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Should Township Pursue Rail to Trail Project?

Township Manager Robert Pellegrino asked the board if he should contact SEPTA about converting an unused rail into a multi-use trail.

Converting an unused SEPTA rail that runs through Northampton Township into a multi-use trail is a possibility, according to a recent discussion at July's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Township Manager Robert Pellegrino explained to the board that old SEPTA rail tracks, which span four and a half miles across the township, haven't been in use for some time. He asked if he should contact SEPTA to see if they plan to reactivate the line and then express interest in converting the rail.

If SEPTA has no plans on reactivating the line, they can give the township a long-term lease to convert it into a mutli-use trail for biking and hiking, Pellegrino said.

Township Supervisor George Komelasky said that before pursing this idea, the board should to get input from the community.

"There's overwhelming opposition for this," Komelasky said.

He went on to explain that there are already hundreds of acres of trails and parks in the township between state parks, county parks and local parks. To create a trail behind people's homes so that people from other towns can use it, might not be favored by the residents, he said.

"Before we move in this direction, gauge sentiment from others," Komelasky suggested.

. In a recent Local Voices blog, Fred Rosa explained why he thinks this rail to trail idea would be detrimental to the residents and urged the community to oppose the idea.

If the township plans to go through with the rail to trail conversion it would be responsible for the cost. According to Pellegrino, grant funds are available for projects like this. He said, however, that at this time he has no idea how much that would cost. But there is a similar model in Montgomery County that is a mile long that could be used as a jumping off point.

"I can get some sense of what that cost and get a ballpark estimate," Pellegrino said.

Pellegrino needs authorization from the board to contact SEPTA and inform them of the township's interest. But the supervisors suggested holding off on the idea for now.

Fred Rosa August 05, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Of course, the very obvious question comes up: why did any of these folks buy a home that abuts a dormant railroad line if they have concerns? Not that trains are coming back anytime soon, but there would be considerable speed restrictions if a town voiced its concerns. Can't really do much with people walking the trail, then into a backyard which happens far more than people think. And let's be serious, here. Many children love trains. The choo-choo around the Christmas tree, the New Hope & Ivyland, Strasburg Railroad and Thomas the Tank Engine. Use common sense, be a responsible parent and teach them safety. Look both ways before crossing the street, watch for a moving train, etc. Don't use kids as an excuse, take some responsibility. This is NIMBYism in its purest form. Kids are not NIMBYs: adults are.
David August 05, 2012 at 04:18 AM
I was on a committee about 10 years ago in Upper Southampton to explore the possibility of a rails to trails conversion. We met with township officials from Bryn Athyn, Upper Southampton, Northampton and rails to trails groups as well as townships that had a rail to trail conversion. My recollection is that our research showed that most of the rail conversions were abandoned freight train lines. The Newtown line is "owned" by SEPTA and SEPTA point blank said that they would not transfer the rights to the line, even in a lease type situation where they kept ownership. Basically, they said that even though they have no plans to reactivate the line, once the line was paved over and made into a trail, it would be next to impossible to convert it back to a train line, due to public sentiment. So, before people put too much energy into trying to sway opinion one way or the other, I agree with Mr. Pellegrino. Start with SEPTA and see if a rail to trail conversion is even a remote possibility. If SEPTA has had a change of opinion, then the community groups can debate the pros and cons of it and sway opinion.
Stop The Newtown Trail August 05, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Exactly Fred... I would be more concerned with my children getting abducted than hit by a train. The people that would frequent the trails would be hoodlums and criminals. There have been numerous instances of home invasion robberies, abduction, and rape along these ill-conceived trails. The issue of getting hit by a train is far more rare, and groups like operation lifesaver work to prevent that.
na August 05, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Try running along by the nature center every day.....hardly overgrown there.
Jesseka Kadylak (Editor) August 05, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Folks, please refrain from posting names and personal information in the comments. Patch allows users to remain as anonymous as they would like. So if someone wants to use a screen name instead of their legal name, that is their right. Otherwise, keep the comments coming and the conversation going.
Lisa C August 05, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I loved the Perkiomen Trail and Schulkyll River Trail when I lived out near Collegeville. There's some pretty nice David Cutler and Toll Brothers developments near them as well as the SEI Investments campus. Great for walking and riding. The upper part of the Perkiomen Trail isn't paved and is used by quite a few horse riders. I never went past Valley Forge, but I'm assuming that between there and the Art Museum it goes through some heavily populated areas.
Mike Bidwell August 05, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Support your argument with facts! You can't say "There have been numerous instances of home invasion robberies, abduction, and rape along these ill-conceived trails" without the data to back it up. Post the data and facts here to support it!
Stop The Newtown Trail August 05, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Mike, I do not know where your comment went, but here are the facts:3 The FACT that MontCo needs to put up warning signs is an issue right there. http://northampton.patch.com/articles/bicyclist-assaulted-on-2nd-street-pike (Local, just think what it would be like if there was a trail. Rape: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-03-nun-attack_x.htm http://www.topix.com/forum/city/fitchburg-ma/THLI8430I6PH669O0 General Crime: http://www.floydcountytimes.com/pages/full_story?article-Rails%20to%20Trails%20invites%20crime%20=&page_label=full_story&id=1411353&widget=push&open=& http://articles.philly.com/2009-06-20/news/25285836_1_norristown-man-cyclists-schuylkill-river-trail http://hellertown.patch.com/articles/man-accused-of-riding-stolen-motorcycle-on-trail AX attack, yes AX attack!!: http://www.newburyportnews.com/archive/x598335005/Man-sought-in-Salisbury-for-ax-attack-on-rail-trail Home Invasion Robbery: http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/sirens/2012/may/24/2-arrested-indian-trail-home-invasion/ Mugging: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/771070--rail-trail-hiker-robbed-at-gunpoint Dislike of Trail: http://hellertown.patch.com/articles/why-is-that-creek-road-vs-saucon-rail-trail Anything else?
Ashley VanSant August 05, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Mike Bidwell, Na and others: This is all about you who live adjacent to the line trying to prevent train service or preservation of the railroad, as a railroad. Your posts are quite obvious because your last line of defense against those who do not support removal of the railroad is "we don't want a train in our backyard because we have kids". Well maybe you should have done your homework before you bought your house. You live next to an inactive railroad, which could be reactivated at any time by SEPTA or a freight company. Its clear this trail group is superficial whose true intent is just preventing the railroad from reopening again. How shallow of you all.
Ashley VanSant August 05, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Facts are there Mr. Bidwell. At least an active railroad would keep would be criminals out of your backyard. Hopefully your 11 neighbors know how to dicipline their kids and keep them off active railroad tracks. Maybe the Acela will be coming through one day!!
Ashley VanSant August 05, 2012 at 11:29 PM
The last thing any of us need is increased property values and higher property taxes! NO TRAIL IN SOUTHAMPTON!
Alex R. August 06, 2012 at 04:14 AM
That was on a main ROAD not a trail. Clearly not a good example on why NOT to support a rail/trail..more so as to why to definitely support a rail/trail...when if a bicyclist that had been on a rail/trail would not have been hit by a object being thrown by a car on a road.
Alex R. August 06, 2012 at 04:21 AM
If you look at most trails in most parks everywhere...they aren't "paid" to be taken care...they are taken care of by volunteers that once and awhile walk down and remove any trees, trash, makes some fixes etc. For example the biggest trail on the east coast the Appalachian Trail 2,184 miles long...if that can be maintained by volunteers so can a few mile rail/trail. Of course most anti- rail/trail folks would say its easy access for criminals to come from Georgia then.
Alex R. August 06, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Where is this so called evidence of all this crime on these "ill-conceived trails" that these hoodlums and criminals only travel? I was unaware that the Appalachian trail was just a route for crime. Your aware that you can get robbed, raped, abducted...right from the road in front of your house right? Or ANYWHERE. Where they will have a get away car...not take your tv and carry it through the woods down a trail. You cant just make up random stories just because your against it and never used a trail. Find some facts then argue it to try and prove your point, not nonsense. Like those crime ridden rails of Tyler find facts of increased robberies, rape, abductions just because there's trails
Alex R. August 06, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Yes,when are you going to prove it? You cant just google the word "trail" and "crime" and try and use those as facts. Lets start with the first one he was attacked on a ROAD. 2nd one the nun was walking at midnight on a bike path - everybody knows not to do that. Attacked on the Schuykill, hello its Philly thats the least of the crimes expected there in that area. Home invasion robbery was in Indian Trail AREA. If you read the article & look up the town its the name its what it says it is AN AREA, not trail there. Like how Levittown has different areas. Most of the other links are bad neighborhoods so of course there will be crime. Whats the overall crime in those areas, 1 incident you found out of pages of crimes for each of those areas is not proving your facts of increased criminals because of a trail. What was the number of home robberies for the area, probably way higher then that one done near a trail. You really think that most of those crimes wouldn't have happened if there wasn't a trail within a 5 mile radius. They happen everywhere, all the time, because people are crazy...not because oh there's a trail nearby.
Alex R. August 06, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Fred you are incorrect about your article about the stolen bike. The trail in Hellertown isn't a ROAD its a trail. The bike stolen was a dirtbike not a street bike, which yes because that's what they are made for to go on trails. You were saying the trail would be a ROAD that some cars are apparently driving on or these random trash trucks. Major difference between a trail and a road. Also there's far more ATV's (dirtbikes, quads) in Hellertown then in Northampton since its more farm area. Also besides the point that these crazy motorcycle thieves most of you think are out there and are the only users of the trails... the crime rate on current trails in parks would be way higher then what your imagining. And its not. You know where the most ATV's making havoc are? The city. The ATV's are going to go where they want to go trail or not. If its a problem try and help get an area designated just for them to be able to ride legally then. That will keep them busy and not stealing,raping, robbing, peeing, making trash, stepping on your property which it seems most comments seem to think that's all these dirty little thieves do.
Fred Rosa August 07, 2012 at 02:57 PM
If only some of the posts on this subject came from real people vs. buildourtrail.org sock puppets. Alex Russo is a character from the shoe my granddaughter watches, THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Russo
Fred Rosa August 07, 2012 at 03:02 PM
@David. Your comments have hit upon an issue that casual residents/observers do not think much about and I thank you for it. The Newtown line is not just another old freight line whose life was on borrowed time. It is owned by SEPTA and its primary used was a passenger line, which is why it was constantly in the news until approx 1995. It is a vital link to our shrinking passenger network and is of great importance. The only reason it is not running today is politics. The money was there to electrify several times throughout the 1980s and SEPTA pulled a bait and switch, using the money for other projects instead while the politics was being hashed out. And you are dead on: once the line was paved over and made into a trail (even under the premise of an "interim trail"), it would be next to impossible to convert it back to a train line due to public sentiment.
Alex R. August 07, 2012 at 04:17 PM
For your information I am a REAL PERSON, A RESIDENT OF NORTHAMPTON FOR 33 YRS. Just because you don't like my points doesn't mean you have to act like a child and try and say I am some sock puppet or some fake person. I came upon this movement for the first time on Sat Aug 4th from news I received from the patch. I am in no way involved with the website nor did I know about it till you just mentioned it...so thank you for giving me that information. I am a outdoor enthusiast who has first had witnessed the value of trails (walking, biking, atv) & I am only trying to point out and educate none outdoors folks or to just cranky residents who don't want a trail but would rather have a train...which would then complain about the noise of that. So before you point fingers about names...which in your mind nobody can ever have the same name...for your information there are 44 Fred Rosa's listed for the US. Would you like me to start naming other folks that have the same names as celebs or characters...???? I know a Tom Cruise that sells hoverounds wheel chairs at night on tv.....
Alex R. August 07, 2012 at 04:42 PM
BTW: I saw this on AOL's homepage http://www.tmz.com/2012/08/05/selena-gomez-banned-facebook/ better go tell this girl with the same name as the girl who plays Alex Russo Selena M. Gomez that she's a "sock puppet" and not a REAL PERSON
Fred Rosa August 07, 2012 at 04:59 PM
My apologies. After having been witness to quite a few fake people on these blogs who post emotionally-laiden comments laced with NIMBYism, my thoughts are somewhat justified. In the future, say more with less. Caps, thirty-two question marks and other "look at me" screams only display your noticable shortcomings. Let's move on. David said it best. Start with SEPTA and see if a rail to trail conversion is even a remote possibility. They will not touch the line if there is any political unrest. Then let the debates and emotional protests begin.
Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation August 07, 2012 at 05:08 PM
We have been reading these posts with curiosity and amusement. The Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation is open to negotiations with Ms. Jordan’s “buildourtrail” group to perhaps combine efforts and employ a "rails with trails." Unfortunately, they have declined and rejected all offers of mutual collaboration to improve the railroad jointly. www.newtownfoundation.org
Stop The Newtown Trail August 07, 2012 at 05:15 PM
And us here at Stop The Newtown Trail have also reached out to Mrs. Jordan in an attempt to speak to the group, work together, or attend meetings. They have been unresponsive.
Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation August 07, 2012 at 11:07 PM
It is noted that Lauren Jordan posted a comment (as "Lauren Jordan") here at approximately 2pm 8/7/12 addressed to Mr. Rosa agreeing to a meeting with us to discuss a "rails with trail" proposal, and then deleted the comment soon thereafter. 'You know Mr Rosa you make some interesting and good points. Please email me and we all can work out a solution to a trail or train'. Mrs. Jordan is an UST official on the Environmental Advisory Committee who attended one of our meetings in April 2012. It is unclear if she is acting on behalf of UST or as a private citizen with her website. Regardless, we discussed this with the UST manager who said that "rails-to-trails" in Southampton is dead. We would be very interested in combining efforts rather than pitting one vs. the other. www.newtownfoundation.org
Jesseka Kadylak (Editor) August 07, 2012 at 11:23 PM
The comment from "Lauren Jordan" was deleted by Patch because it was brought to our attention that it was posted by someone posing as Lauren Jordan, but not the actual person. Users are able to remain anonymous on Patch by creating screen names, but should refrain from posing as other people.
southampton resident August 20, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I back up to the trails in Upper Southampton and I believe it is a bad idea!!! The Southampton Days bring a lot of outsiders as it is into our neighborhood and I have seen first hand what damage they leave behind. I put up for it because it is only a few days but these outsiders drive fast, are very loud and leave trash on our streets!! Remember you may like your neighbors but when you start having an open invitation to our surrounding areas such as Philadelphia, Bensalem, Warminster, etc you may not like what you are inviting in. I am not be negative or prejudice just stating the facts these areas have much higher crime than Upper Southampton. Also our taxes are not as high as Northampton and Warrington, lets keep it that way. We might not have to foot the bill in the beginning but believe me we will later for the upkeep. There is a few men going around the streets trying to get support for the rails to trails these are contractors for septa looking to get the job - beware and do not open the door when they knock. They do not show any ID!
Jack August 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Southampton Resident - What trail do you back up to? It seems that most of the information you are posting is not related to rails to trails. Have you confirmed with SEPTA that they have selected contractors for this project? Is it even at the stage where contractors have been selected? I am just as concerned as you and would like some answers.
Robert Lucot August 23, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Everyone has their opinions, is true. Opinions, and fears. Facts are another thing and can only be gained by an honest open mind investigating other trail projects and affects on the community, local residents, property values, etc.. There are many beautiful rail trail multi-use trails especially in PA and it is just a matter of time until the majority is open to the idea and see the value and benefit to their home value, the community, and the heatlh and welfare of the populace that are the true "owners" of these spaces.
Bob Miller September 19, 2012 at 06:03 PM
fred get with it. you are behind the times.
Benjamin Branche September 20, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Mike, You're absolutely right., the plan is a no brainer. Every town or city that has safe outdoor activity areas has higher property values. The argument that it increases crime is a weak excuse to object to an idea that benefits the community as a whole. It's the same as arguing the toe path along the canal has caused an increase in crime.

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