THORNHURST TWP. – A citizens' group is inviting the public on a New Year's Day hike to witness a pristine view they warn could disappear next year.
Supporters of The Citizens Route, an alternative route for high-voltage power lines proposed as part of utility PPL's North Pocono Reliability Project, will lead the hike to Pine Hill Vista in Lackawanna State Forest, where hikers can look south over an unbroken 40-mile expanse of the Pocono Plateau.
If PPL builds its power grid improvement project as proposed, the group warns the view will be marred by 145-foot electrical pylons, standing twice the height of the tallest trees, surrounded by 150-feet of clear cut right-of-way.
For many people it may be their last opportunity to see this really pristine view, said group spokeswoman Frances Page. A lot of people only come here a few times a year, so they don't realize what we all stand to lose.
PPL is expected to submit its proposed route for the line for Public Utility Commission approval in early 2013, and released final versions of its plans in 2011. The loop of high-voltage lines, which PPL says will improve electric service for an estimated 250,000 people in Northeastern Pennsylvania, will run south from Plains Township along state Route 115, then loop northeast through the Poconos to connect to existing lines near Lake Wallenpaupack.
Page's group is asking PPL to consider an alternative route that would extend the lines farther north through Lackawanna State Forest, away from populated areas of Thornhurst Township.
Per the company's plan, the line will cross through private property near homes on Clifton Road and in other parts of the township. Page said property owners are concerned about their property values and the environment, as well as about potential health impacts of living close to the high-voltage wires.
Page said the environmental impact of the project would be about the same, no matter which route is selected.
The fact that our route protects people's properties and their families' health really puts common sense on our side, Page said. We just don't think it's fair that 75 percent of this route has to go through private property.
Page said those attending the hike will be able to learn more about the PPL project and the group's plan for an alternative route, but the hike also will provide an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors for the first time in the new year.
Page said it should be an easy hike even for novices. We're not going to make anybody work too hard on New Year's Day, she said.
Reaching Pine Hill Vista by foot takes about 30 minutes via a dirt road. At the peak, hikers can climb a lookout tower's two flights of stairs for a more commanding view.
The group is planning to meet for the hike, rain or shine; although in case of snow the hike might take a shorter, alternate route.
The group will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Pittston Road parking lot off Bear Lake Road. The lot is on the right side after turning onto Pittston Road from Bear Lake Road. The hike should take about an hour.