The path to a trail: Feasibility study approved for potential 5-mile multi-use trail

James Boyle, the Wire

The Bucks County Commissioners unanimously approved last week the use of a feasibility study to guide the construction of a trail that would connect parts of Middletown, Bensalem, Langhorne, Lower Southampton and Northampton.

The five-mile Lower Neshaminy Creek Greenway nature path would run from Core Creek Park to the Neshaminy-Falls train station, with costs of more than $4 million to design and build, according to estimates announced last September.

“Construction is still several years off,” said Paul Gordon of the Bucks County Planning Commission, who presented the feasibility study last Wednesday. “This is the first of three components. Next is design and engineering, followed by actually building the trail.”

One of the biggest challenges is acquiring the various easements and property rights for parcels throughout the municipalities, said Gordon. There’s also the matter of the individual townships coming up with funding for future maintenance and upkeep.

The lands within the corridor are owned by a variety of landowners. Between Core Creek Park and Playwicki Park, for example, the land along the north side of the creek in Northampton Township is a combination of privately held property and county parkland, and property owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad to the south in Langhorne Borough and Middletown Township.

Between Playwicki Park and Brownsville Road, lands along the east side of the creek in Middletown Township are a mixture of privately held property and county-owned property acquired via the Natural Resources Conservation Services flood buyout program, with the Woodlyn Crossing Home Owners Association owning the property along the west side of the creek in Lower Southampton Township.

The approval continues the county’s efforts to provide more infrastructure for residents eager to enjoy the outdoors. According to a survey included in the planning commission’s presentation, 65 percent of responders named trails as the type of recreational facilities Bucks County needs to create, followed closely by bike paths and lanes.

A one-year $65,070 contract with Doylestown-based Boucher & James was also approved by the commissioners. The firm will design and provide engineering services for an Upper Bucks Rail Trail, a 3.1-mile trail that starts at the border of Lehigh and Bucks counties and runs south to Veterans Park in Richland Township.

A combination of county money and more than $250,000 in grant funding provided significant support toward the goal of creating miles of recreational trails throughout Bucks. More than $100,000 in grants from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will fund design and engineering for the Upper Southampton segment of the Newtown Rail Trail.

“It’s hard to come by grants before the design phase,” said Gordon. “Organizations are hesitant to give money to projects that might not get developed.”

The 2.55-mile Upper Southampton leg will connect to Montgomery County’s Pennypack trail and work its way up to Bristol Road, repurposing the former SEPTA Newtown R8 line into a multi-use path for pedestrians and bikes. The cost of the entire, 8.4 mile-trail reaching into Newtown Borough would cost approximately $4.8 million, according to recent estimates.

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