On June 12, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other state officials joined Delware and Lehigh Trail and local representatives in dedicating the long-awaited new Mansion House Bridge, spanning the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe.
Funded by DCNR and the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the bridge is a key component in completion of the trail that stretches more than 60 miles from Bristol north to Wilkes-Barre.
“A major goal of DCNR is to close gaps in major trails across the state, and it heartens me to note the Mansion House Bridge is the first to do just that,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Gov. Wolf often speaks of ‘government that works,’ and represented here is the coordinated efforts of DCNR and other departments, all working together to coordinate funding decisions and share priorities for trail projects to distribute the state’s resources most effectively and efficiently.”
The Mansion House Bridge, so named for the original span that once stood not far downstream from the new bridge, is owned by Carbon County and the bridge-trail project is managed by Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The span eventually will connect 57 miles of continuous trail linking Carbon County to the Lehigh Valley.
“The Mansion House Pedestrian Bridge is a $3.3 million investment in the environment and economy of northeastern Pennsylvania. It has taken decades of both vision and perseverance to complete this project, which is one of the largest and most significant projects on the 165-mile stretch of the D&L Trail,” said state Sen. John Yudichak, who is hiking the entire trail this spring and summer. “I commend the collaboration of state and local officials getting together to invest in the Delaware and Lehigh National Corridor, which is one of the greatest assets to the people and businesses of northeastern Pennsylvania.”
DCNR provided funds totaling $342,000 to the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Area for design and engineering of the bridge. DCNR’s investment in construction of the 165-mile D&L Trail approaches $11 million.
PennDOT invested federal Transportation Alternatives Program funds into this project. The department has invested more than $8.5 million total in bridge and trail improvements along the D&L Trail from Easton to Lehigh Gorge State Park.
“Working with DCNR and other partners on projects like this one can only strengthen our communities,” said PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Planning Jim Ritzman. “And the 300 cyclists coming from over 30 states are just one example of the contribution to the local economy as well.”
The bridge will provide a continuous connection from the Black Diamond Trailhead in Glen Summit through White Haven, Luzerne County; then through Lehigh Gorge State Park, Jim Thorpe, Weissport, Lehighton, and Slatington, Carbon County; to Cementon, Lehigh County. About 58 miles are connected.
“It has been a long uphill climb to get to where we are today, but it was well worth it,” said Carbon County Commissioners Chair Wayne Nothstein. “Tourists will not be the only ones to enjoy using the bridge, residents have also come to appreciate and be proud of the beautiful scenery we have in our county. Every resident in Carbon County lives within five minutes of access to a trail. The health benefits of getting out and walking or biking on our trails adds to the quality of life our residents have come to expect.”
Secretary Dunn noted a primary goal of her department is to provide a trail within 15 minutes’ travel of all Pennsylvanians. Closing priority gaps in existing trails helps achieve this, she said.
Dunn said an Outdoor Industry Association study recently found Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation industry is the fifth largest in the nation. Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy generates $29 billion in consumer spending; $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue; $8.6 billion in wages and salaries; and sustains 251,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs.