Bike Bucks County, a local county arm of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, hosted a well-attended information session on the Newtown Rail Trail last night at the Northampton Township Free Library. The crowd of about 70 people broke down to about 60 in support, 10 against. Most of the naysayers’ concerns revolved around trail users, eminent domain, trespassing and security, given about half of the trail — 4.5 miles — will be in Northampton.
Bucks County Open Space Planner Paul Gordon presented first, focusing on the status of the trail. A study of the Upper Southampton Township segment (2.6 miles) will begin later this year. The Township has given the County a resolution of support for the trail.
With the exception of Northampton, the County has met with every municipality along the trail (Northampton, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough and Middletown) as well as the George School, a boarding school in Middletown Township. To date, all the municipalities are still considering the issue.
Paul also attempted to answer some of the concerns that were brought up, noting that the County would never pursue eminent domain to acquire trail right of way. He was followed by Tom Hibbs, President of the Penn-Tammany Greenway Coalition. He focused on the success of the adjacent Pennypack Creek Trail saying that many of the trail users that he sees are “people like me”, he also said that some residents who insisted on fences to shield themselves from the trail subsequently requested a gate so they would have easy access.
After I spoke briefly about connections to The Circuit Paul Gordon discussed the current status of the 3.6 mile Upper Bucks Rail Trail, which when completed will connect Quakertown with the Saucon Rail Trail and the D&L Trail. The County has just begun design and engineering work on the trail
Despite the occasionally tense dialogue, the meeting ended with an applause and a sense of optimism in the room. Before the adjournment of the meeting Bike Bucks County Chair Ken Boyle asked everyone to sign the petition asking the County Commissioners to implement the Bucks County Bicycle Master Plan.