WELLSBORO — Tioga County officials and the trail committee believe a 3.2-mile trail connecting the Pine Creek Rail Trail to downtown Wellsboro will generate an additional $13 million in consumer spending each year.
The goal is to bring tourists into Wellsboro, with a parking area and welcome building on Charleston Street. It will allow visitors and residents to get on the trail in Wellsboro and ride to the northern terminus in Delmar Township, just off Route 287, said Marc Rice and Linda Stager, two members of the county trail committee.
The COVID-19 shutdown has created additional use on the Pine Creek Rail Trail this spring, said Rice. Trail counters set up by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, note higher than normal activity.
According to Alex MacDonald, section chief of trails and greenways, counters showed 3,400 passes in March, 5,200 in April and 3,300 in May. Overall, that’s a 60-100% increase from 2019, he said.
The counters record passes of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as few deer and other wildlife, MacDonald said.
Jim Hyland, district forester for the Tiadaghton State Forest, said the trail averages 18,500 users per year prior to 2020.
“One thing the pandemic has done for Tioga County and especially for the trail is it has brought people here, a lot of people here,” Stager said.
Stager said it will create safer access to the trail, noting that cyclists or pedestrians who travel on Route 6 to the northern terminus have a one-foot corridor in a 45mph speed zone. Others drive to the trailhead north of Wellsboro.
The connector should divert about 1,500 vehicles each year, according to the BUILD grant application.
The Greenway will be a combination of gravel and pavement. From the PCRT, trail users will cross State Route 287. Approaching pedestrians and cyclists will trigger flashing lights to alert motorists. The area will also be signed to alert drivers of the crossing. Pedestrians will cross when traffic allows, said Rice.
On the southern end of the trail at Waterville at the Route 414 highway crossing, there are no lights or warning signs, said Stager.
“This is so much safer with the flashing lights,” she said.
From there, the greenway will travel alongside the railroad on a 10-foot wide gravel trail 1.7 miles to Hilboldt Road in Stokesdale. There, trail users will cross Marsh Creek on a historic truss bridge from Athens. Vehicles will continue to use the existing bridge, said Rice.
From there, the trail becomes paved as it winds its way at a 5% grade or less into Wellsboro. A second historic truss bridge will provide passage over a gorge.
Construction alone is expected to bring 351 direct and indirect jobs, Rice said. Once built, county officials expect the trail to generate an additional $13 million in consumer spending: $4.8 million in Wellsboro from 27,284 users, $5 million in Lock Haven from 41,524 users, and $4 million in Jersey Shore from 38,436 users. The figures are according to AE Com, which assembled the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant application, said Rice.
If successful with the grant application, construction is expected by 2024.
Additional funding will cover maintenance and repairs costs, projected at 3,866,542, over the next 30 years. The county will cover those costs, said Commissioner Erick Coolidge.
After this, the county will pursue additional grant opportunities to connect the greenway trailhead to the downtown and enhance lighting and walkways.