WRIGHT TWP. — Cyclists rocked back and forth on their bikes waiting anxiously for the ceremony to end. Project planners cut the ribbon to the D&L Trail’s Black Diamond Section on Monday, officially opening the new 10-mile trail to the applause of local officials and excited hikers and cyclists.
Jill Hoyt of Shavertown sat on her bike with a few fellow riders, talking about how the group tries to take plenty of bike excursions during the summer, having trekked the 28-mile Lehigh Gorge Trail three times in past years. But their inaugural ride on the Black Diamond Trail was their first this year.
“We’re pretty excited,” Hoyt said.
Acting Secretary Ellen Ferretti of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said the trail fills a need for the outdoorsy types.
“We know what people want most in recreation … is opportunities close to home,” Ferretti said.
Judy Rimple, former president of Anthracite Scenic Trails Association, or ASTA, the organization that owns the trail, said she looked forward to getting past the formalities and saddling up on her bike.
“The big event is to climb on my bike and go downhill,” Rimple said about the day’s guided trip south to Moosehead Lake. “It’s such a pleasure, playing outdoors in safe environments.”
Funding for the project, which began 12 years ago with the land’s purchase from the railroad, started with a $1.15 million DCNR grant to pay for excavation and trail grading with fine crushed stone. PennDOT supplied an extra $250,000 for planning costs.
Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a collaboration of citizenry, state and local government offices working to build a trail that follows the state’s historic coal routes. Executive Director Elissa Garofalo gave a peek at what the trail organizations, both the D&L and ASTA, are working toward: connecting the Delaware River through the Lehigh Valley to Wilkes-Barre. The Black Diamond’s ribbon cutting marks 135 completed trail miles.
“(Now) we’re ready to forge into the city of Wilkes-Barre,” Garofalo said, where the trail can connect to other regional trails.
D&L National Heritage Corridor board member Mike Burnside said the long-range plan is to build a contiguous trail through Wilkes-Barre and northward to reach the New York border.
The Black Diamond Trail northern trail head is marked with a sign along state Route 437 in Wright Township. It ends near the White Haven Area Community Library on Main Street in White Haven.