Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bicycle and pedestrian pathway opens: 3 reasons why this is good for Elizabethtown

The view of the new path looking east toward the community center.
A bicycle and pedestrian pathway that connects the Elizabethtown Amtrak station with downtown opened on Friday. The stairs to the bridge are still closed pending the installation of a handrail and a gate at the top, but the ramp is open for pedestrians bicyclists.

This path is the second phase of a larger project to create a pathway network from the Amtrak station to the Elizabethtown Area School District. The first phase was previously built a couple of years ago.

On Saturday morning, I tried out the path myself. I made my way across town to Poplar Street and headed back toward the community center, where you can see the path extend west toward the baseball field and a brand new bridge. It's nice and smooth, and the grade isn't so tough for runners who might shy away from hills.

Here are three reasons why I am excited about this:

Economic development

First, from everything I've heard and read, pathways such as this are a boon to economic development in communities. People use them, and when people come they will spend money in the businesses that are nearby. I remember a borough staff member saying once that tons of people use the Conewago Rail Trail -- and there's nothing there, unless you make it all the way to Colebrook or Mount Gretna (to be fair, there is a bike shop along the trail at Route 743). We are always having conversations about how to attract people into downtown Elizabethtown, and here's a great reason for people to come.

Fitness and exercise

To say that obesity rates in the United States are going up is almost cliche anymore, but that is a fact. I am thrilled that we as a community are using our resources to build something that our residents can use to get some exercise. As a runner, I am also thrilled that this pathway will get me from the downtown to Masonic Village without encountering very much traffic, as vehicles are a nemesis for runners. When I ran today, I hit 2 miles when I got to the top of the path at the train station. I went through tunnel and did about a 2.5-mile loop through Masonic Village and entirely on its paths. The only time I had to worry about vehicles was crossing roads there.

In due time, the pathway will be connected on the east side of Market Street using alleys and Community Park, eventually hooking up with the Elizabethtown Area School District campus. Imagine being able to run from the parking lot at Bear Creek School all the way to the formal gardens at Masonic Village and through the cottage areas there, and never run on the roads. For me, it's ideal.

Alternate transportation

A few months ago, I talked to someone who rides the train to work in Harrisburg. Instead of driving to the station, he rides his bike from Sunrise Boulevard and then uses the sidewalk on West High Street since it is narrow and busy with traffic. He told me he has had three flat tires thanks to the condition of the sidewalk, and he couldn't wait to try the path. I'm sure he won't be the only one.

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