WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. John Yudichak said he has no doubt the 165-mile Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Trail will someday continue from the base of Giants Despair in Wilkes-Barre Township to the River Common along the Susquehanna River.
Yudichak and a group of state and local officials walked this 3-mile stretch Friday afternoon — the last leg of the senator’s hiking and biking trip along the full length of the trail. He launched the journey as a pledge he made if the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl and to raise awareness about the trail’s value and several gaps that must be completed, including the Wilkes-Barre one.
“We’re very stubborn when it comes to getting these projects done and very resourceful, so we’ll continue to work with our great partners,” Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said of the Wilkes-Barre trail completion.
Larry Newman, head of the Diamond City Partnership, said joining Yudichak on the walk Friday made him realize the trail goal is within reach.
Newman said he and many others have dreamed of the trail connection for decades to draw in visitors and provide a valuable downtown recreational amenity.
“It’s about more than a trail. Today, quality of life and quality of place are economic development,” Newman said.
Two state agencies — the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Community and Economic Development — have provided funding for Luzerne and Lackawanna counties to plan bicycle/pedestrian networks in downtown Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Proposals from consultants interested in completing the study are due July 27.
This study will focus in part on identifying the best route for the D&L trail to link to the River Common.
Yudichak encouraged the group gathered at his event to get involved when the study reaches the public feedback stage.
Newman said he is certain a viable city trail path will be identified.
“It’s not a question of whether there is a route. It’s a question of which route is the most practical and safest,” Newman said.
The final trip into Wilkes-Barre was enjoyable, Yudichak said.
“It was a breeze. It was a wonderful walk.”
The federally designated D&L trail follows anthracite coal’s past route from Wyoming Valley mines to market in Bucks County near Philadelphia, passing through White Haven and historic Jim Thorpe in Carbon County.
State DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, another participant in Friday’s hike, presented Yudichak with a walking stick.
A Geisinger Health System representative also announced the medical provider was teaming with Wilkes-Barre and others to launch a Northeastern Pennsylvania chapter of “Get Your Tail on the Trail,” a free community initiative to encourage healthy outdoor lifestyles close to home.
Elissa Garofalo, executive director of the D&L National Heritage Corridor, said the trail through five counties is about 93 percent complete and will be “world-class.”
“This is our goal — to get to the riverfront in Wilkes-Barre — and we are going to make it,” she said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.