Community renovates rail

HOPEWELL – An abandoned coal-mine railroad recently moved a step closer to its reinvention as a public forest trail, thanks largely to a dozen Bedford County leadership trainees and company and government officials.

After months of preparation, including a fundraiser and donations from county businesses, the 12 members of the 2013 Leadership Bedford County class officially inaugurated a series of benches along the growing Huntingdon and Broad Top Trail.

The class – which included a school superintendent, a church pastor and a county prosecutor, among others – also donated about $2,000 to install signs on the reclaimed trail, group spokeswoman Lesley Childers-Potts, a Bedford County assistant district attorney, said.

“When I heard the idea, I thought it was great. … Our project ended up being twofold,” Childers-Potts said.

Each year, soon-to-be-graduates of the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored leadership program select a community project to fund and spearhead.

The Huntingdon and Broad Top Trail winds between wooded mountains in northeastern Bedford County, taking hikers and cyclists along a range once occupied by the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad, a coal line opened in the mid-19th century.

Organizers opened the first stretch, from Riddlesburg to Hopewell, last year. The leadership class’ work will ultimately yield 10 benches and a series of explanatory signs along that portion, Childers-Potts said.

Planned sections are slated to carry travelers on to Tatesville, several miles away.

“So many things get focused on the Bedford and Everett areas,” said Childers-Potts, noting that the 2013 group’s project helped a portion of Bedford County that often receives less attention.

The organizers received construction-material donations from New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc., Bedford Reinforced Plastics and Structural Fiberglass, as well as work assistance from area vocational students, she said.

Leadership Bedford County participants attend 10 daylong sessions over 10 months, learning about cultural, political and business issues in the county.

“It’s a cross-section of the Bedford County business community,” chamber Executive Director Kellie Goodman Shaffer said. “It’s professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Past classes in the program’s 13-year history have worked on a Juniata River canoe launch and repainted a historic covered bridge, among other projects, she said.

This year’s class is set to graduate in the coming weeks, Childers-Potts said.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.