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Lauren Golden, Trail and Stewardship Manager
Now that the Mansion House Bridge in Jim Thorpe is open and Carbon County is fully connected, we can officially say that connecting the Lehigh Valley Gap is our top priority. This gap consists of the trail between Allentown and Cementon. In the last year we’ve been planning, planning, and did I mention planning? This is critical, because this gap is much larger and much more complex than even projects like the Mansion House Bridge.
As we break down the 7-mile gap, with plans for trail on both sides of the Lehigh River, we’re looking at multiple projects. What was once thought could be eight projects is looking more like 12 to 14. That number will continue to change as we move each piece through the development process phases of planning, acquisition, engineering, and finally construction. So, like the Mansion House Bridge, which was originally one project that got broken into two in order to make it feasible, we will continue to break down the Lehigh Valley Gap into “bite size pieces”.
Currently, we’re breaking the Lehigh Valley Gap into four phases, denoted in the map. These phases attempt to predict how this large gap will be improved, in a kind of sequence.
So what’s taking us so long? It’s important to know that the D&L does not actually own any of the D&L Trail, so in all our talk about development we do not work alone. For the Lehigh Valley Gap in the D&L Trail (projects), the D&L NHC (organization) is working with PennDOT, DCNR, DCED, PA State Historic Preservation Office, PA Department of Environmental Protection, Lehigh County, Northampton County, LVPC/LVTS, Wildlands Conservancy, Northampton Borough, North Catasauqua Borough, Catasauqua Borough, Hanover Township (Lehigh Co), City of Allentown, Whitehall Borough, and Coplay Borough, to start.
So, what all of this work requires is momentum and support from trail users, like you! We have a lot of work to get done, but you can join us in that. It’s the advocacy from people who love and use trails that can help us push forward projects by proclaiming their significance to local officials and friends alike.