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The trail gods were looking out for the D&L last Friday, as a large group of volunteers, community members, politicians, and press gathered at the Weissport trailhead to dedicate the newest link in the 165-mile D&L Trail. The weatherman predicted a day of thunderstorms but bright blue skies greeted the crowd of fifty people. Begun in August 2008 and completed this month, the project transformed the heavily-used but somewhat neglected trailhead into a welcoming facility with hand-laid stone canal banks, native trees and grasses, a heavy-timber pavilion, and abundant parking spaces, all leading to 2.7 miles of regraded and resurfaced trail.
After a host of speakers thanked partners and congratulated the D&L on the project’s completion, Representative Keith McCall, current Speaker of the House and long-time friend of the D&L, provided the keynote address. McCall reminded the crowd that the Corridor’s many small, post-industrial towns are “gems” just waiting to be reshined as meccas of outdoor recreation, heritage tourism, and increasingly rare small town life. He also provided a sobering warning that construction is always the easy part. The more daunting and long-term task is a persistent commitment to maintenance. Luckily, Weissport has the Lehigh Canal and Recreation Commission (LCRC), the D&L Trail Tenders, and a growing contingent of volunteers that are willing to accept the challenge.
During the dedication, two long-time advocates of the Weissport canal were also honored. A flowering dogwood and granite plaque were dedicated in memory of Wilbur “Cap” Bauchspies, a former Lehighton mayor, councilman, and long-time LCRC volunteer. The new pavilion was named for the late Dr. William Feldbaumer, a generous financial backer of the LCRC for many years. Family and friends of both men were on hand to celebrate the fruition of their visions.
After the official ribbon cutting, walking and biking tours explored the new section of trail. Pocono Whitewater graciously donated a truck load of bikes for the afternoon. Everyone was impressed with the new trail surface and the unparalleled scenery of the upper section. One can only look forward to the day that the Weissport section is connected to downtown Jim Thorpe.
The list of funding agencies and volunteers that made the Weissport trail project and dedication possible is too long to mention here. Suffice it to say that partnerships between state and local agencies, municipalities, community members, and volunteers are the only reason such an accomplishment is possible.