Fate of rail corridor trail rests with local residents

LANTZ CORNERS – Local residents need to step to the plate and coordinate efforts to develop a trail over the corridor for the defunct Knox and Kane Railroad.Without a local organization enthusiastically behind the proposal, the "Rails To Trails" concept won't happen.This is the message delivered Wednesday by state and county officials during a presentation at the Barrel House Restaurant at Lantz Corners.The Mt. Jewett Rotary Club hosted the forum.Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) Visitors Bureau, said the development of trails over the 70-mile rail corridor is in the hands of local residents."It's really what the residents want," she said.Adam Mattis, park and recreation adviser for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said local residents need to decide on the options for a trail system within the corridor.Although budgets are tight, Mattis claims "state money is available" for trail projects.But he said a "master plan" is needed before state funds are released for a trail project."We want what the community wants," Mattis said.Debbie Lunden, director of the McKean County Planning Commission, pointed out that a feasibility study for trails in the rail corridor was completed late year.A company known as Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT) prepared the study for the counties of McKean, Elk, Forest and Clarion. The rail corridor is within these counties.In the study, JMT identified Kane, Mt. Jewett, Marienville and Leeper as possible "trail towns" along the corridor.Meredith Hill, director of the Pennsylvania Wilds Program for the DCNR, said a trail over the rail corridor would bring more visitors to the area.She said there is a "tremendous economic value" by making more people aware of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The designated 13-county "Wilds" area of the state includes the entire rail corridor.Mattis said his office is ready and willing to help with planning and funding trails over the rail corridor "in this beautiful part of the state."See full article by purchasing the July 13 edition of The Kane Republican.