Lehigh Valley

Route revealed for Northampton County's Northern Tier Trail

Economic benefits touted

WALNUTPORT, Pa. - Consultants for the Northern Tier Trail, a proposed 35-mile trail that would extend from Walnutport to Portland in Northampton County, presented their draft report Monday night, including an outline for the trail’s route.

Before a small but curious audience of about 12 people gathered in the Walnutport Canal Association pavilion, Northampton County’s trail consultants, Gilmore & Associates of Allentown and Campbell Thomas & Co. of Philadelphia, said the spine of the Northern Tier Trail would start on Blue Mountain Drive in Walnutport, then head onto Route 946 to Community Drive in Moore Township, and then to Route 512 through Bushkill Township, into the Slate Belt and end in Portland.

With the Kittatinny Ridge to the north as a backdrop, the multiuse trail would intersect cultural, natural and historic points of interest and help economic development in Lehigh, Moore, Bushkill, Plainfield, Washington, Upper Mount Bethel, Lower Mount Bethel townships and the boroughs of Walnutport, Wind Gap, Pen Argyl, Bangor, East Bangor, Roseto and Portland. 

Chapman, a borough of about 200 residents, would also be tied in because of its slate quarrying history and rail line. 

Kent Baird, a community planner with Gilmore & Associates, said the planned trail would not be a single ribbon connecting from the Lehigh River in Walnutport to the Delaware River in Portland, but a series of spurs and alternative routes — country roads and abandoned rail beds, for example — coming off the main route from the north and south.

Plans for the Northern Tier Trail also indicate connections to the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, the Appalachian Trail, the September 11th National Memorial Trail, the Liberty-Water Gap Trail, the Two Rivers Trail Network and the Lehigh and Delaware River Water trails.

There would be signage and more sidewalks in the communities along the spine to encourage stops and improve safety. Baird used Danielsville, a popular place for Appalachian Trail hikers to stop and rest, as a destination that could see increased visitation because of the new trail system.

Successful trails create new economic activity and expand opportunities for existing businesses, he said. Those who use trails “look for things that are authentic,” such as restaurants that serve locally sourced food.

Some land acquisition will be needed to complete the trail, but it would be done with donations and purchases, not condemnation, Baird said. While it’s not easy to buy or acquire trail easements, the number of partnerships in Northampton County — conservancies, hiking and biking clubs, historical societies and nature centers — is “greater than anywhere in the state” and would work together to establish the trail, he said.

He said Northampton County would act as a parent organization and work with the municipalities and private organizations to secure grants and funding for trail creation and maintenance.

“This region has a pent-up demand for this trail,” said Baird said. “The trail is about synergy between towns and communities.”

Millennials and Baby Boomers share a common desire for shorter excursions that don’t require a substantial investment in gear and lead to destinations like vineyards and places to enjoy a meal with friends. Trendy pastimes on trail excursions include visits to farmers markets, bike camping and tentrr, a new activity where people can pay to camp on private land.

Bob Thomas, partner with Campbell Thomas & Co., said people are using multiuse trails, like the D&L, to reach a destination and avoid traffic and get some exercise at the same time.

Baird also revealed the trail’s tagline, “River to river and everywhere in between,” and logo, a slate quarry gear with 15 dots on it, representing the municipalities and county.

Bryan Cope, Northampton County’s open space coordinator and chairman of the Scenic Wild Delaware Geo-tourism Program, said that after the plan is adopted by county council, he expects some smaller projects to be completed this year and next.

He said both Northampton and Lehigh counties are working to develop a marketing campaign and a website that will identify trail destinations.

Discussions for the Northern Tier Trail began about a year ago, when Northampton County undertook a $60,000 feasibility study, of which $30,000 came from a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant.

Baird said Gilmore & Associates surveyed all 14 municipalities about what they would like to see along the trail and held public meetings that began last year. Last night’s was the third and final meeting.


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