did we have to spend so much money on paving that strip of land over and over and over again? I think I saw workers paving it four times. can someone explain why it could not have been kept as a dirt trial? I am sure they were out there other times that I did not see them.

      I honestly don’t know why they decided to pave it. I’ve seen a lot of rails-to-trails projects, and very few are paved. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that it may have been an ADA requirement so people in wheelchairs could use the tail, too. Pavement also makes is nice for little kids with training wheels to learn to ride bikes, so maybe that had something to do with it?

      Also, other than one icecream place, there is not much along that trail.

      I gotta disagree with you there. This trail has more ammenities on it than any other rail trail I know of. The Frosty Cow, Ards, Weis (Mifflinburg) Sheetz, a bank, the Union County Library, the Lewisburg Farmer’s Market, and probably several other attractions that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

      My biggest complaint about this, is that the path is straight! Once you reach a point, you have to turn around and see the same things you just looked at. As a kid, I always loved paths and trails that turned and twisted. They were more fun. This was such a waste of money.

      Well, it’s straight because that’s the way the right-of-way was laid out way back when the railroad went in. There’s not much they can so about that.
      I don’t think this trail was a waste of money at all. The whole thing was built for less than it costs to build a single mile of regular paved road for cars. Rail Trails are a huge boost to local economies. Just look at all the good that came of the Pine Creek Rail Trail in the Waterville area. I’m excited to ride my bike on it when the leaves are changing. I think it will be nice. I’ll probably ride over to Ard’s for breakfast.

  5. Just had a chance to ride the RT this weekend after I dropped my team off at the skatepark for a little riding. I am not from Lewisburg, I’m from Plains and I have about 30,000 miles on a bike so far. I am an avid railroad historian as well and love to explore old abandoned lines such as this was before the trail took hold.

    First off, congratulations on the trail as it looks like it’s just about completed. I had my road bike with me so i didn’t venture too far past where the pavement ended West of town, although I think with a set of slightly wider tires it would not be an issue at all. The work is done very well and I think all of you can pat each other on the back for a job well done.

    As far as the politics….never fails that some dimwit hasbeen airbag always has to step in the way to try to prevent progress. I guess to them having the line sit in an abandoned state was a better idea than turning it into something that can be used by the whole community. Also, for the record, it was Sunday the 25th of September that I was there and the trail had a large amount of people on it, bikers, kids on skateboards headed to the skate park, people walking dogs, ect, so..no..it’s not a waste of money by no means.

    So, in closing, once again my hats off to those of you that were involved in the project. It seems that Lewisburg has it’s act together, even with the town park, the skate park is much appreciated by even us out of towners. Don’t ever let politics and the silly games that politicians play ever get in the way, just bowl them over with progress.

    Kevin at Plains Bike
    Plains Pa.
    facebook.com/plainsbikeshop

  6. @Kevin, thanks for the comment.

    “.never fails that some dimwit hasbeen airbag always has to step in the way to try to prevent progress.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Just so everyone is clear, I am in no way responsible for the trail. I’m just a fan boy who thinks the trail is a good idea. I’m re-blogging whatever tidbits of information I come across, since it seems like nobody else is keeping a log of what’s going on. All the credit for the trail goes to Trey Casimir and the good people at LARA (and DCNR, PennDOT, and a bunch of other people I probably don’t even know about).

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