DCNR and multiple Lancaster County partners recently helped to celebrate the opening of the final section of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail.  Often called the “Northwest River Trail,” this 14-mile, shared-use trail spans five municipalities in northwestern Lancaster County along the Susquehanna River.

“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,” DCNR Deputy Secretary Mike 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.

Long-distance trails like this one don’t just happen. Completing the project took decades, and vision, perseverance, and passion on the part of many partners. The Northwest River Trail has been a 20-year partnership between Lancaster County, the municipalities, DCNR, and the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.

“Don’t tell us something can’t be done,” said Conoy Township Supervisor Stephen Mohr at the opening celebration. “Let’s figure how it can be done. And that is what we have done.”

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.

Even though the trail is complete, the work is never really done. There are plans for additional enhancements and amenities along the trail. Planners are also looking to connect it to neighboring trails.

This interconnected trail system is a major goal of Pennsylvania’s Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan. Such a trail system benefits Pennsylvanians by reaching more communities, increasing quality of life, allowing long distance travel, and creating economic development opportunities.