Thursday, January 04, 2007

New trail in Easton could be available this spring

The recreation path proposed with the Bushkill Creek Corridor project in Easton could be accessible to the public as early as this spring with the city's recent purchase of 11 acres from Norfolk Southern Railway Corp.

City Council approved the $130,000 purchase last week.

For the Easton Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the $50 million to $60 million initiative, it's another major hurdle in acquiring key properties.

''We're excited about it,'' said Executive Director Barbara Kowitz, who also is head of the city's Planning and Economic Development Department. ''We think the trail can happen as soon as we control all of the land.''

Norfolk Southern's abandoned rail bed is located mostly on the south side of Bushkill Creek and stretches nearly the entire length of the corridor from N. 13th to N. Third streets.

The city already obtained easements from Met-Ed for small sections of the trail and acquired land for the trail head at N. 13th when the authority bought the former Simon Silk Mill property for $2.5 million.

The last remaining parcels needed to complete the recreation trail link between the redevelopment sites on N. 13th and N. Third streets are owned owned by the Easton Cemetery Association.

Kowitz said the city is negotiating to either purchase or obtain easements for land as well as use of the bridge off Bushkill Drive. Although the public already uses the bridge to access trails throughout the cemetery, Kowitz said the city is trying to obtain official use so the trail can be further developed with interpretative signs and other amenities.

The state awarded a $9 million grant to the city for the entire project, and the city divided up the money equally among the trail, the silk mill site and Lafayette College's downtown properties on N. Third Street.

In addition to the silk mill, the authority purchased an adjacent warehouse for $950,000 and has identified several other parcels it would like to acquire. But it has already spent its $3 million share.

The Delaware & Lehigh Canal National Heritage Corridor is overseeing the trail development.

Lafayette College used its own money to purchase nearly all of the properties in and around the 200 block of N. Third Street. Its investment in the downtown, which serves as an entrance to its campus, prompted Gov. Ed Rendell to award the unusually large grant. The college will be able to use its $3 million share on planning and development and renovations.

The college hopes to invigorate that area of the downtown with shops and restaurants to support student activities while the city authority is considering a mixture of residential, office, recreation and retail uses for N. 13th Street. The effort is expected to spur about $50 million in private investment.

More here.

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