2018-05-12 / Front Page

Coudersport trail study launches

Four years have passed since Cou­dersport Borough Council approved a plan to establish the Tom Leete Nature Trail on the former railroad grade behind the community swimming pool. Last week, members of a committee working to make the vision a reality held a planning meeting with an engineering consul­tant to keep the ball rolling.

Jeff Ream of Empo­rium has been contracted through a $12,500 Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources grant to create a master plan for the future of the trail, which ex­tends from the pool to Rt. 872 on Coudersport’s east­ern border. Ream came highly recommended after he designed the popular West Creek Recreation Trail on an abandoned railroad grade in Cameron County.

The two-mile passage­way has been open to pub­lic use for decades, but it has rarely been maintained. Motorized vehicles have run roughshod on the path, creating deep ruts and mud pits. A crazy quilt of owner­ship and rights-of-way has complicated any effort to control the damage and maintain the trail, let alone create a management plan. Coudersport Borough, UGI Utilities and multiple indi­viduals or estates are rights owners.

Springs and surface water run-off are washing away large sections of the surface and filling the crev­ices created by all-terrain vehicles, motorbikes and even pickup trucks and Jeeps.

Drainage improvements are among the top priori­ties. Placement of educa­tional signs, benches and powered telephones with 911 access are also on the drawing board, as is making the trail handicapped- accessible.

Planners are also looking to link the trail with a broader hiking network.

Tom Leete, who died in 2014, was an avid outdoorsman and forest land man­ager. He recognized that the walkway could provide not only recreation, but also visible lessons about the diversity of tree and plant spe­cies; forest manage­ment; the Allegheny River headwaters; as well as local history (the rise and fall of the railroads; Coud­ersport’s connection to the world-famous Fenton Glass manu­facturer, and more).

In approving the planning grant, DCNR acknowl­edged the trail’s potential to bring lasting recreational, educational and economic benefits to the community.

Coudersport Rotary Club is still accepting donations to support the trail’s development. They can be sent to Cou­dersport Trail, c/o Northwest Savings Bank, 302 N. East St., Coudersport PA 16915.

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