Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Deputy Secretary Mike Walsh helped cut the ribbon on the final section of the 14-mile Northwest River Trail that spans five municipalities in Lancaster County.
DCNR supported the project with more than $3-million in Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants.
“Trails connect places. They connect people to the outdoors. They bring visitors to communities to help keep economies vibrant, and in the case of the Northwest River Trail also connect people to the river,” Walsh said. “So, it’s a great day when we can celebrate a trail being complete, moving us closer to our goal of a trail within 10 minutes of every Pennsylvanian.”
The Northwest River Trail provides access to the Susquehanna River Water Trail for both walking, pedal, and paddle opportunities. It links the rivertowns and villages of Marietta, Wrightsville, Columbia, Bainbridge, and Falmouth, and provides wayfinding signage to users identifying local businesses in these communities.
Completing the project took decades, and vision, perseverance, and passion on the part of many partners.
“Don’t tell us something can’t be done. Let’s figure how it can be done. And that is what we have done,” said Conoy Township Supervisor Stephen Mohr.
Development of the trail has led to significant reinvestment in local businesses and creation of new businesses that support outdoor recreation.
“We started our outfitting business in Columbia because we bought into the vision of local leaders that the river is a resource that should be protected yet capitalized on to bring people to town and expand the economy through ecotourism,” said Jim Cox, owner of Chiques Rock Outfitters in Marietta.
The trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal and uses some of the original towpath that remains along the corridor. Along the trail are numerous industrial archaeological remains such as abandoned canal locks; the iron furnaces at Chickies Rock; and the old quarry operation at Billmeyer.
The Northwest River Trail is located in the Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape and the Susquehanna National Heritage Area. It also lies in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.