Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell joined other state, county, and local officials on March 27 to announce improvements to the Capital Area Greenbelt, a 20-mile loop trail through and around Harrisburg.

“We are celebrating the importance of working in partnership with neighboring municipalities, and pulling together resources from multiple state and local funding sources – all as part of significant investment in a public park and trail infrastructure,” said Adams Dunn. “This is an extraordinary cooperative venture among volunteers, five municipalities, the county, and multiple state agencies to bring a 100-year-old trail up to modern standards to connect communities, lessen the burden on area roads, attract tourists, and make for a healthier and happier public.”

“These projects are an example of one of my goals for DEP: leaving Pennsylvania a better place than when we found it, and the improvements along the Capital Greenbelt are just one example of how we’re meeting this goal,” said McDonnell. “When these projects are completed there will be walkable and rideable trails alongside a restored wetland and stream ecosystem.”

The improvement project, supported by more than $6 million in state funding, will help connect communities, reduce stream erosion issues, create a safer trail, and make for a healthier environment.

The groundbreaking addressed four major projects along the Greenbelt: safety and accessibility improvements will be made to six intersections; development of two miles of riverside trail connecting Dauphin County’s Wildwood Park with Fort Hunter Park, including a Linglestown Road underpass; restoration of over 700 feet of stream bank along the Paxtang Parkway; and repaving of deteriorating greenbelt sections.

State investments in the Capital Area Greenbelt over the years include over $5 million from the Department of Transportation; $980,000 from DCNR; over $500,000 from DEP; and over $200,000 from the Department of Community and Economic Development.

DCNR investments in 2014 and 2016 were for rehabilitation of 1.3 miles of trail at four locations; construction of safety improvements at seven intersections; trail realignment; traffic signal upgrades; pedestrian refuge islands; curbing; sidewalk improvements; ADA access; landscaping; signage; and other related improvements. Streambank and wetlands improvements were made possible through Growing Greener grants through the DEP Environmental Stewardship Fund.

Addressing the gathering off Route 441 in Swatara Township, Dunn told of the formative role the late Mira Lloyd Dock, a Harrisburg resident and environmental activist, played as her vision of “The Trail” began to take shape in the early 1900s.

“This groundbreaking celebrates investments by four major state agencies to enhance the Capital Area Greenbelt and continue the vision of Mira Lloyd Dock,” Dunn said. “DCNR is proud to support the hard-working volunteers of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association in their over 25-year effort to restore and make safe a trail that connects communities and institutions; helps keep people healthy and happy; and provides alternative forms of transportation through walking and biking.”

The trail includes dedicated paved and gravel paths for bikers, walkers and non-motorized activities, and on-road sections. It is maintained by the Capital Area Greenbelt Association, a non-profit organization of volunteers, that works with host municipalities to promote alternative forms of transportation.

The project transverses through five municipalities, and their cooperation and support was imperative to its success, supporters say. Cited were the Dauphin County Commissioners; Capital Area Greenbelt Association members; Susquehanna and Swatara townships; Pennbrook and Paxtang boroughs; the City of Harrisburg; and the public.