The York County Heritage Rail Trail will soon be knocking on York City's northern door.

Phase three of a project that began in 1999 can move forward with a grant worth $157,500 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural

Resources, which was the subject of a Thursday morning press conference hosted by state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City.

Last year, York County commissioners committed $150,000 to the rail trail's third phase from the county's share of a Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee.

Another $12,500 from private donors will round out the cost of building a 10-foot-wide trail, about seven-tenths of a mile in length, from a Route 30 bridge across the Codorus Creek to York City School District's Small Athletic Field off North George Street.

"It brings us right to the doorway of the City of York, where we're really situated then to make the connection," said Gwen Loose, executive director of the York County Rail Trail Authority.

That connection is phase four, which will close the gap between the athletic field and the Philadelphia Street trail head in the city - ultimately creating a complete trail of nearly 27 miles from the Maryland line to the Northern Extension's terminus at John C. Rudy County Park.

It's a bit early for a phase-four timetable, but engineering could start next year, Loose said.

First, there's fundraising.

"If we're able to do it the way we would like to do it, to really make it a showcase for the City of York, I know we're talking about at least a million dollars," Loose said.

That's because the urban section of the trail will likely feature a wider path and include more amenities than other sections of the trail.

"Trails take on a different feel when you come into an urban setting," Loose said.

Hikers and bikers "enjoy being out in the country, but when they come into the city, they want more directional signage," she said.

Benches, lighting and kiosks are also possibilities.

Engineering on phase three will begin soon, and construction is tentatively scheduled to begin before the end of the year, Loose said.

If all goes as planned, phase three could be complete by the end of 2015, she said.

The work will include the construction of a ramp on the southwest corner of the Route 30 bridge, improvements to a connector path from the trail to the North York Borough Park and a bridge over Willis Run.

The trail - which could be gravel or macadam - will be laid on earthen levees that follow the creek through Manchester Township and North York, Loose said.

- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.