Rail to Trail Project on Back Burner for Township
The Board of Supervisors decided to hold off on pursuing a Rail to Trail project in Northampton Township.
The Board of Supervisors are holding off on pursuing a Rail to Trail project in Northampton Township after hearing public comment from residents and people from neighboring communities at Wednesday night's meeting.
The supervisors were considering passing a motion to contact SEPTA to see what the transportation authority's plans were for the rail.
"This is not a commitment to build a trail tomorrow," Township Supervisor James Cunningham said. "The motion tonight is to inquire to SEPTA about their plans for the rail and the feasibility of creating a multi-use trail."
But after hearing the mixed feelings over the possibility of pursuing the trail project, the board decided now is not the time to proceed.
"I think it is important to go to abutting homeowners and get a consensus from them...and talk to parks and rec...before making a motion," Chairman Frank Rothermal said.
The other supervisors echoed this decision, and sited money as another reason to hold off.
"Cut to the chase. We don't need to send a letter to SEPTA. They are not going to reactivate the line. Now you come down to dollars and cents," Supervisor George Komelasky said.
He added that residents have told him about potholes in the streets and other problems in the township. So before the board decides to move forward, Komelasky wants "to use that money to start paving roads" and fix other issues in Northampton.
Additionally, Komelasky said that in the past members of the community have said that they don't want to make the rail into a trail.
"Overwhelming, the residents of Northampton have said, 'No, thank you. We're not interested,' " he said. "I think it is a mistake to start stirring it up. The answer has already been told to us before."
Out of all of the public comment, the majority of the people who spoke were in favor of the Rail to Trail project, while eight were opposed to the idea. However, of the 12 supporters, five live in Northampton Township, while the others were former residents or people from neighboring communities.
Some of the opponents think that a trail would bring more crime into the area.
One resident who has lived in Northampton since 1962 said that opening up the rails as trails is making "the opportunity to create havoc" and is "inviting more problems for residents living near these trails."
While others said that increased crime shouldn't be a concern.
Churchville resident Joanne Klempner said that other rail lines that have been converted are beautiful and are not ridden with criminals.
"It's not full of trash or crazy people who want to break in your house," she said.
She also said that adding a trail would make the community "one step closer to desirability."
Other residents' concerns for not wanting a trail were that of safety, cost and upkeep, while those in favor expressed hope for more walking and biking trails, a safer and easier commute and better connectivity to neighboring areas.
Rothermel asked the Rails to Trails group to not take the board's decision to hold off on the project personally, and said that when the supervisors are ready to explore the idea again, the homeowners that will most be affected will be involved in the process.
The idea of converting old SEPTA rail tracks, which span four and a half miles across the township, was first mentioned at a supervisors meeting in July, Though Wednesday, Sept. 19 was the first time the topic was on the agenda.
Editor's Note: For the purpose of this article, three speakers from the community and neighboring towns spoke about preserving the rail more so than leaving it as is or converting it as a trail, so their comments were neither considered for or against the project.