Pros, cons of Pennsy Trail connector discussed


Doug Schildmier (right) spoke with trail advocate Mary Ann Wietbrock and representatives from First Group Engineering Thursday about a proposed map that would connect the Pennsy Trail from Cumberland to Greenfield. Schildmier owns farm land along the proposed route and says the trail should go farther south to benefit more neighborhoods in the Gem area. (Maribeth Vaughn/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Reaction was mixed Thursday during a lively discussion about whether to connect the Pennsy Trail between Greenfield and Cumberland.

An informational meeting gave the public a glimpse of a trail that would bridge the 4.5-mile gap between the two communities. If constructed, there would be 13.5 total miles of contiguous trail in Hancock County just south of U.S. 40.

For proponents, the roughly $7.2 million project makes sense for the health and quality of life of local residents. But opponents – many of them property owners who worry their land will be taken through eminent domain – say it’s just too expensive and could bring crime and vandalism into their rural neighborhoods.

“I’d like to know how many people want this trail to go through the middle of their back yard,” said Doug Schildmier, who owns agricultural land between CRs 500W and 600W south of U.S. 40.

The old Pennsylvania Railroad bed just south of U.S. 40 has already been turned into a hiking and biking trail in two stretches: about six miles in Greenfield and three miles in Cumberland. The 4.5-mile stretch between CRs 150W and 600W is currently unpaved and in the hands of private landowners.

For the past two years, a group of advocates – the Sugar Creek Pennsy Trail Committee – has discussed how to bridge the gap and whether to apply for federal grant funds. But Hancock County Commissioner Brad Armstrong said grants will take too long, and a better way to gauge how the community feels about the project is to put a bond issue to a public vote.

A $30,000 study was done to create a possible alignment plan, and Thursday’s meeting presented findings from that study.

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