Tears of joy and regret

First Posted: 9/15/2014

The first time Abby Peck saw completed sections of the Countryside Conservancy Trolley Trail tears rolled down her cheeks. They were tears of joy for the manifestation of dream of her mother, Roz, but also tears of regret her mom isn’t here to see it.

Abby said of her parents’ dream via an email interview, “Both my mom and dad were excited about the idea of having a multi-use, safe, car-free trail for the community to enjoy. Thanks to their vision and hard work and the dedication and persistent effort of the Conservancy, here it is.”

James K. Peck Jr. inherited the trolley line right-of-way from his father J.K. Peck, Sr. and his wife, Rosamond (Roz) was a principle founder of the Countryside Conservancy in 1994.

While the trail is still considered an active construction zone, come 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10 at the Church of the Epiphany, 25 Church St., Clarks Summit, the public is invited to join Peck, William Kern, Countryside Conservancy executive director, conservancy staff and board members, dignitaries, funders and Ellen Ferretti, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Light refreshments at the church and a trail walk will follow.

According to Peck, a plan for the multi-use trail has been percolating since 1999 when the conservancy received its first forestry grant to begin the trolley trail project conceived to turn the abandoned right-of-way of the Northern Electric Railway into a non-motorized recreational trail.

“The long, complex task of putting the trail pieces together has been marching on, including feasibility studies, engineering reports, surveys, title searches, land-owner negotiations, fund-raising, easement purchases, grant writing, more grant writing, then assembling a bid proposal, the bidding process, commencement of trail construction, numerous glitches and funding short-falls, and finally, the completion of the first three miles of handicapped accessible trail for all to enjoy,” said Peck.

The Northern Electric Street Railway operated an interurban trolley line between Scranton, Lake Winola and Montrose from 1908 to 1932 and the conservancy is working to turn a 14-mile section of the right-of-way into a non-motorized recreational trail to connect Clarks Summit, Glenburn, Dalton, La Plume, Factoryville and, eventually, Lake Winola.

Work on the three-mile stretch that includes segments at the intersection of Old State Road and Routes 6/11 to Arch Avenue, Ackerly Road to Waverly Road, use of Pine Tree Drive and Church Hill Road to South Turnpike Road began in mid-March.

Tim Wilson TPW Design Studios created the drawings, master site and final construction plans and Rutledge Excavating was the construction contractor.

Primary funding received for the project from sources, including Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Overlook Estate Foundation, Scranton Area Foundation, Frieder Foundation and Lackawanna County Community Re-Invest Program, allowed for the construction costs associated with grooming, fixing drainage issues, parking for 10 vehicles, benches, interpretive signage and various safety features. A 290-ft. raised boardwalk was also constructed to get trail users from the end of the trail into Dalton.

“The growth took over last year and made almost impassable in some areas with greater undulations,” Kern said. “Because of the grades, it wasn’t ADA accessible. We wanted to make that commitment to having the trail accessible to as many people as possible. Another challenge of the project was pre-existing erosion and runoff problems. There was a pretty bad washout and we came up with a neat solution.”

An additional $19,000 was also spent for the construction of a connector trail from Ackerly Road to the Little League fields (Ackerly Complex, 140 Ackerly Road, Clarks Summit).

“We really wanted to connect trail users down to the Little League fields from the trailhead here, without having to use the shoulder of Ackerly Road and to give the trail a better flow,” he said. “When all is said and done, it (the project) represents more than a million dollar investment in the community between design, construction, permitting and acquisition. It’s easily a million dollar investment.”

With Phase I of the trolley trail almost completed and ready for the public to enjoy year-round access, Kern is confident the three-mile trail will be utilized for a variety of purposes and outdoor activities.

“People have been thinking it has been open for a while now, which just goes to show how eager people are to get onto it (the trail),” he noted.” There are a lot of people that live near. It’s a nice safe corridor to enjoy the community.

“It’s bringing the conservancy to people,” he added. “We are a land trust and committed to preserving land and water and to the greatest extent possible making it open to the public. A project like this right through the Abingtons, through all these neighborhoods is kind of a mix of what we do. It’s also getting people off the roads and out into the woods.”

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