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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Powdermill Section of Lackawanna River Heritage Trail opens

  • The official dedication and grand opening of a three mile section of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail was cause for celebration in Archbald on Dec. 5.
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  • The official dedication and grand opening of a three mile section of the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail was cause for celebration in Archbald on Dec. 5.
    The newest section of the trail is called the Powdermill Section because it passes close to the remnants of a gunpowder mill located along the Lackawanna River in Jermyn. Ruins of the Rushdale Powder Mills, established in 1864, can be seen in and along the river just a short walk off the main trail approximately three-tenths of a mile north of the Lackawanna Basin Sewer Authority plant.
    Beginning on Laurel Street in Archbald, where it connects to the Mid Valley Section of the 40 mile long Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, the Powdermill Section follows a paved walking and biking path, newly-installed municipal sidewalks, public streets, a dual-surface trail, and the Sewer Authority road.
    The trail is interrupted in Jermyn on Delaware Street, where the Powdermill Section ends. It resumes in Mayfield near Plank Road with the Mayfield-Carbondale Township Section.
    Robert Savakinus, chairman of the board of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, said that plans are in the works to create a contiguous trail from Taylor to Simpson, but that "it takes a lot of funding, land acquisitions, and cooperation between local governments" for the LHVA to open up a new section of trail for public use.
    "Over time, it will happen," Mr. Savakinus confidently predicted.
    Beyond Simpson, the LHVT joins the D & H Rail-Trail for a 30 mile stretch terminating at the New York border.
    The importance of funding and the need for cooperation among various agencies and the different levels of government were referred to by many of the speakers at the ribbon cutting event.
    As Mr. Savakinus introduced each of the government and agency representatives in attendance, he stressed that partnership and cooperation have been vital to the development of all sections of the trail.
    Lackawanna County Commissioner James Wansacz emphasized the necessity of partnerships in the development of any large project, and stated, "Now it's not only up to those groups, but it's up to the community itself. They have to have pride in what comes through their areas by making sure that they help watch it, that they help maintain it."
    Others in attendance at the event included members of several local agencies, representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Robert Casey, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright, U.S. Representative Tom Marino, State Senator John Blake, and from the Northeast Office of the Governor.
    State Representative Frank Farina, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation press officer James May, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti were also present and made formal remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
    Several of the officials who spoke at the trail opening talked about their own experiences on the trail, which they and their families often use for hiking, biking, jogging, and other outdoor recreation.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O'Malley reminisced about running on the Mid Valley Section of the trail every year for the Steamtown Marathon. Pointing at the trail, he said, "These trails are incredibly huge for the people of Lackawanna County. This is about exercise, this is about enjoyment, this is about revitalizing areas that were destroyed and taken away because of the mines."
    Revitalization and conservation are two aspects of the trail system mentioned by Natalie Gelb, executive director of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.
    "What I'd like to say about this section is that it really represents so much of what we do here at the Lackawanna Heritage Valley because there's a lot of history here," said Ms. Gelb.
    Indicating several small brick buildings overlooking the trail, she continued, "You'll notice those buildings. That's from the original colliery that was here. This is a unique spot. It's very important because this is where the owners and the workers lived, and this site connects the past, the present, and the future.
    "You see the past, the present is this trail as well as an active rail line here that represents so much of our industry, and if you look up there you'll see the Cogen plant. It's all about energy, and it's all about who we are. We're very proud of our heritage and our history."
    Historical evidence of the region's industrial and mining past is abundant along the entire Heritage Trail, which generally follows abandoned railroads.
    Tim O'Malley, a National Park Service ranger who works at the Steamtown National Historic Site, was intrigued by the structures from the Gravity Slope Colliery. The colliery opened in 1913 as part of the anthracite mining industry. Four colliery structures remain: the shifting shanty and fan house overlooking the trail, and the oil house and oil tank storage area adjacent to the trail where the Mid Valley Section and Powdermill Section meet.
    Mr. O'Malley explained, "I was walking around and trying to figure out what the concrete thing was. When you're here you're looking at remnants of remnants and trying to figure out what it was. History is so dense along these railroad lines, and we're still trying to piece everything together. There's so much to learn here."
    O'Malley concluded, "These trails give people a chance to connect to the past, and to get a sense of where they are in the world."

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