Luzerne County officials are pursuing the recreation advisory board’s request to use $40,000 in natural gas recreation funding to expand the Susquehanna Warrior Trail into Plymouth Township.
Advisory board members expressed concerns Monday their suggestions have been ignored by county officials, with board member Vincent Cotrone resigning in frustration.
County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri told County Council committee members Tuesday that he and county Manager Robert Lawton have been working on the Susquehanna Warrior Trail request. Trail representatives will be invited to next week’s full council committee meeting to describe the project, officials decided.
The Susquehanna Warrior Trail Council has an 18.5-mile easement with UGI/Penn Natural Gas Co. for a hiking and biking path along the Susquehanna River from the Riverlands near PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Salem Township to Edwardsville, a release said.
Eleven miles of trail have been completed to date from the Riverlands to the Garden Drive-In Theater in Hunlock Township.
The trail council has received a new $320,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that will allow construction of about four more miles of trail into Plymouth Township.
To receive the state grant, the trail council must come up with $80,000 in matching funds by May 1. The Berwick Health and Wellness Fund recently provided $40,000, prompting the trail council to seek $40,000 of the county’s $260,000 to $270,000 in annual recreation funding from the natural gas industry.
Pedri told council the county has not yet received its 2014 natural gas funding but said the state may be willing to accept a commitment letter pledging the $40,000 when it arrives.
Phil Russo, chairman of the county recreation advisory board, thanked county officials for embracing the proposal, saying the trail is a “wonderful project.”
Russo also pledged to continue working with the county, saying officials should not “read too much” into Cotrone’s resignation. He said Cotrone, an urban forester from Kingston, will stay active in recreational matters and continue providing expertise, even though he no longer serves on the panel.
The group’s frustration also stems from the departure of at least three county engineers who had been designated as the board’s liaison for recreational matters, Russo told the council committee Tuesday.
County Council members are still awaiting a final cost estimate before voting on the advisory board’s request to use natural gas funding to reactivate the River Common fountain at least one day per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.