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Rail trail reopens after improvement project

John Joyce
505-5432/@JohnJoyceYD
  • City officials celebrated the reopening of the York County Heritage Trail with a ribbon cutting Thursday.
  • York City Mayor Kim Bracey said the trail improvements bridge economic development with enhanced quality of life for city dwellers.

Dignitaries and community members came together Thursday to celebrate the conclusion of a five-month, $1.1 million enhancement project for the York County Heritage Rail Trail.

Mayor Kim Bracey and representatives from Downtown Inc, York College,  the York City Department of Public Works and other civic organizations and funding partners assembled for a ribbon-cutting at the West Princess Street portion of the trail. The group, accompanied by community residents and representatives from the college, then walked along the trail to a reception at the college's Northside Commons, where the trail meets the campus.

State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, attended a 9 a.m. news conference in the lobby of the Agricultural and Industrial Museum on West Princess Street that preceded the ribbon-cutting. Schreiber hosts the annual York College freshman class orientation walking tour, which takes the trail from the commons into downtown to encourage participation between the students and the city and highlights the beneficial uses of the trail.

"As a longtime city resident, my wife Jen and I travel the trail often with our dog, Lucy," Schreiber said in a prepared statement. "I was an early advocate for promoting the trail as a main artery through downtown York."

Ribbon-cutting attendees walk the newly blacktopped York County Heritage Rail Trail near Princess Street following its post-reconstruction reopening ceremony in York City, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Improvements: City Public Works Director Jim Gross and his department managed the project on the city's behalf, contracting out much of the grading and paving that went into enhancing the trail, along with stormwater management improvements and the addition of more than 100 LED light fixtures. Gross said he was very pleased with the way the project turned out.

"I think it worked out well," Gross said.

Following a few brief comments from the mayor and college representatives, the guests assembled inside the museum made their way outdoors past an ongoing bridge reconstruction project — replacing the Princess Street bridge over the Codorus Creek — to the ribbon-cutting under the shade-giving trees along the rail trail.

Everyone who had a hand in financing or completing the project was ushered behind the ribbon for the photo opportunity. After the cascade of camera flashes subsided, Bracey took a moment to speak, as a lifelong York resident rather than as mayor, about what the trail means for the community.

Clark Evanitus of Manchester Township bikes on the newly blacktopped York County Heritage Rail Trail near Princess Street following the 1.4-mile section's post-reconstruction reopening in York City, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Resident Bracey: "Being from here, I am always forgetting to mention, because I know there is a lot to do here, that there are always things to do in York. The project makes the connector clear for people to get on it and travel downtown for all the things there are to do," Bracey said.

She thanked the college for its partnership and the community for its patience.

"You don't know how many complaints I got from folks who were like, 'This is a lot of noise,'" Bracey said. The complaints were mainly about the bridge replacement efforts, she added.

"They said, 'Mayor, you closed the trail, you closed the bridge, what's going on?' But I told them things are happening in their community and they would be excited when it's all over. And at the end of the day, community development takes a little time, it takes us all going in the same direction and working toward a common effort."

— Reach John Joyce atjjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.