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County looking at regional trail system

Richard D. L. Fulton

(7/16) The Adams County Office of Planning & Development is working with several area partners assessing the feasibility for a trail system in the Fairfield Borough area.

The project, referred to as the Middle Creek Trail Feasibility Study, would be predominantly contained within Hamiltonban Township, but could also include Fairfield Borough, and would ultimately tie-in to Michaux State Forest.

Michaux State Forest is, itself, administered by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

County Principal Planner Robert Thaeler told the News-Journal July 11 that evaluating the possibility of a multi-jurisdictional trail system is still in the early planning stages, with nothing "written in stone" at this point in time.

"What prompted this," Thaeler said, "was the conveyance of what use to be the (Glatfelter) tree farm and possible public recreational use of that new land." Another factor which led to considering a trail system was Hamiltonban’s proposal to create a "small municipal park."

"There was some very early informal discussions on how that (a regional trail system) might work," he stated. "There was sort of thinking back and forth that it would be interesting if we could facilitate trails through Camp Eder, Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, and the state park (Michaux State Forest), and ultimately to the Appalachia Trail."

The vision began to pick up steam when Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve Executive Director Chuck Reid "ended-up partnering with Hamitlonban, Camp Eder, Michaux, county planning, and others" to pursue work on creating a trail complex concept.

As a result, the consortium was able to obtain a grant from the South Mount Partnership to initiate a Middle Creek Trail Feasibility Study for the proposed trail system. The partnership has a small amount of grant funds they award on an annual basis," Thaeler said, who described the partnership as "one of seven conservation landscape initiatives initially funded by DCNR."

One of the first objectives has been to contact "four big property owners" in the Fairfield area to see if they would be open to having trails cross their respective properties.

Thaeler identified the four properties of interest as Camp Eder, the Roth Farm, and the Luntz Farm in Hamiltonban Township, and the Polley Farm in Fairfield Borough.

To date, the county has met with representatives of Camp Eder, and the Roth and Polley farms, but had been unable to contact representatives of the Luntz Farm.

As for the three that have been contacted and/or met with (a meeting with Camp Eder representatives will occur at a later date), Thaeler said the county "had a good conversation with them, showing them the work we had done (regarding developing a possible trail system)."

As to the current status of the Middle Creek Trail Feasibility Study, Thaeler stated, "I know we’ll be exploring a couple of other locations (properties). We’re still doing some field work and coordinating with property owners to see if they are comfortable or not (with a portion of the trail system on their land)."

"It’s too early in the process to say with any degree of certainty whether or not this will turn out," the planner said. "Ultimately we would need cooperation of all of them (property owners involved) to make sense for trail connectivity."

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