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Thanks to the efforts of many, the Greater Hazleton Area Civic Partnership Rails to Trails program is now a landowner. Upon Elton Dietterick, executive vice-president of Blue Ridge Real Estate Company, and Bob Skulsky, executive director of the GHACP, signing a deed agreement, the Phase IV property needed to join the GHRT existing right-of-way trail to the D & L Trail along the Lehigh River became a reality.
This right-of-way was sold to the GHACP for $1 and consists of a 25 foot wide former rail bed which is 5,933 feet long. The land transferred is approximately 7 acres and will be a major part of the Phase IV construction effort. When the right-of-way was identified as the most feasible route to connect the Greater Hazleton area with the D & L Trail, the spine of the Delaware-Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, Tom Ogorzalek, GHRT volunteer started researching ownership of the land, and identified BRRE company as the owner. Craig Harahus, a GHRT volunteer and land manager for BRRE company, coordinated the negotiations. When an appraisal was needed, Robert Pachence, real estate appraiser, stepped up to the plate and did the appraisal pro bono, determining an appraised value of $37,000 for the right-of-way. Attorney Pasco Schiavo, also volunteered his services, and started drawing up all of the agreements needed and took care of all legal matters.
Lorne Possinger, regional advisor for the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, started to work towards securing a grant from DCNR to construct this phase of the trail. Working with Mike Bloom, Office of Surface Mining Volunteer In Service To America, and Skulsky, he helped with the procedures to be sure that this project would qualify as an applicant for a PA DCNR grant. Susan Nasrani, chairwoman for the GHRT, and Donna Palermo, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, and more than 200 GHRT volunteers assisted to help negotiations come to a successful conclusion. The GHACP is an affiliate of the chamber and is developing the GHRT that hosts more than 35,000 visits a year.
Elissa M Garofalo, Executive Director/President of the D & L National Heritage Corridor noted “The mission of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is to enrich communities through actions and partnerships that conserve the resources, preserve the history, and enhance the quality of life. Many people link trails with recreation and relaxation. But the benefits are far greater. Linking the Hazleton Rail Trail to the 165-mile D&L Trail at Lehigh Gorge will also provide economic, health, social, heritage, cultural and environmental benefits to Carbon and Luzerne County communities. By connecting trails we help to revitalize our communities and conserve the regional landscape.” If interested in more information about the D&L or to become a member visit www.delawareandlehigh.org