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Regional trail system ‘at a stand-still’

(9/13) The future of a multi-jurisdictional Middle Creek area trail system has basically taken a turn for the worst after proponents have seemingly failed to illicit interest from potential host properties.

County Principal Planner Robert Thaeler told the Fairfield Borough Planning Commission at their September 9 meeting that efforts to progress the trail system as part of the Middle Creek Trail Feasibility Study is "at a stand-still" after two of the key properties involved declined participation.

One of the first objectives of the feasibility study had 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.

Of those, he told the planning commission, the Roth Farm representative said they were concerned a public trail would not be compatible with existing orchard operations, while members of the Camp Eder board of directors said they were not interested at this time."

Thaeler said attempts to contact representatives of the Luntz Farm remained unsuccessful to date.

He said the steering group, spearheaded by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, would have to decide "what, if anything, to do next (and) figure out of there is an alternative solution or idea."

The vision of an area trail system, which was the result of earlier, informal discussions among interested parties, began to pick up steam when Strawberry Hill 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 landscapes initiatives initially funded by DCNR."

However, the success of the venture depended significantly on the willingness of local private property owners to allow public right-of-ways on their land as part of the trail system.

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