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 form 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.

John Scott September 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Chris, your meeting postings never provide a location, and to my knowledge, the location is never offered upon request. None of my emails with your group have ever been returned, that I can tell. Others have reported that your group does not reveal the meeting location unless the interested party provides their address. Ironic, isn't it, that you ask for identifying information of those interested, but hide your own. I hate to break the news to you, but DVRPC is taxpayer funded, so you ARE asking for tax dollars. Nice try though. If you are really just looking for an official statement from SEPTA, why don't you just ask them? Why involve a township that apparently none of you live in? Anyway, is Matthew a Northampton resident, or will he continue to deflect on that question?
Ashley VanSant September 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I'd like to hear Mr. Matthew answer the question too. I've tried to join and attend meetings, but every time I ask they demand I provide my home address, be a Southampton resident, and then threaten to have their lawyer contact me. From BOT "we have been advised by our attorney that any future correspondence with you be made directly through our attorney. We have forwarded your message to our attorney's office and should they feel appropriate, they will contact you directly."
Ashley VanSant September 24, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Are you BOT? This group is very covert, I wanted to join the group or at least attend a meeting, yet whoever it is that runs it always threatens to have a lawyer contact me. Who runs this group? Does Mr. Matthew live in Northampton as he said at the meeting or not? Is this project just a backdoor to building a Second Street Pike bypass? I haven't read any personal attacks on here against B.O.T., but I see multiple attempts by B.O.T. to deflect important questions of transparency. The fact remains, no one knows who you people are, and you are engaging in discriminatory behavior to those who want to be involved.
Build Our Trail September 24, 2012 at 08:18 PM
@Scott - You have never contacted our group...
John Scott September 24, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I sure have. I contacted Matthew, at the address above, and I contacted BOT several days ago for an article. Others have contacted your group, and apparently you require 1) an address and 2) Southampton residency. I'll let those others fill in the details. The irony - a group that requires Southampton residency, but goes to Northampton and claims they live there. Sure sounds like a secretive, shady group to me. Why would you need the address of people who want to attend your "public" meetings, including those of minors? What were you planning to do with these addresses? Anyway, still waiting to hear which township Matthew really lives in.
Build Our Trail September 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
What article? We have no emails from a "John Scott". Please resend your email at your convenience. Address and contact information is requested as we compile a contact list. We have held several workshops thus far and have had residents from Upper Southampton, Northampton, Newtown, and neighboring townships attend.
Ashley VanSant September 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Well I'm not sure why Jesseka is moderating my comments out, but BOT refused to allow me to attend the meeting until I gave my address. Every public meeting I've gone to has visitors sign in AFTER I arrive at the meeting. So to date, BOT has discriminated against me. And the question still remains unanswered, where does Matthew live? We still don't know who the mysterious BOT poster on this thread is, its the same murky responses I've gotten by e-mail. Northampton and Southampton Township residents beware: This group is up to no good, they've not fully disclosed who they are, their meetings are held in secret, and according to Mr. Scott's information, they are lying about their residency at official township meetings. On top of that, they discriminate.
John Scott September 24, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Let me guess - if I email you again, you'll say I was harassing you. Let's be adults here. Any word on Matthew's real residency? Or can we assume he misrepresented himself to the Northampton supervisors and move on? Next question - where were those meetings held? If they were indeed open to the public, I'm sure the location isn't a secret after the fact, is it? By the way, where are all the other messages going? I was notified of a few responses, and they're now gone.
Jesseka Kadylak (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I didn't moderate out your comment. Everyone is flagging everyone's comments, which eventually removes them from the site. I then have to manually add it back in. I don't have time to continue to do this multiple times a day, so I'll be doing it one time once I've finished my other scheduled assignments. I requested everyone play nice. Please stop flagging comments. You can rest assured that I WILL remove comments that go against our terms of use. So far, none of these comments have done so. Also, no one needs to say where they live or give full names. I'd love if everyone posted with their real name as I do, but people can post with first names, as Matthew does, or screen names, as The Truth does. Thank you all for engaging in this conversation.
the truth September 24, 2012 at 11:41 PM
jesseka k, I asked your position because it seems to slightly favor the trail.( ie: I asked cris w., two questions, he obviously favors the trail, but you chimed in and answered for him. In the name of civility we can agree to disagree over "feasability", "studies" & $60,000.00. let the readers decide for themselves by watching replay @northamptontownship.com. Additionaly, lets be truthful here, do you believe the trail photo at the top of this page is what the northampton trail would look like? Do you realize there is over 200 adjacent homes. Why are there no homes in this picture? and where are the fences that will be installed to protect the The home owners? In the name of truthfulness and fairness I ask you to remove the pics
John Scott September 24, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Hi Jesseka - thanks for restoring the comments. I won't reveal anyone's full name or address, and I won't ask Matthew again. Have the people flagging comments actually participated in this thread? If so, is it possible to post their screen names? The cover-up is as interesting as the crime sometimes. Matthew, as i mentioned, out of respect for other viewers, i won't badger you about your residency. However, if you were indeed the speaker the other night, your deflection and silence on your residency speaks for itself. If you did in fact deceive Northampton township, good luck next time. Any word on the time and LOCATION of the next trail meeting? It sounds like quite a few people here would like to attend.
the truth September 24, 2012 at 11:54 PM
cris w, In the name of civility we can agree to disagree over "feasability", "studies" & $60,000.00. let the readers decide for themselves by watching the replay @northamptontownship.com by the way, you never answered the second question. the B.O.T's on line petition is very vague and misleads people to think the trail ends in montco. please be honest here, the tracks go to philadelphia don't they? and do you want us to believe the trail will never connect to philly?
Jesseka Kadylak (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 12:24 AM
@the truth: I responded to a comment (not a question) that I thought needed clarification. I'm not going to remove the photos. If you read the captions it explains that the photos are from a trail in Horsham. No where does it say that the photos are a representation of what a hypothetical Northampton trail would look like. I don't have photos of the backs of peoples homes. Please feel free to upload your own, if you have them.
Chris Weale September 25, 2012 at 01:00 AM
@thetruth - there is no gray area in regards to the agenda item, it was strictly a motion to outreach to SEPTA to get their official position. Speakers used the word "feasible" and referenced the "feasibility study" costs, but those references don't change the nature of the agenda item. No money was or will be requested for a feasibility study by BOT. There is nothing deceptive about the petition and if the trail is completed, it would end in Southampton with a possibility of it being extended near Bryn Athyn at the farthest. There are no plans to utilize the entire rail that extends in to Philadelphia. Click out this link (http://connectthecircuit.org/#/) that details all existing and proposed trails in SEPA. There is always the possibility another trail project would connect with the Newtown branch trail, but that is not in the scope of what BOT is trying to accomplish.
Chris Weale September 25, 2012 at 01:18 AM
@John Scott - "I hate to break the news to you, but DVRPC is taxpayer funded, so you ARE asking for tax dollars. Nice try though." The money is provided by grants through DVRPC, with funding through the William Penn Foundation, which are specifically set aside to fund these specific types of projects. I specifically was correcting the fallacy that BOT was there requesting Northampton Twp tax dollars and that other services/programs would suffer as a result. " If you are really just looking for an official statement from SEPTA, why don't you just ask them? Why involve a township that apparently none of you live in?" Because SEPTA will only provide that specific type of declaration to a municipality and that declaration is needed before any grant can be applied for.
John Scott September 25, 2012 at 01:32 AM
So BOT is attempting to build another Abington-style trail, running from nowhere to nowhere. That's awesome. Or, you've taken a page from the highway builder's playbook - build enough disconnected sections, and sooner or later taxpayers will be asked to pay for the "missing links" to complete the "circuit." While I don't share truth's concerns about connecting to Philadelphia, I do question why so much time goes into building a "Circuit". The "Circuit" has now become the furthest reaching infrastructure project in the region, while the economy continues to tank. DVRPC, who you think will be funding your trail, has effectively said we will add NO rail transit capacity for about two decades. None. Meanwhile, since we can't afford a rail line, let's waste all our money (oh right, it's not our money, it's money from the grant tree) on a trail system. Take a look around at the economy and the general lack of competitiveness in our region. Show me another region that has dispensed with ALL rail expansion in favor of a massive recreational trail system. You are of course entitled to your opinion, but I think you have your priorities wrong.
the truth September 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
cris w. ok, the agenda item was listed as "discussion on rails to trails project" however, the opening statement was to contact septa and conduct a feasibilty study. so this statement is not consistent with the agenda item. Why? also under questioning it was stated by 2 other supervisors the study cost was $60,000.00. no board member desputed that number. It would then be reasonable to conclude this was peviously discussed by the board prior to the meeting during their exective session. Sure once the cat was out of the bag there was some back pedaling but lets face it appears that atleast one supervisor was trying to slip this through. news flash northampton has always been a hold out for any type of activty along the railline. so, instead of going there last, will go there first, then the rest of the twps from philly to newtown will connect the dots for us . sound familiar? Q. how many miles of fence would that be?
John Scott September 25, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Truth - we have some info that may help you. Contact me privately if you'd like.
the truth September 26, 2012 at 12:40 AM
john s. thanks but no thanks. I don't plan on wasting any more time with the spindoctors or the madamm blogger. as far as northampton is concerned, the trail is dead. But please don't take my word for it, watch the replay at northamptownship.com and see for yourself. as expected "you can't handle the truth" good bye
John Scott September 26, 2012 at 01:06 AM
The truth is not always convenient, is it. You'll note, though, that a member of our group PA-TEC, Paul Iverson, spoke out AGAINST the trail at that meeting. Our position has never changed. I wholeheartedly agree - that trail is DEAD as far as Northampton goes. Those "eyesore" trees will live another day, after all. The residents (those that REALLY live there, anyway) have spoken. Good luck to you.
Dunacn September 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Why would we want to convert the rail line to a trail for public use and enjoyment??? It is much better in its current state of overgrown vegetation and strewn with trash! You trail people are crazy!
amills4964 September 28, 2012 at 09:11 PM
i see both points but am lost. if the trail people's purpose is to build a trail over the RR line in southampton and northampton but neither town want it, where do they go from here? even if they can get money from a grant or private financer, how can they advance anything without the township, the county and septas OK? am i missing a step?
John Scott September 28, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Amills, No, you are not missing a step. There is no local support in either township for this project. Most of the "supporters" in Northampton turned out to live somewhere else. With neither truth nor local interest on the side of the "trailers," the project won't get very far. It's unusual for grant money to be used when the community is adamantly opposed to the project - those offering the grant money want to unite communities, not divide them, so they'll put the money into more worthwhile projects. Taxpayer funding is even less realistic. As you can see, the trailer folks have largely packed up and gone home (wherever that is.) We attempted to get more information about upcoming meetings, but it appears they've all been cancelled. Stay tuned - I believe there are efforts afoot to clean some of the storied trash from the area without otherwise disturbing the vegetation.
Matthew September 28, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Thank you for once again showing why we refuse to work with your group, using childish nomenclature to demean. But I guess that is to be expected from a group that refuses to have any morals and lie when it suits their interests. We are not the first group to experience your harassing tactics. The following excerpts can be found at: http://pa-tec.org/doc/DVRPC_RCC_Questions052011.pdf “To address your other question, Jon ... there has been some very rude correspondence sent from Paul Iverson to Barry Seymour, on behalf of PA-TEC. The tone of the email was enough to make me lose respect for the way your group functions. I suggest that you address that issue before sending out more emails.” “Frankly, if this is yet another attempt to gain committee support for an R8 extension under the guise of advocating for a trail, it's a waste of committee time and energy. I am willing and available to use my access to these people to help give your interests a fair hearing. I will only do so if and when the harassment by PA‐TECH stops and when civil and productive dialogue can take place. Otherwise, you should not expect any support from me to include this issue in committee deliberations.”
Matthew September 28, 2012 at 11:40 PM
To date we have over a 1,000 signatures advocating FOR the trail, roughly 1/3 of them from Northampton along the abandoned rail line. No meetings have been cancelled and you made no attempt to gather information. I am sure all of this information will not be read and that I will be questioned again about my residency by a group that has no members that live in the township. Good luck with your efforts on cleaning up the trash along the line, except for the fact that you will be trespassing once again on land that does not belong to your group. Be sure to let SEPTA know as that is a huge liability for them. We understand that there can be opposition to the trail but we encourage people to approach us as adults in a professional manner to have a realistic dialogue.
Matthew September 28, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Additionally, none of the townships have formally voted against a rails to trail project. Actually, it is mentioned several times in the Upper Southampton comprehensive plan and Northampton open space plan. The resolutions that were signed by townships supporting train restoration were signed prior to SEPTA stating their intentions for the line. You should give SEPTA a call and have them inform you of their plans.
John Scott September 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Matthew - the material on our website is copyrighted. You are welcome to link to it, but you are NOT welcome to copy it. In any case, that was Jim Richardson peddling influence. Paul Iverson merely asked Mr. Seymour a few questions. If asking a public official a question about our tax dollars is harassment, well, they better brace themselves. You too - since you also see fit to sign up the taxpayers for your backyard extension. So now that you've crawled back out of the woodwork, did you really lie to Northampton about your residency?
John Scott September 29, 2012 at 12:52 AM
By the way, Matthew, we've noticed many of your signatures, such as Nia NcHarg, are fakes. Nia McHarg was a Patch poster on many threads before somebody outed her. She doesn't exist - it's a play on the name Ian McHarg, a famous landscape architect the most "planning" professionals are familiar with. Patch readers may remember her inflammatory, harassing, and condescending comments about busing in Centennial School District. Wanna share your list? Or just talk about it and we'll accept that you're not deceiving us like you apparently deceived Northampton?
John Scott September 29, 2012 at 01:01 AM
One more thing - you've copied one of Jim Richardson's many outbursts against PA-TEC and others. He felt we were asking too many questions. Apparently, a Common Pleas Judge felt differently, as PA-TEC's legal team recently prevailed in a lawsuit against SEPTA over the same issue.
amills4964 October 05, 2012 at 10:33 PM
sorry if i caused problem. had no idea this was such controversial issue. would be nice to see that old rr line get some kind or usage as either a trainline of trail. i was just curious how many political hurdles have to be conquered to achieve either goal. u think the supevisors would feel differently if they did not have to pay for it


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