CUMBERLAND — The construction barricades are still up, but the newest section of the Pennsy Trail is already getting plenty of use from hikers and cyclists.
A work crew is wrapping up work on the 0.3-mile extension to the trail on the eastern end of the Cumberland section. The work added a trailhead with parking spaces off CR 600W just south of U.S. 40.
Cumberland’s three-mile path was constructed mostly in 2010, but it stopped about 1,500 feet west of CR 600W because of a problem with right-of-way acquisition. That resulted in an inconvenience for Hancock County residents who live east of the trail: without a trailhead and parking lot, they have had to drive all the way to Cumberland to park and access the trail.
For Sugar Creek Township resident Larry Lindley, the new trailhead constructed this summer adds convenience.
“For me, it’s a lot handier,” said Lindley, a bicyclist. “It’s a mile closer than going over to 700W, which was my closest access point before. I think it does that for a lot of people in Hancock County. It gets the trail closer to them, really by a mile.”
Lindley, like many cyclists, has been on the newest portion of the trail several times, even though construction is not officially complete. Barricades still line the entrance, and equipment is still in place. Andrew Klinger, Cumberland town manager, said a few finishing touches need to be added, but the steady flow of people checking out the new trailhead is a testament to the popularity of the trail.
The new trailhead includes 12 parking spots and a bench. Yet to be added to the trail, Klinger said, are mile-marker signs and landscaping. Construction began in the spring, and rain in June slowed down progress slightly.
While most of the work should be completed in the next two weeks, Klinger said, some of the landscaping will be added in the fall.
The project – called Phase 2 of the Cumberland trail – was funded mostly by a state transportation enhancement grant, at $193,500. The town paid $93,053, with about half of that for construction. The remaining town match is going to engineering and inspection.
Meanwhile, trail advocates are still hoping for an even bigger extension of the Pennsy Trail and to one day connect the Cumberland portion all the way to the Greenfield trail.
Filling in the 4.5-mile gap between the two trails, would cost an estimated $7.2 million in construction and land costs, according to the latest studies.
County officials have shied away from putting the concept before the public through a referendum. Lindley, head of the former Sugar Creek Pennsy Trail Committee, said a new group has formed to look instead at grants or other funding opportunities.
Lindley said the group, called Friends of the Hancock County Pennsy Trails, has many of the members from the former Sugar Creek committee. The organization will seek ways to connect the trails, he said.
Member Ellen Kuker, director of the Greenfield Parks Department, said the new organization will spend the next several months organizing and brainstorming ways to get funding to connect the trails, but the interest so far in the new trailhead at CR 600W is a good indicator of community support.
“The use that the trail is getting should speak volumes to what a connection will mean to our community,” Kuker said.
Meanwhile, more pedestrian paths are also in the works for the town of Cumberland. Plans call for a new Buck Creek Trail to run north and south through the community, connecting several neighborhoods to the trail and ultimately to the Pennsy.
In the works for five years, Klinger said the town council will discuss a financing plan for the Buck Creek Trail next month.