CUMBERLAND — The Pennsy Trail will undergo a small but important expansion this spring in a move that will mean easier access for hiking and biking enthusiasts.
The trail will be extended 0.3 miles to the east, completing the trail to CR 600W.
The three-mile path was constructed mostly in 2010. It now stops just shy of CR 600W because of a right-of-way acquisition snag officials ran into at the time. That has resulted in inconvenience for Hancock County residents who live west of the trail: Without a trailhead and parking lot at its eastern terminus, they have had to drive all the way to Cumberland to park and access the trail.
Andrew Klinger, town manager, said land acquisition and grant money finally came together in order for ground to be broken as early as next month.
“The contractor wants to get going in March,” Klinger said. “My guess would be within 60 days, you’ll see fairly substantial completion.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of the project, Klinger added, is the new trailhead. It will be on the south side of the trail just off CR 600W.
“There will be some benches and, the most important thing, there will be a parking area and some informational signage, so folks will be able to pull in there and park and get on the trail at that spot,” he said.
The trailhead will include 12 parking spaces, said town planner Christine Owens.
The project – called the Phase 2 of the Cumberland trail – was funded mostly by a state transportation enhancement grant, at $193,500, Owens said. The town paid $93,053, with about half of that for construction. The remaining town match is going to engineering and inspection.
Meanwhile, a committee of local trail enthusiasts is still hoping for a much larger Pennsy Trail connection project to come to fruition. The Sugar Creek Pennsy Trail Committee held a public informational meeting last month on plans to connect the 4.5-mile gap between Cumberland and Greenfield. How to pay for the $7.2 million project is not yet known; county commissioners will likely soon discuss whether to bring the concept to a public referendum through a countywide bond project.
As the connection between Cumberland and Greenfield is still up in the air, Cumberland town officials are still hoping to extend their own trail system. An entirely new trail is in the works: The Buck Creek Trail, planned for past five years, would run north and south through the community, connecting several neighborhoods to the trail and ultimately to the Pennsy.
Klinger said engineering design of the Buck Creek Trail is in its finishing stages, at which point town officials would begin talking with land owners on right-of-way acquisition this year. When construction could begin is uncertain.
While both the Pennsy connection to Greenfield and the new Buck Creek Trail are in flux, Klinger said at least for now Cumberland officials are looking forward to this spring’s construction of the short connection to CR 600W.
He said while most of the project should be completed this spring in time for summer activities along the trail, the town could add some finishing touches added later in the year. Landscaping around the new portion of the trail could be added this fall.