Due to a short timeframe in seeking funding for the first phase of the proposed Shoups Run Branch H&BT Rail Trail, members of an ad hoc committee agreed last Wednesday morning to revamp its strategy.
Meeting in the Saxton Borough chambers, members of the planning committee reviewed several options with Brandon Diehl of Earth Wise Consulting, Saxton, about what steps are needed to proceed with the proposed rail-trail project. Leading the discussion were Alan Smith, ad hoc committee chairman and borough council president Lester Meck.
Because the deadlines for submitting funding applications to Huntingdon County’s Act 13 funding program and the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission’s mini-grant program are at hand, the committee will seek funding during for the next round of applications. In the meantime, the committee will work with Diehl in the search for other funding sources including PennDOT’s Intermodal funding program and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
Diehl stressed that matching funds will be required for most funding programs and agreed to will investigate other funding sources. With more time to seek backing the committee will map out its options and rail-trail development planning.
Much of last Wednesday’s formulating session focused on interconnecting with several local and regional rail systems and Broad Top area heritage sites. The committee members agreed that offering visitors and trail users an abundance of “things to do” around the Broad Top would help sustain the rail-trail project.
Some examples include the crowd-drawing Raystown Lake, the Mid-State Trail which follows the ridges of Tussey Mountain, Terrace Mountain Trail which boarders the eastern side of the 30-mile long Raystown Lake Recreational Area; Warriors Path and Trough Creek state parks and several heritage sites located in the tri-county Broad Top area.
With ongoing East Broad Top Railroad preservation activities taking place at Robertsdale the committee will also study the possibility of linking the Shoups Run H&BT Rail Trail with the EBT and Robertsdale heritage sites maintained by the Friends of the EBT and the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Historical Society.
Historically speaking, the H&BT and EBT railroads never actually made a physical connection at Broad Top City due to geographical limitations (the “city” is located at the top of Broad Top Mountain) although coal and railroad investors often studied the idea.
The rail-trail committee sees potential in “historically” linking the eastern and western sides of Broad Top Mountain which could serve as a plus in advancing the Shoups Run proposal.
The committee also plans to meet with Carbon and Hopewell township supervisors in Huntingdon County and Liberty Township supervisors in Bedford County to solicit support and involvement in the rail-trail project.
Already, the committee is working with the Bedford County municipality of Broad Top Township which successfully completed the H&BT Rail Trail between Tatesville and “Red Cut,” just north of Riddlesburg, with hopes of utilizing Mackin Engineers & Consultants of Pittsburgh to prepare an initial study necessary to secure state funding for future rail-trail construction (the Pittsburgh firm put together Broad Top Township’s required studies).
The Broad Top Township supervisors continue their negotiations with several private property owners to secure a short stretch of original H&BT Railroad right of way from “Red Cut” to the Warriors Path State Park.
The proposed initial phase of the Shoups Run H&BT Rail Trail project involves a 2.5 mile stretch of original right of way between East Saxton and Middletown, Carbon Township.
Plans include proposed development of shared roadway and railroad right of way from Middletown to the Dudley area as well as an extension of the route through Saxton to connect with the former H&BT right of way which now serves as an access road into Warriors Path State Park.