PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - Although the green light from the power company is still pending, enthusiasm abounds in the potential for a proposed trail system on the wooded ledge across the falls from the Hawley Silk Mill.
Richard Briden, who is active on the Trails Committee for the Downtown Hawley Partnership (DHP), expounded on the reasons why he is so excited about the idea, to the Palmyra Township (Pike) Board of Supervisors, Tuesday night April 4th.
“If you haven’t walked that area there, it is just beautiful scenic area, and I think it will be a very, very popular walk or trial,” Borden said. “The other part we will try to develop is the historical part of it.”
Called the “Gorge Trail”, the plan, if approved by the power company on their land, is to connect the Wallenpaupack Creek Trail put in by PPL in 2010, with Cromwelltown, the neighborhood just over the bridge from Hawley Borough, near the base of the Paupack Falls across from Ledges Hotel. The trail section is entirely in Palmyra Township, Pike County. It is part of a larger trail proposed by DHP that extends through the Borough and potentially as far as the Canal Park at Lock 31.
The committee would like to have interpretive panels installed to explain the history in view from the Gorge Trail. The Paupack Falls, which tumble through the rock-lined gorge, has a gradual, 300 foot vertical drop which provided a tremendous source of power for factories and mills starting in the late 18th century, lasting throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century. The falls were greatly diminished in 1926 when P.P.&L. completed its hydroelectric dam, creating Lake Wallenpaupack.
Briden also cited the significant economic boost the trail system could bring. He noted that there are a variety of trail interests in the region, which are converging to create a network of hiking opportunities in the region. One group hopes to establish a way to hike along the Lackawaxen River bank from Honesdale to Hawley, where it could link with the DHP’s trail. The owner of the Stourbridge Line train also is investigating a trail concept alongside the tracks that could take adventurers as far as Lackawaxen, PA.
He spoke of a trial conference he attended February 23rd in Moscow, Pa,, hosted by the North Pocono Trails Association.
Briden related that an economic study was done by the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail group in 2016 and found that Lackawanna County’s trail system contributed a stunning $91.9 million to the economy.
“Even a fraction of this could be a tremendous impact economically on our region,” Briden said.
He asked the supervisors to contribute $750 to cover half the cost of applying for a state DCED grant the Committee is seeking to develop the Gorge Trail.
He also invited the Township officials to take a guided walk on the proposed trail. The proposed Gorge Trail largely follows an abandoned road, often referred to as a logging road.
After discussion, the supervisors agreed to making the contribution, but contingent on an agreement with Brookfield Renewable Energy, the owner of the land. DHP has been seeking an easement agreement from Brookfield.
The Trail Committee needs to sit down with Brookfield to review what will be required in regards to such concerns as safety and security.
Discussions started when the property was owned by PPL, but was put on hold first pending the completion of a power line project, and then the transfer of ownership when PPL sold the assets of the Lake Wallenpaupack hydroelectric project.
DHP also hopes to receive a similar contribution from Hawley Borough.
In addition to the Gorge Trail itself, the Committee proposes to have a parking area at the Cromwelltown trailhead and a short handicap accessible spur leading to an overlook at the bottom of the falls across from Ledges Hotel.
“This is going to not just be something for hikers…,” Briden stated. “But people who have an interest in the area, and we are going to try and develop that.”